Peer support services remain poorly understood by many mental health service providers. In this study we explored the views of people who use peer led support groups. We asked how adding peer support groups changed, balanced, or augmented the use of conventional mental health services. Participants were 43 adults attending 4 peer led support groups for depression/bipolar disorder. Data consisted of observations of all 43 participants interacting in their group, in-depth interviews of 20 participants, and results from 2 standardized questionnaires to ballpark the level of symptom severity relative to other groups. Through constant comparative analysis, 12 categories emerged. The most salient features of our findings consisted of the shared perception that groups promoted recovery and augmented conventional services. Members felt acceptance due to their shared diagnoses. Groups provided an experience of community in which recovery skills could be practiced, practical advice received, and hope and empowerment encouraged. Groups appeared to provide participants with important support and healing unavailable from psychotherapy and psychiatry. Peer support groups appeared to be an important addition and sometimes an adequate substitute for psychotherapy and/or psychiatry. Further research is indicated and quantitative students should build on the insights of qualitative studies in developing their protocols.
Peer Support, Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Group Psychotherapy, Peer Counseling, Mood Disorders, Grounded Theory, Constant Comparative Analysis, Mutual Aid
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Recommended APA Citation
Behler, J., Daniels, A., Scott, J., & Mehl-Madrona, L. (2017). Depression/Bipolar Peer Support Groups: Perceptions of Group Members about Effectiveness and Differences from Other Mental Health Services. The Qualitative Report, 22(1), 213-236. Retrieved from https://nsuworks.nova.edu/tqr/vol22/iss1/12