The Experience of Peer Mentors in an Intervention to Promote Smoking Cessation in Persons with Psychiatric Illness

Published in: Community Mental Health Journal, 2015

Posted on on December 02, 2015

by Faith Dickerson, Christina L. Savage, Lucy A. Schweinfurth, Richard M. Goldberg, Melanie Bennett, Lisa Dixon, Gail Daumit, Matthew Chinman, Alicia Lucksted

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Peer support is an important component of services for persons with psychiatric illness but the experience of peer mentors is not well understood. This study explored the experiences of peer mentors, all former smokers and persons with psychiatric illness, who provided smoking cessation counseling as part of a 6 month professionally-led intervention. Data was obtained from 383 contact log entries and in-depth interviews with eight peer mentors. Qualitative analysis indicated that mentor roles were unexpectedly varied beyond the focus on smoking cessation. Of the two aspects of "peer-ness," shared smoking history was more prominent, while the shared experience of psychiatric illness was sometimes overlooked. Peer mentors experienced multiple challenges trying to help participants to change their smoking behaviors. Nonetheless, they described their experience as personally rewarding. Future interventions may be improved by anticipating peer mentor role complexity and the inherent tension between providing person-centered support and promoting behavior change.

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