A peer worker is a person in recovery who has been trained to provide non-clinical, strengths-based supports to people experiencing similar challenges. Peer workers offer direct social and emotional support, help forge connections to clinical care and community resources, and share hope that recovery is possible.
A growing body of research shows the support provided by peer workers benefits people in or seeking recovery in many ways. People report improvements in social support and social functioning, self-esteem and confidence, sense of control and ability to bring about changes in their lives, and engagement in self-care and healthy behaviors. Peer support also leads to reduced hospital admission rates and longer community tenure. Families connected with peer support experience an increased sense of collaboration, decreased internalized blame, increased empowerment to take action, and decreased family isolation.
Peer workers also help behavioral health organizations get better at what they do. Whether organizations employ peers or partner with peer-run organizations, they improve their own capacity to effectively engage and support people living with behavioral health conditions–ultimately improving outcomes.
By preparing and supporting peer workers to participate fully in all aspects of planning, delivering, and evaluating services, organizations demonstrate commitment to recovery. Building an infrastructure to engage peers in this way is important ensure the wisdom of lived experience informs all their work.