Peer mentoring for eating disorders: Results from the evaluation of a pilot program

Jennifer Beveridge, Andrea Phillipou, Zoe Jenkins, Richard Newton, Leah Brennan, Freya Hanly, Benjamin Torrens-Witherow, Narelle Warren, Kelly Edwards, David Castle

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Eating disorders (EDs) are serious psychiatric illnesses that have high rates of morbidity and mortality, and low long-term recovery rates. Peer mentor programs (PMPs) have been associated with reduced psychiatric hospitalisation and shorter lengths of stay for those with other severe mental illnesses. The present study evaluated the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of a PMP for individuals with EDs in improving symptomatology and quality of life. Methods: Thirty mentees and seventeen mentors were recruited. The PMP involved thirteen sessions over 6 months. Participants completed measures assessing ED symptomatology, quality of life (QoL), mood and perceived disability. Changes in symptomatology before and after the PMP were tested by Wilcoxon signed rank tests. Semi-structured interviews were conducted for qualitative evaluation of the PMP. Results: The program was deemed to have moderate feasibility with eight of 30 mentees, and two of 17 mentors withdrawing. Completion rates ranged from 2 to 16 sessions, and between 3 and 45 weeks. Mentees demonstrated improvements in body mass index, QoL, ED symptomatology, mood (depression, anxiety and tension/stress) and perceived disability from pre- to post-program. Mentors demonstrated significant increases in ED symptomatology, but no worsening of QoL, mood or perceived disability. Qualitative findings from both mentees and mentors were positive: emergent themes included hope for recovery, a sense of agency and inspiration gained from interaction with someone with lived experience of an ED. Conclusions: This pilot study suggests feasibility of the PMP for individuals with EDs. Mentees demonstrated improvements in ED symptomatology, QoL, mood and perceived disability. However, the increase in ED symptomatology reported by the mentors over the PMP highlights potential risks and the need for thorough monitoring while preliminary evaluation is undertaken. The mentoring relationship was a positive experience for both mentees and mentors, instilling an increased hope for recovery in mentees and an opportunity for mentors to reflect on their own recovery with increased confidence. The novel relationship formed throughout mentorship highlights a potential gap in current clinical support services, which warrants further exploration within a controlled tria.

Original languageEnglish
Article number13
JournalJournal of Eating Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2019


  • Eating disorders
  • Peer mentoring
  • Peer work
  • Quality of life
  • Treatment

Cite this

Beveridge, J., Phillipou, A., Jenkins, Z., Newton, R., Brennan, L., Hanly, F., Torrens-Witherow, B., Warren, N., Edwards, K., & Castle, D. (2019). Peer mentoring for eating disorders: Results from the evaluation of a pilot program. Journal of Eating Disorders, 7(1), [13].