"From the same mad planet": a grounded theory study of service users' accounts of the relationship that develops within professional peer support at work

Bailie, Hugh Alistair (2016) "From the same mad planet": a grounded theory study of service users' accounts of the relationship that develops within professional peer support at work. DClinPsy thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Professional peer support is an increasingly utilised service within health services and a means by which the government's policies on recovery, personalisation and self-care can be implemented. Peer support workers are being employed at an increasing rate yet the evidence for their clinical and cost-effectiveness is uncertain. This may be due to the relatively low quality research conducted this far, combined with a lack of empirically validated studies exploring how peer support work may work. Service-user perspectives have also been neglected within the research literature, which is somewhat surprising given peer support's roots in personal recovery. There have been a number of psychological theories proposed to explain the mechanisms of peer support but these lack empirical validation and specificity to professional peer support.


The specific objectives of this research project were to explore service-users' accounts of professional peer support work; to relate findings from these accounts to extant theory; and based on these findings the ultimate objective was to develop a theory that contributes to explaining the relationship developed within peer support work.


Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with ten service-users who were currently, or had previously, engaged with a professional peer support worker.


Ethical and Research and Development approval was attained prior to the commencement of the study. Constructivist grounded theory was used from the formulation of research question through to analysis and development of the theory.


Three overarching themes were constructed from the data. 'The process of disclosure' describes how disclosure of mental health difficulties, experiences as a service-user and wider disclosure about life experiences, interests and values facilitate the development of a shared identity and an in-group identity with the peer support worker. 'The product of disclosure' highlights the sense of being understood that is the result of the disclosure and marks a deepening of the relationship. 'Dual roles' describes the tenuous position of holding relationships of both friend and professional with the service-user.


This study offers an original contribution to the peer support literature. It highlights the value of disclosure in developing an in-group status that serves to address social isolation experienced by these service-users. It builds on existing theory whilst incorporating literature relating to social identity theory, therapeutic relationships and therapist self-disclosure. This study offers clinical implications for peer support and further implications for professionals that may benefit from its processes. However, due to the exploratory nature of the research, these implications should be treated as tentative until further research is carried out. There are a number of research implications including comparing professional peer support with other forms of peer support; to refine the theory developed through further study; to compare the effects of therapist self-disclosure with that found within peer support. There were several limitations within the study including limited diversity within the sample as well as difficulties within recruitment, each of which may be addressed by future studies.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (DClinPsy)
Supervisors: Schroder, T.
Keywords: Professional peer support; Service-user perspectives; Process of disclosure; Therapeutic relationships; Social identity theory
Subjects: W Medicine and related subjects (NLM Classification) > WM Psychiatry
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine
Item ID: 56716
Depositing User: Blore, Mrs Kathryn
Date Deposited: 13 May 2019 08:47
Last Modified: 07 May 2020 13:17
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/56716

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