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What is peer support?

Peer support can be described as having someone meet you where you are and walk alongside you in your journey.  Peer support involves a supportive relationship between two or more people who share a common lived and living experience. Shared experiences can create a sense of understanding and connection between people, which may be difficult to find elsewhere, depending on an individual’s specific circumstances.

FAQs about peer support

Peer support can look different for different people and in different places. There are a variety of formats offered, not all of which may be available to you. You may prefer certain formats to others, depending on your unique needs and experiences.

Peer support may be:

  • One-on-one or group-based
  • Online, in person, over the phone, via mobile app, or hybrid
  • Identity-specific (e.g. for Veterans or Veteran Families) or general (for the general public)
  • Talk-based or activity-based
  • Offered by peers only (people with lived and living experience) or alongside a mental health professional
  • Frequent (e.g. weekly or monthly) or infrequent (e.g. ad hoc)
  • Short-term (e.g. one month) or long-term (e.g. over one year)

Your experience of peer support may vary, but there are some common things to expect when receiving peer support.

Peer support involves:

  • Support and encouragement
  • Active listening
  • Validation
  • Safe environment
  • Shared power
  • Mutual respect
  • Hope

Peer support can offer various benefits for overall well-being and recovery.

Peer support can help you:

  • Improve your self-esteem and sense of empowerment
  • Lessen stigma and feel understood
  • Realize that recovery is possible
  • Develop a support network and feel less isolated
  • Identify and develop coping skills and tools
  • Lessen feelings of distress


Interested in peer support for Veterans but unsure where to start? Visit our interactive directory and map to find peer support programs and services near you. The directory allows you to search for peer support programs and services available to Veterans and Families across Canada by location, topic, format, cost and more.

Peer support program directory

Burke, E., Pyle, M., Machin, K., Varese, F., & Morrison, A. P. (2019). The effects of peer support on empowerment, self-efficacy, and internalized stigma: A narrative synthesis and meta-analysis. Stigma and Health, 4(3), 337–356.

Cyr, C., Mckee, H., O’Hagan, M., & Priest, R. (2016). Making the case for peer support. Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Greden, J. F., Valenstein, M., Spinner, J., Blow, A., Gorman, L. A., Dalack, G. W., Marcus, S., & Kees, M. (2010). Buddy-to-buddy, a citizen soldier peer support program to counteract stigma, PTSD, depression, and suicide. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1208(1), 90–97.

Konigs, R. P. (2018). Evidence brief: What are the core elements of peer support programs? Centre for Addiction and Mental Health — Evidence Exchange Network.

Mirbahaeddin, E., & Chreim, S. (2022). A narrative review of factors influencing peer support role implementation in mental health systems: implications for research, policy and practice. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 1-17.