Research In Brief: Peer Supports

In 2016 we began the Research In Focus series, highlighting new and interesting findings from NIDILRR-funded studies, presented in a reader-friendly format. As a follow up, we offer our occasional series Research In Brief, where we break down some of the terms you might find in peer-reviewed studies.

In this month’s Research in Brief, we explore different types of peer support. Peer support is a general term for relationships, either formal or informal, between people with the same disability or medical condition. Peer support can help people cope with disabilities. Here are some peer-support arrangements that research has found can benefit people with disabilities:

  • Peer support groups are formal groups of individuals who share a disability or medical condition. Peer support groups may meet in-person or online, such as on a Web forum. These groups may have a trained leader or moderator. In peer support groups, individuals may share information and resources as well as giving each other emotional support.
  • Peer providers, also known as recovery coaches, are individuals with psychiatric disabilities who are trained to help others with similar disabilities in their recovery process. Peer providers may be employed by mental health clinics to serve clients alongside psychotherapists and other staff.
  • Peer mentors (or simply mentors) are individuals with disabilities who assist less-experienced people with the same disability, often on a volunteer basis. For example, professionals with disabilities may assist college students with the same disability to search for employment.

Our Research In Focus series has examined recent studies of peer support for education, employment, parenting, and mental health:

To learn more about peer supports, search the REHABDATA database for abstracts of journal articles, books, and reports (more than 550 for “peer” and “mentor or support”). Subscribe to our weekly News and Notes newsletter to be alerted when the next Research In Focus is published.

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