Abstract: Job Satisfaction Among Peer Support Workers in Mental Health Treatment and Recovery Oriented Service Settings (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Job Satisfaction Among Peer Support Workers in Mental Health Treatment and Recovery Oriented Service Settings

Sunday, January 15, 2023
South Mountain, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Jonathan P. Edwards, Ph.D., LCSW, ACSW, Program Consultant, Adjunct Instructor, Columbia University, New York, NY
Introduction/Objective: Peer support practice in mental health treatment and recovery-oriented service settings has seen exponential growth during the past several decades. An estimated 25,000 certified peer specialists in the United States alone necessitates a deeper understanding of factors that are associated with job satisfaction. While there exists a body of research on this topic, many of these studies were conducted with limited sample sizes, within discrete practice settings and geographic regions, often focused on one facet of job satisfaction (e.g., compensation), and lacked racial diversity in the sample. The current study addresses these limitations by examining multiple factors associated with global and multidimensional aspects of job satisfaction using a demographically diverse and geographically dispersed sample of peer support workers within various practice settings.

Methods: A convenience sample of 645 peer support workers employed in a range of mental health treatment and recovery-oriented settings was recruited via membership listservs of the International Association of Peer Supporters (INAPS) and the Academy of Peer Services (APS). Snowball sampling within various peer support communities was also employed. Eligible participants were at least 18 years of age, currently employed for a minimum of six months in a setting that provides mental health treatment and/or recovery-oriented services and residing in one of the 50 states in the United States. Data from a self-administered, anonymous online survey which included sociodemographic, employment, and job satisfaction questions were analyzed using hierarchical linear regression. Measures: Job satisfaction, the primary dependent variable, was measured using the 32-item Indiana Job Satisfaction Survey. Predictor variables (co-worker support, perceived organizational support, supervisor support, and job empowerment) were measured using a variety of validated instruments.

Results: The main hypothesis was supported; co-worker support, perceived organizational support, supervisor support, and job empowerment explained 71% of the variance in overall job satisfaction [AdjR2=0.71, F (9, 271) =77.77, p<0.01], with age and status as a certified peer support worker significant contributors. Organizational support followed by job empowerment explained the most variance in overall job satisfaction. Having a supervisor with a peer support background was not significantly associated with respondents’ overall job satisfaction.

Implications: Managers and supervisors should develop and increase their familiarity with practices, principles, and roles of peer support workers. Factors impacting job satisfaction include role clarity, perceived value to the organization, autonomy, sense of purpose, and advancement. Organizations should be attuned to key issues, such as certification requirements for peer support workers and billing for these services, as well as demographic trends such as the significant number of older adults within the peer support workforce, and how to provide optimal supports for this population. Several recommendations for fostering organizational change and integration are provided.

Conclusion: As the peer support workforce continues to expand within mental health treatment and recovery-oriented service settings, as well as among a host of other practice settings, it will be crucial to strengthen organizational and empowerment supports to enhance and sustain a satisfied and effective peer support workforce.

Keywords: peer support, job satisfaction, recovery-oriented service settings, empowerment.