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Psychol Serv. 2018 Nov 8. doi: 10.1037/ser0000269. [Epub ahead of print]

Peer support in an outpatient program for veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder: Translating participant experiences into a recovery model.

Author information

Stanford University School of Medicine.
Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System.
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University.


Veterans returning from recent conflicts present with increased rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and veterans from prior service eras continue to seek trauma-based services. Peer support for veterans with PTSD has the potential to resolve ongoing challenges in access and engagement in mental health care. Assessing the value of peer support services requires a thorough understanding of the expected role and the empirical mechanisms of peer support participation in PTSD recovery. To better understand these mechanisms, this study interviewed 29 veteran participants from an established peer support program (PSP), located in the Central Valley of the Veterans Affairs (VA) Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS) in Northern California. A domain analysis of narrative transcripts generated 34 codes through a grounded theory method. Codes were organized into the following thematic categories: the perceived role of the PSP, supportive experiences of the PSP, global gains from the PSP, and limitations to PSP and further mental health engagement. These results were synthesized into a theoretical model that identifies improved functioning and reduced distress as the expected outcomes of PSP-mediated recovery and illustrates the continuum from in-group experiences to these outcomes. Our results suggest that PSP-mediated recovery is defined as acceptance of PTSD into daily life and identity, rather than resolution of symptoms. This conceptualization has implications for peer support provider training, PSP integration into health care settings, and future outcome analyses on the effectiveness of PSPs. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved).


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