The ramifications of mental illness within society have had significant impact economically and socially. The estimated annual cost of mental health services can be upwards of billions of dollars in the United States. The social impact of mental illness on the individual level can often lead to stigmatization and social isolation, which are known factors that contribute to and exacerbate mental illness. Those unable to secure treatment are more likely to experience substance abuse, psychiatric hospitalization, and homelessness. Although the need for mental health services is not new, its' impact on society continues to grow. Thus, the need for mental health services is greater than ever before. Research examining peer support programs designed to treat a variety of mental health issues have shown to help ease the impact of mental illness. Peer support programs work from a wellness model that focuses on strengths and recovery and their services are often offered by individuals who are viewed as equals in salient ways. Additionally, peer support research has identified the concepts of mutual aid, empowerment, and self-concept as beneficial aspects of peer support programs. Project Return Peer Support Network (PRPSN) is an organization that offers peer support groups throughout Southern California in a variety of community settings. Utilizing focus groups, this study sought to further understand the domains of mutual aid, empowerment, and self-concept within the context of facilitating PRPSN peer support groups. Of the three domains examined, mutual aid appeared most frequently followed by empowerment then self-concept. This appears to highlight the importance of reciprocally sharing resources within the peer support environment.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Peer counseling -- California, Southern -- Case studies; Self-perception -- California, Southern -- Psychological aspects; Mutual health organizations -- California, Southern.

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Natasha Thapar-Olmos