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The effectiveness of one-to-one peer support in mental health services: a systematic review and meta-analysis

White, S., Foster, R., Marks, J. , Morshead, R., Goldsmith, L., Barlow, S., Sin, J. & Gillard, S. ORCID: 0000-0002-9686-2232 (2020). The effectiveness of one-to-one peer support in mental health services: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Psychiatry, 20(1), article number 534. doi: 10.1186/s12888-020-02923-3


Background: Peer support is being introduced into mental health services internationally, often in response to workforce policy. Earlier systematic reviews incorporate different modalities of peer support (i.e. group and one-to-one), offer inconsistent evidence of effectiveness, and also indicate substantial heterogeneity and issues of quality in the evidence base at that time. An updated review, focussed on one-to-one peer support, is timely given current policy interest. This study aims to systematically review evidence for the effectiveness of one-to-one peer support interventions for adults using mental health services, and to explore heterogeneity in peer support interventions.
Method: We searched MEDLINE, PsycINFO, Embase, CINAHL and Cochrane databases from inception until 13 June 2019. Included studies were assessed for risk of bias, and meta-analyses conducted where multiple trials provided usable data.
Results: Twenty-three studies reporting nineteen trials were eligible, providing data from 3329 participants. While seven trials were of low to moderate risk of bias, incomplete reporting of data in many studies suggested bias in the evidence base. Peer support interventions included peer workers in paraclinical roles (e.g. case manager), providing structured behavioural interventions, or more flexible support for recovery.
Meta-analyses were conducted for eleven outcomes, with evidence that one-to-one peer support may have a modest positive impact on self-reported recovery and empowerment. There was no impact on clinical symptoms or service use. Analyses of heterogeneity suggest that peer support might improve social network support.
Conclusions: One-to-one peer support in mental health services might impact positively on psychosocial outcomes, but is unlikely to improve clinical outcomes. In order to better inform the introduction of peer support into mental health services, improvement of the evidence base requires complete reporting of outcome data, selection of outcomes that relate to intervention mechanisms, exploration of heterogeneity in the implementation of peer support and focused reviews of specific types of one-to-one peer support.
Trial registration: Prospero identifier: CRD42015025621

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: Peer support, Peer worker, Mental health services, Randomised clinical trial, Systematic review, Meta-analysis, Empowerment, recovery, Social network
Subjects: R Medicine > RT Nursing
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Nursing
SWORD Depositor:
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Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution International Public License 4.0.

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