College of Psychology: Faculty Articles


Beyond Generic Support: The Incidence and Impact of Invalidation Within Peer-Based and Traditional Treatment for Clients with Severe Mental Illness.

Document Type


Publication Date



Interpersonal Relations, Mental Disorders, Middle Aged, Patient Satisfaction, Peer Group, Questionnaires, Self-Help Groups, Severity of Illness Index

Publication Title

Psychiatric Services








Objective: This study explored experiences of validation and invalidation among clients with severe mental illness in treatment with either peer providers or traditional providers. Associations between six- and 12-month outcomes and validating and invalidating provider communications were also examined.

Methods: A total of 137 adults with severe mental illness were randomly assigned to either peer-based or traditional intensive case management. At six and 12 months participants completed self-report questionnaires on their quality of life, obstacles to recovery, and perceived invalidating and validating qualities (positive regard, empathy, and unconditional acceptance) of relationships with their providers.

Results: Mixed analysis of variance showed that communications from and interactions with providers were perceived to be more validating than invalidating by clients in treatment with peer providers than by those in treatment with traditional providers. Regression analyses showed an association at six months, but not at 12 months, between favorable outcomes and the experience of invalidation from peer providers; invalidation from peer providers was linked to improved quality of life and fewer obstacles to recovery, an association that was not found for clients who experienced invalidation from traditional providers.

Conclusions: Peer providers, who reveal their experiences of mental illness to their clients, were perceived to be more validating, and their invalidating communications were linked with favorable short-term outcomes. Both peer and traditional providers sometimes express disapproval of clients' attitudes, values, or behaviors-a form of invalidation. This study found that early in the course of treatment peer providers may be effective in fostering progress by challenging clients' attitudes, values, or behaviors.



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