Mental health recovery: Peer specialists with mental health and incarceration experiences

Stacey L. Barrenger, Katherine Maurer, Kiara L. Moore, Inhwa Hong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mental health recovery has not been examined widely in individuals with mental illnesses reentering the community from correctional settings. An important component of mental health recovery is engaging in work and many with lived mental health experiences become peer support specialists, yet little is known how this process unfolds for individuals who also have incarceration histories. Using life history phenomenological interviewing, this study investigates recovery pathways for peer support specialists with incarceration histories. Findings show that experiences of hope, connectedness, identity, meaningfulness, and empowerment were evident in individuals' recovery pathways of activating change, getting into recovery, integrating past and present, and living recovery every day. Notably, establishing a peer identity and drawing on past experiences were particularly salient. Training and working as a peer supported the recovery process through experiencing hope, facilitating connections, and witnessing disclosure. These findings can be applied to recovery-oriented services for those with experiences of mental illness and incarceration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)479-488
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Orthopsychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2020


  • Hope
  • Identity
  • Incarceration
  • Mental health recovery
  • Peer support specialists

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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