Thematic analysis of mechanisms underpinning email peer support for young people with eating disorders

Imogen Peebles, Beccy Brown, Emma Juster, Fiona Duffy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Peer support, such as mentorship and befriending, has been found to have a valuable impact on a range of outcomes. There are multiple formats, including face-to-face (individually and group), and in online forums. Advancement in technology has enabled online peer support to increase in popularity; however, little is known about mechanisms underpinning individual one to one online peer interactions. The purpose of this paper is to qualitatively explore the mechanisms underpinning email exchanges in an eating disorder peer support service.

Email transcripts from dyads in a moderated peer-to-peer email support service were analysed using inductive thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2006).

The thematic analysis generated five themes as mechanisms of peer support. Relating and reflecting experience was the central superordinate theme. Subthemes included Positive Encouragement, Checking in and Prompting, Being a Confidante and Defining Recovery.

The current findings align with previous research and add new developments. The theme of Defining Recovery added the awareness of the personal perception of recovery, which had not been considered as a mechanism in previous literature and may be specific to this digital platform. This study could assist in the development of training for the provision of further peer support within eating disorder services.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice
Early online date6 Sep 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Sep 2021


  • email
  • young people
  • peer support
  • digital
  • eating disorders


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