“From the same mad planet”: a grounded theory of service users’ accounts of the relationship within professional peer support

Publication Date12 December 2016
AuthorH. Alistair Bailie,Anna Tickle,Michael Rennoldson
SubjectHealth & social care,Mental health
From the same mad planet: a grounded
theory of service usersaccounts of the
relationship within professional peer
H. Alistair Bailie, Anna Tickle and Michael Rennoldson
H. Alistair Bailie is a Clinical
Psychologist at the University of
Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
and Nottinghamshire
Healthcare NHS Trust,
Nottingham, UK.
Anna Tickle is a Clinical
Psychologist at the Community
Learning Disability Team,
Nottinghamshire Healthcare
NHS Trust, Newark Hospital,
Newark, UK and Institute of
Health, Work and
Organisations, University of
Nottingham, Nottingham, UK.
Michael Rennoldson is based
at the Nottingham Trent
University, Nottingham, UK.
Purpose Peer support (PS) workers are being employed despite uncertain evidence for clinical and
cost-effectiveness. Psychological theories have been proposed to explain the mechanisms of PS but these
lack empirical validation and specificity to professional PS. The purpose of this paper is to develop a
substantive interpretive grounded theory of service-usersexperience of professional PS work.
Design/methodology/approach Constructivist grounded theory was used throughout. Semi-structured
interviews were conducted with ten service-users who had engaged with a professional PS worker.
Findings Three overarching themes were constructed. The process of disclosuredescribes how
disclosure of mental he alth difficulties, e xperiences as a service-user and wider disclosure about life
experiences, interests and values facilitate the development of a shared identity with the PS worker. The
product of disclosurehi ghlights the sense of being understood as a r esult of the disclosure and marks a
deepening of the relati onship. Dual rolesdescribes the tenu ous position of holding bot h a professional
relationship and friendship.
Research limitations/implications Future research should seek to refine the theory developed and
compare the effects of therapist self-disclosure with that found within PS. There were limitations within the
study, including limited diversity within the sample as well as difficulties with recruitment.
Originality/value This study connects service-usersaccounts of receiving PS with existing
psychological theory to move towards an understanding of the relationship between receivers and providers
of professional PS.
Keywords Qualitative, Grounded theory, Service users, Professional peer support
Paper type Research paper
Peer support (PS)[1] has become an important part of the recovery movement within mental
health services (Repper and Carter, 2011), government policy and strategy (Gillard et al., 2014).
PS workers are being recruited across many services within the UK (Simpson et al., 2014)
and internationally (Gillard and Holley, 2014), despite the equivocal evidence produced thus far
(Gillard et al., 2014; Lloyd-Evans et al., 2014; Pitt et al., 2013). The theory behind PS is poorly
understood. It is suggested that for an intervention to be robustly evaluated, understandings of how it
is associated with change in outcomes should be modelled theoretically and empirically (Gillard et al.,
2015). In addition, with few exceptions (e.g. Gillard et al., 2015), the literature on mental health PS has
marginalised the perspectives of PS recipients, contrary to the principles of personal recovery.
Received 14 February 2016
Revised 31 August 2016
Accepted 11 October 2016
VOL. 21 NO. 4 2016, pp. 282-294, © Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1361-9322 DOI 10.1108/MHRJ-02-2016-0004

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