The shift towards recovery-oriented mental health care has led to the extensive growth of peer support in contemporary service delivery. When enacting peer support, peer workers (PWs) use their lived experiences of mental illness to provide support to individuals experiencing mental health difficulties. While PWs are increasingly an integrated part of mental health services, the way in which peer support unfolds in everyday practices remains understudied. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork from Danish mental health centres, this paper investigates how peer workers and users enact experiential knowledge and expertise to support one another. Theoretically, this paper draws on a micro-sociological approach that comprehends expertise as an interactional accomplishment enacted within institutional arrangements. First, the analysis shows how PWs and users develop affective relations based on shared illness experiences that enable the enactment of expertise. Second, it demonstrates how PWs and users engage in these relations by exchanging sympathy and knowledge according to different situational demands. Third, it shows how experiences of relational limitations make service users contest the value of experiential knowledge and PWs' position as valid experts. Centrally, this paper contributes to a general discussion of expertise and the implications of bringing lived experiences into mental health services.
About this publication
Financed byRUC, Nordens Velfærdscenter, Socialstyrelsen
Published inSociology of Health and Illness