Publications

Review of Recent Literature on Peer Support Providers

Author(s): 

Alicia LaFrance, Lisel Blash,  Joanne Spetz and Susan Chapman

Date: 
Mar. 23, 2017

This report updates a literature review on peer support providers prepared in 2015. Peer support workers fulfill a broad range of tasks ad job titles, in a broad range of mental health and substance use disorders recovery settings, and in various service models, although there is a lack of consensus on the core competencies and duties of this role. Despite a growing body of literature on the effectiveness of peer support, there is still little literature on peer support in forensic and inpatient settings.

Summary of Findings

  • Peer provider employees in behavioral health is a fast-growing occupational group, and is becoming increasing professionalized, especially in agencies such as the Veterans Administration (VA)
  • Peer providers fulfill a broad range of tasks, with titles including but not limited to: peer support specialist, peer mentor or counselor, recovery support specialist, recovery coach, client liaison, peer bridger, and family support navigator.
  • Several studies acknowledge a lack of consensus on core components of the role in mental health and substance use disorder settings.
  • Some authors suggest that a lack of clarity about the role may hinder widespread adoption.
  • Peer specialists work in a broad range of behavioral health settings.
  • The literature suggests an emerging consensus on the value of training and certifying these workers. Training and certification is proliferating and 41 states and the District of Columbia have established programs to train and certify peer specialists. In California, efforts to create statewide peer certification seem likely to continue in the next legislative session.
  • Integration of peer provider employees on the clinical team continues to be a challenge, and traditionally trained mental health professionals struggle to accept the role.
  • Funding mechanisms for peer services vary, although Medicaid reimbursement is increasingly a major source of funding.
  • There is a growing body of literature on the effectiveness of services provided by peer workers, but there is still little literature on the effectiveness of peer workers specifically in transitional settings.