Should a peer support group for individuals with SMI be facilitated, or at least co-facilitated, by a clinician?

True peer support groups are facilitated by skilled individuals who have personal experience with mental health disorders and involvement with the system of care. Peer groups focus on mutual support among members. They are not intended to provide clinical advice. Well-run peer support groups self-govern and have clear policies for dealing with clinical questions or crisis situations. Some of those policies include when/how to involve a clinician in certain instances, such as crisis. If the facilitators’ supervisor (clinician or non-clinician) wants to sit in on a group to observe, the group should be informed ahead of time so that individuals have the opportunity to choose whether they will participate in that session. In many communities, Mental Health America (MHA), the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Connections groups, and the Depression Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) provide peer-facilitated support groups.

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