Peer support is increasingly an integrated part of formalized mental health care, in which individuals with lived experiences of mental illness are employed as peer workers (PWs) to provide support to service users. While the supportive nature of peer support has been widely recognized in the mental health system, little is known about the everyday emotional management that such work requires. To address this gap, we examine the emotional mechanisms of mutuality embedded in peer support. Through an interactionist analysis of ethnographic data on peer work collected in three Danish mental health centers, we conceptualize the sense of mutuality as enactment, and analyze PWs’ emotion management in interactions with service users. Our analysis shows that PWs’ enactment of mutuality works on a continuum of loose and tight emotion management with different objects, strategies and levels of intensity. These findings show that the feeling of mutuality is an interactional accomplishment emerging through an interplay between PWs’ mutuality enactment and applied strategies of emotion management. This study highlights how PWs’ enactment of mutuality changes the mental health encounter, and contributes to the general discussion on the professionalization of peer work and experiential knowledge in medical institutions.
About this publication
Financed byDanmarks Frie Forskningsfond
Published inSSM - Qualitative Research in Health