“Persuasive” Evidence for Peer Support


The Journal of Psychosocial Nursing reviews the evidence for peer support, finding “outcomes across a range of measures no different than when services had been provided by professionals . . . But there is more . . Peer support interventions for depression were superior to usual care in reducing depressive symptoms and similar in effectiveness to group cognitive-behavioral therapy.” The article concludes that “Far from being worried, nurses should embrace the presence of service users on the wards and in teams as colleagues. We are considerably stronger united than divided.”

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Simpson, A.; Collaborators, Not Competitors: Peer Workers and Professionals. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services. 51(10) October 2013 DOI: 10.3928/02793695-20130910-01

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. Many others on this site have written about how “peers” have hijacked the system. Wolves in sheeps clothing.

    Nontheless, I remain optimistic about the possibility with this.

    I have no doubt that peers, *real* peers are the answer. The reasons are simple:

    1) Real peers, who have undergone these events, have the ability to see a suffering soul and *truly relate* to such suffering
    2) Real peers have no preconceived notions about bogus psychiatric labels or diagnoses
    3) Real peers are able to approach an individual in a way that is rarely done by professionals – namely, as an *equal*.

    Be well,

    Duane Sherry

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  2. When these studies have outcomes that are about symptoms rather than real life outcomes I get cynical…

    ie. The patient is still poverty stricken, living in a pig pen, violent partner, no friends…but hey symptom free…so thats OK.

    I sometimes wonder how many peer support workers are really peer pressure workers…

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  3. Unfortunately, the term “peer support” has lost all meaning for me. In theory, it sounds like a great thing but, in practice (in my experience, anyway), it means being tutored by someone who has drunk the Kool Aid and wants you to do the same. I fired my peer support worker.

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