Date of Conferral







Silvia Bigatti


Peer support is built upon the premise that shared life experiences will benefit both the helper and the receiver. In the substance abuse field, this relationship has been linked to an increase in practical knowledge, empowerment, hope, and community connectedness. However, the research on peer support is primarily geared toward the effectiveness of the intervention for the consumer. Less is known about the role of this relationship in the recovery of the workers themselves. The purpose of this generic qualitative study was to explore the experience of recovery in substance abuse peer support workers. A recovery framework and the helper therapy principle were used as conceptual frameworks. Semi structured interviews were conducted with 10 individuals who are currently employed as peer support workers in community-based roles. Data were analyzed utilizing a 6-phase thematic analysis to identify themes and patterns in the data and interpret these themes in relation to the study. Five themes were identified from the data: (a) by helping others we help ourselves, (b) self-care makes the role of peer support worker sustainable, (c) connection through shared experience, (d) extension of the personal recovery process, and (e) peer support in a system of care. This study furthers knowledge regarding the benefits and risks for peer workers and provides suggestions for effective support of this role including increased supervision, the presence of peer support networks, and training on the acuity the challenging situations peers may encounter. This study can help guide training development and create positive social change for peer support workers as this role becomes increasingly widespread.