1. In this meta-analysis, randomized controlled trials of peer support groups for treating mental health conditions were assessed.

2. Peer support groups were correlated with a slight improvement in overall recovery and no improvement in individual hope, empowerment, or clinical symptoms.

Evidence Rating Level: 1 (Excellent)

Individuals with lived experiences of mental illness may utilize a variety of therapeutic techniques. Peer support groups provide a therapeutic medium in which multiple participants can benefit from a single dynamic session. Additionally, positive social interactions during peer support group sessions potentially have a positive impact on mental wellbeing.

The present systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to summarize the literature on the efficacy of group therapy on improving mental health conditions. Studies were only included if they were randomized clinical trials studying the effect of group peer support interventions on adults aged 18 and over with mental health conditions. Mental health conditions were defined as either having used mental health services, receiving a clinical diagnosis, or exceeding a clinical threshold on a validated mental health screening tool. Studies were excluded if they were clustered trials, incomplete, or only partially randomized. Outcomes evaluated included personal recovery, clinical recovery, acute mental health service use, and social outcomes.

Eleven articles discussing eight studies with a total of 2,131 participants were included. Of these, six articles were included in the meta-analysis. Follow-up data that was analyzed in the study ranged from 3 weeks to 6 months after the completion of group therapy. Results found that completion of peer support group therapy resulted in minor increases in overall individually reported mental health. Peer support group therapy was not associated with increased empowerment, hope, or clinical depressive symptoms. The study was limited in that it only included non-clustered randomized control trials. Nonetheless, the study was significant in suggesting that peer support group therapy may have marginal positive impacts on mental wellbeing, but not specific clinical parameters.

Click to read the study in BMC Psychiatry

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