A Systematic Review of the Roles and Contributions of Peer Providers in the Behavioral Health Workforce

Maria G. Gaiser
Jessica L. Buche
Caitlyn C. Wayment
Victoria Schoebel
Judith E. Smith
Susan A. Chapman
Angela J. Beck
Peer-Reviewed Article
June 2021


Peer providers with lived experiences of substance use and mental health disorders can help improve patient outcomes and play a unique role in the behavioral health workforce.


Peer providers with lived experiences of substance use and mental health disorders are becoming an integral part of the behavioral health workforce due to their expertise in navigating behavioral health concerns and promoting long-term recovery. This systematic review explores their roles within the behavioral health care system and the efficacy of peer-provided services.


Of the 23 studies reviewed, 14 showed notable clinical improvements in quality of life, behavioral health conditions, social functioning, and overall well-being for patients receiving peer support services. Core components identified in many of the studies include the requirement of standardized training and active supervision of peer providers. Peer-provided services for behavioral health treatment and relapse prevention also differ based on the setting, with medical and outpatient facilities associated with Veterans Affairs and community-based settings to be the most common locations where these services are provided.


Peer support services can improve treatment experiences, health service use and management and clinical outcomes. There is a need for more rigorous studies on the efficacy of peer providers in behavioral health care, especially assessing their impact on client outcomes. Standardizing training, certification, and the scope of practice for peer providers may better support this workforce to promote higher quality care.

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