Peer Support and Youth Recovery: A Brief Review of the Theoretical Underpinnings and Evidence


  • Jessica Barton
  • Joanna Henderson



This article provides a brief review of the theoretical underpinnings and initial evidence regarding peer support, with a specific interest in peer support for youth with addiction and mental health illnesses. Peer support can be thought of in terms of supporting prevention of difficulties, often emphasizing naturalistic opportunities, or as a specific component of an intervention targeting individuals with identified difficulties. In addition, there are peer-led and peer-implemented treatment approaches that have been evaluated. This form of peer support involves an asymmetrical relationship whereby a trained worker, who has gone through the process of recovery, assists other individuals who are not as far along in their recovery. Interaction with peers who have lived experience is thought to offer hope and enhance motivation for individuals considering or attempting change. These different forms of peer support have all been shown to hold promise for improving clinical outcomes but the literature in general has been hampered by limitations in study methods and design. Future studies will need to address these historical challenges for the potential of peer support to enhance outcomes to be fully realized.