Is peer support a valuable addition to services for people with SMI?

Peer support is valuable for individuals receiving the service and family members, as well as people who work in the behavioral health field. Because of their own experiences with mental health disorders and in navigating a very complex and fractured service delivery system, and with the skills they have learned in training and through work experience, Certified Peer Specialists are qualified to provide a unique type of support to individuals and families working their way towards recovery and healing. Peers are often able to connect with people receiving services in a manner that activates self-management. When an individual takes ownership of their situation and treatment, they are far more likely to work in concert with their clinical providers, which makes the system of care stronger and more effective.

In a 2014 study conducted by Chinman et al, the authors stated, “Evidence for the effectiveness of peers added to traditional services and peers delivering structured curricula was positive, albeit from studies across the range of methodological rigor.” Improvements have been shown in a number of outcomes, including: reduced inpatient service use, better engagement with care, and higher levels of patient activation.

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