Early Stages of Development of a Peer Specialist Fidelity Measure

Published in: Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, v. 39, no. 3, Sep. 2016, p. 256-265

Posted on RAND.org on October 12, 2016

by Matthew Chinman, Sharon McCarthy, Chantele Mitchell-Miland, Karin Daniels, Ada Youk, Maria Orlando Edelen

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Research on peer specialists (individuals with serious mental illness supporting others with serious mental illness in clinical and other settings) has not yet included the measurement of fidelity. Without measuring fidelity, it is unclear whether the absence of impact in some studies is attributable to ineffective peer specialist services or because the services were not true to the intended role. This article describes the initial development of a peer specialist fidelity measure for 2 content areas: services provided by peer specialists and factors that either support or hamper the performance of those services.


A literature search identified 40 domains; an expert panel narrowed the number of domains and helped generate and then review survey items to operationalize those domains. Twelve peer specialists, individuals with whom they work, and their supervisors participated in a pilot test and cognitive interviews regarding item content.


Peer specialists tended to rate themselves as having engaged in various peer service activities more than did the supervisors and individuals with whom they work. A subset of items tapping peer specialist services "core" to the role regardless of setting had higher ratings. Participants stated the measure was clear, appropriate, and could be useful in improving performance.

Conclusions and Implications for Practice

Although preliminary, findings were consistent with organizational research on performance ratings of supervisors and employees made in the workplace. Several changes in survey content and administration were identified. With continued work, the measure could crystalize the role of peer specialists and aid in research and clinical administration.

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