WashU: Peer Specialists Contribute to Healthy lifestyle Intervention for People with Serious Mental Illness

Faculty; Public Health; Research

Peer specialists helped people with serious mental illness feel more comfortable and motivated during coaching sessions encouraging behavior change to counter obesity, according to research from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

Researchers conducted qualitative interviews with residents of supportive housing for people with serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.  Researchers also interviewed peer specialists, who use their own experiences living with mental illness to deliver services that promote wellness and recovery for those facing similar challenges.

They found that the shared experiences made those receiving services from peers more comfortable, supported and motivated.

“Peer specialists’ disclosure of their own experiences making health behaviors changes was critical for building participants’ motivation and ability to try lifestyle changes,” wrote Leopoldo J. Cabassa, senior study author and associate professor at the Brown School. “Understanding these mechanisms can help inform core competencies, training and practice standards to better prepare the workforce to deliver health interventions that could improve health behaviors.”

The study was published December 18 in Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research. Read more here