Objective: Support groups can help to reach individuals with anxiety disorders who are not or are only partly obtaining health services. The present study is based on a program that involves peer helpers as animators of a self-treatment group (Zéro-ATAQ). Their perspective has been documented in order to identify the aspects of the program which can be improved.
Methods: Eleven peer helpers led the 12 sessions of the program, which was dispensed in four regions of Quebec for 32 persons having panic disorders with agoraphobia. The perspectives of ten peer animators were documented based on a semi-structured interview that took place at the end of the program, and a focus group that was held over six months later with peer animators from each of the groups. Their comments were transcribed and a thematic content analysis was conducted.
Results: All of the peer helper animators reported that they enjoyed participating in the program, that they appreciated being able to help others having an anxiety disorder, and that the program helped them in their role as animators of these types of activities. Nearly all of the peer helpers emphasized the importance of being able to count on the supervision of a professional when needed.
Conclusion: This study revealed (1) the feasibility of implementing a program of this kind in partnership with peers, (2) the qualifications necessary to lead this type of program, (3) the requirements in terms of training and available material, and (4) the importance of supervision.