Barker, Stephanie L., Nick Maguire, Felicity L. Bishop, & Lusia L. Stopa (2019). Expert viewpoints of peer support for people experiencing homelessness: A Q sort study. Psychological Services, 16(3), 402-414. (Link: https://doi.org/10.1037/ser0000258)

Abstract: Peers have shared experiences of phenomena such as mental illness, addiction, and homelessness. Homelessness services are increasingly utilizing peers in their models to support people experiencing homelessness. While there is extensive literature on peer support in general, few studies focus on the potential change mechanisms that might underpin this intervention, particularly regarding homelessness. This study aims to utilize expert opinions to identify common viewpoints on components involved in effective peer support. Forty-three statements were developed from previous literature that broadly describes elements involved in peer support. Forty experts (20 peers and 20 professionals) ranked the statements into a hierarchy. Q methodology is a rigorous method to objectively research participants’ subjective viewpoints, using a by-person rather than by-variable approach to factor analysis. The study was done in three stages: first-order analysis to identify shared viewpoints within (a) the peer participant group, (b) the professional participant group, and (c) a second-order analysis of Stage 1 and 2 results to identify common viewpoints held across participant groups. Stage 3 analysis resulted in three differing viewpoints; the dominant viewpoint asserts that effective peer support is rooted in experiential knowledge, where peers build unique, trusting relationships to provide clients with a different level of support. The results highlighted different types of peer support and defined a new one: a unidirectional, mentorship type of intentional peer support. Strengths and limitations are discussed.

Stephanie L Barker <s.barker@soton.ac.uk> is in the Department of Psychology, University of Southampton, UK.

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