Dr Joanna Miler

Dr Miler is a Research Fellow at the Salvation Army Centre for Addiction Services and Research at the University of Stirling. She holds a PhD in Psychology from the University of Southampton, and MRes and MA degrees from the University of St Andrews. Her research is interdisciplinary, and she is interested in addiction, homelessness; health inequalities of marginalised populations; and peer support.

Provision of peer support at the intersection of homelessness and substance use services: a ‘state of the art’ review

Background: Peer support refers to a process whereby individuals with lived experience of a particular difficulty provide support to others by explicitly drawing on their lived experience. It has been used in a variety of service contexts including within substance use, mental health and physical health services. Those who experience homelessness have some of the most complex intersecting health and social challenges. This ‘state of the art’ review provides a systematic synthesis of literature examining use of peer support models within services for people impacted by both homelessness and substance use problems.

Methods: A systematic search using CINAHL, SocINDEX, PsycINFO, MEDLINE, Scopus and Web of Knowledge databases was conducted in June 2019. The search identified 1,587 papers from the year 2000 onward. After de-duplication 1121 papers remained for title/abstract scanning and 38 were deemed relevant. Four more papers were identified via references making a total of 42 for inclusion. A thematic analysis approach was used to compare and contrast the papers and provide a synthesis of the main learning points from these studies.

Results: Over the past few years there has been a substantial increase in research studying the utility of peer support yet there is significant variation across this field. Alongside profiling the range of settings, aims, populations, and main outcomes of these studies, this poster also provides an overview of overarching themes such as the inadequate recognition of the value and expertise of peers, and a number of related challenges.

Conclusions: Findings provide a comprehensive overview of the use of peer support within homelessness and substance use services and highlight challenges that should be addressed if peers are to be more effectively supported in these roles.

Poster link: Provision of peer support at the intersection of homelessness and substance use services: a ‘state of the art’ review