Work transitions for peer support providers in traditional mental health programs: unique challenges and opportunities.
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BACKGROUND: Peer support is gaining recognition as a valuable component of mental health service delivery, and a meaningful employment opportunity for mental health consumers. Despite the potential benefits of peer support, there continues to be many barriers to the development and funding of peer positions. METHOD: The overall purpose of this multi-site project was to build capacity for employment of trained peer providers in local, community-based mental health programs. A collective case study approach was adopted to explore how peer support was integrated into traditional mental health services. In-depth interviews were conducted with both new and established peer providers and their managers in six different programs. FINDINGS: Analysis of interview transcripts led to identification of key work transitions for peer support workers, from defining and establishing roles, to negotiating the learning curve, and dealing with the challenges associated with their unique role as both consumer and provider. CONCLUSION: Effective integration of peer support requires consideration of the work role, unique needs of the worker, and the overall workplace environment. Integrating peer support providers is a process that evolves over time and does not end once someone is hired.
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