The treatment relationship in peer-based and regular case management for clients with severe mental illness

Psychiatr Serv. 2006 Aug;57(8):1179-84. doi: 10.1176/ps.2006.57.8.1179.


Objective: This study compared the quality of treatment relationships and engagement in peer-based and regular case management. It also assessed the value of positive relationship qualities in predicting motivation for and use of community-based services for persons with severe mental illness.

Methods: One hundred thirty-seven adults with severe mental illness participated in a 2x2 prospective longitudinal randomized clinical trial with two levels of case management intervention (peer and regular) and two interviews (six and 12 months). Self-report questionnaires assessed treatment relationships, motivation, and service use, and providers rated participants' initial engagement and monthly attendance in treatment.

Results: Participants perceived higher positive regard, understanding, and acceptance from peer providers rather than from regular providers at six months only, with initially unengaged clients showing more contacts with case managers in the peer condition and decreasing contacts in the regular condition. Six-month positive regard and understanding positively predicted 12-month treatment motivation for psychiatric, alcohol, and drug use problems and attendance at Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

Conclusions: Early in treatment, peer providers may possess distinctive skills in communicating positive regard, understanding, and acceptance to clients and a facility for increasing treatment participation among the most disengaged, leading to greater motivation for further treatment and use of peer-based community services. Findings strongly suggest that peer providers serve a valued role in quickly forging therapeutic connections with persons typically considered to be among the most alienated from the health care service system.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Case Management*
  • Community Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Connecticut
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Patients / psychology
  • Peer Group*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires