Embodying Recovery: A Qualitative Study of Peer Work in a Consumer-Run Service Setting

Elizabeth Austin, Aditi Ramakrishnan, Kim Hopper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The use of peer support for persons with mental illness has been gaining force. While research has demonstrated the benefits of peer support, few studies have investigated the qualitative characteristics of how peer support aids persons recovering from mental illness. Therefore, this study sought to clarify the characteristics that constitute peer support and its contribution to recovery. We conducted ethnographic fieldwork and semi-structured interviews with nine peer advocates at a consumer-run organization in New York City, and identified three themes that describe how peer support influences recovery: transforming experience into expertise, understanding the mechanics of peer support, and launching peers towards their own recovery. Peer support plays a critical role in helping clients move beyond their patient role to an empowered sense of personhood. Additionally, the value of peer support highlights current deficiencies within the mental health system and how a bolder shift towards recovery might repair them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)879-885
Number of pages7
JournalCommunity Mental Health Journal
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jan 24 2014


  • Agency
  • Peer support
  • Peers
  • Recovery


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