Peer support for accepting distressing reality: Expertise and experience-sharing in psychiatric peer-to-peer group discussions

Elina Weiste, Melisa Stevanovic, Lise-Lotte Uusitalo, Hanna Toiviainen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Downloads (Pure)


Peer-based interventions are increasingly used for delivering mental health services to help people with an illness re-examine their situation and accept their illness as part of their life story. The role of the peer supporter in these interventions, known as experts-by-experience (EbE), is situated between mutual peer support and semi-professional service delivery, and they face the challenge of balancing an asymmetric, professional relationship with a reciprocal, mutuality-based, equal relationship. This article investigates how EbEs tackle this challenge when responding to clients’ stories about their personal, distressing experiences in peer-based groups in psychiatric services. The results show how the EbEs responded to their clients’ experience-sharing with two types of turns of talk. In the first response type, the EbEs highlighted reciprocal experience-sharing, nudging the clients toward accepting their illness. This invoked mutual affiliation and more problem-talk from the clients. In the second response type, the EbEs compromised reciprocal experience-sharing and advised clients on how to accept their illness in their everyday lives. This was considered less affiliative in relation to the client’s problem description, and the sequence was brought to a close. Both response types involved epistemic asymmetries that needed to be managed in the interaction. Based on our analysis, semi-professional, experience-based expertise involves constant epistemic tensions, as the participants struggle to retain the mutual orientation toward peer-based experience-sharing and affiliation.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Feb 2023
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • conversation analysis
  • epistemics
  • expert-by-experience
  • peer support
  • psychiatry

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)


Dive into the research topics of 'Peer support for accepting distressing reality: Expertise and experience-sharing in psychiatric peer-to-peer group discussions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this