Focus on life experiences - peers as pioneers in social work

Student thesis: Master thesis (including HD thesis)

  • Monika Elisabet Fredriksson
  • Alicja Anna Rydz Johansen
  • Jette Odgaard Nielsen
4. term, Social Work, Master (Master Programme)
This dissertation will examine the peer-support for people with mental illnesses and its relation to social work. The peer-support is a special approach to manage and reduce social problems relating to mental health. The group of interview participants consists of six peer, who works in social or district psychiatry. They have different professional background, but most of them have relevant backgrounds in social work.
The title of this thesis - “Focus on life experiences - peers as pioneers in social work” indicates that life experiences of a mental illness are the central element of peer-support in social work. The reference to pioneers indicates that peers are actively create new practice, to validate the life experiences to become working qualification. The thesis’ research question is:
What kind of possibilities and barriers are experienced by peer-workers in social work?
The project is based on six qualitative interviews, which we are analyse through the interpretation of meaning, along with the hermeneutical tradition. The thesis’ analysis is divided into two parts: The peer perception of a role conflict and The workplace’s acknowledgement of the peer’s competence.
The thesis includes E. Goffman’s theory about stigma and how it determines social interactions. The peer-workers are embedded in this context, because their experiences with mental illness differ from approved standards about mental health. We engage the recovery-perspective that specifies which social conditions enable increase of recovery from mental illness. We use H. R. Fuchs Ebaugch’s theory about becoming an ex, to describe the development from being a patient/service user – to being a former patient/service user. In other words, it is a framework to understand what it means to leave behind a significant role or incorporate it into a new identity. We apply A. Honneth’s theory about acknowledgement to define the human being’s conditions of a good life.
The thesis’ conclusion is that the peer-support is experienced as an opportunity, because it makes significant sense for the peers and it changes practice for the users and other staff. The peer-experience of mental illness enriches the community and culture. Some informants express that these qualifications are not acknowledged in the beginning of the employment, but obtain value after the peer-workers define their role and show their qualifications through actions. This process of
Gruppe 58: A. Johansen, M. Fredriksson, J. Odgaard
adaptation is described as a mix of mistrust and stigmatisation, which is understood as a challenge related to the peer-support. The overall summary of this thesis’ empirical material is that the challenges connected to the peer-work play a smaller part than the achieved acknowledgement.
Publication date30 Jun 2018
Number of pages88
ID: 280211127