Objective: Self-disclosure is recognized as an important aspect of peer support, but little is known about its use by peers. This study aimed to qualitatively understand peer self-disclosure in the context of depression care delivery to older adults. Methods: 69 audio-recordings of peer-client meetings were coded for self-disclosure using the Roter Interaction Analysis System (RIAS). Peer self-disclosure was defined as a statement describing personal life experience with physical and/or emotional relevance for the client. A total of 3421 discrete statements were organized into 770 disclosure episodes. The episodes were qualitatively analyzed to identify themes related to the content and function of self-disclosure within the peer-counseling context. Results: Peer self-disclosure was used to 1) counsel through reframing perspectives, modeling positive behaviors, offering coping skills, and sharing mental health resources and health information; 2) establish rapport by emphasizing similarities unrelated to depression; and 3) show empathy and understanding of personal struggles. In addition, self-disclosure rarely only focused on the peer experience without relevance for the client. Conclusions & practice implications: Peer self-disclosure can be purposively used in depression care delivery with older adults. Training and supervision in appropriate self-disclosure should be provided to peers to ensure purposive use.
- Peer support
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