Publication Details

Barr, K., Townsend, M. & Grenyer, B. (2020). Using peer workers with lived experience to support the treatment of borderline personality disorder: A qualitative study of consumer, carer and clinician perspectives. Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation, 7 (1),


2020 The Author(s). Background: Peer support is a recovery oriented approach where consumers and carers are introduced to people with lived experience of the disorder who have recovered. Paid roles within health services for such consumer peer workers and carer peer workers (or 'specialists') are increasingly common. To date specific studies on such peer support for consumers with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and their carers has not been conducted. Methods: This qualitative study used interviews to explore perceptions and models of peer support for BPD from the perspectives of 12 consumers, 12 carers, and 12 mental health professionals. Participant responses were analyzed using reflexive thematic analysis within a phenomenological methodology. Results: All groups described how consumer peer workers may provide hope, connection, and validation to a consumer's lived experience. Offering both traditional mental health treatment plus peer support, and giving consumers choice regarding a consumer peer worker was welcomed. Differences in opinion were found regarding the consumer peer worker's role in relation to the mental health team, including whether consumer peer workers should access medical records. Perspectives differed regarding the consumer peer worker and carer peer worker positions, highlighting potential role confusion. Carers discussed the value of receiving support from carer peer workers and consumer peer workers. Mental health professionals described how consumer peer workers can experience workplace stigma and problems with boundary setting, and acknowledged a need for peer workers to be valued by having a duty of care and confidentiality code to follow and be offered supervision. Conclusions: Two models of peer support for BPD emerged: an integrated model where consumer peer workers work within the mental health team, and a complementary model where consumer peer workers are separate from the mental health team. Based on these findings we provide recommendations for services to help support such peer work for consumers with BPD and their carers.



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