Role-playing as a Tool for Hiring, Training, and Supervising Peer Providers


This article presents role-playing as an activity that can help managers in hiring, evaluating, and supervising peer providers. With the increasing employment of peers in mental health care systems, supervisors have had to face dilemmas related to peer employment more frequently and with little guidance and direction. In response, this article presents role-playing as a practical tool to hire, train, and supervise peer providers. The effectiveness of role-playing depends largely on context and execution, and so this article also offers direction on how to maximize the utility and benefits of role-playing to enhance the performance of peer providers.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. 1.

    Abuse S. Mental Health Services Administration: National Consensus Statement on Mental Health Recovery US Department of Health and Human Services. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services. . 2005.

  2. 2.

    Davidson L, Chinman M, Kloos B, et al. Peer support among individuals with severe mental illness: a review of the evidence. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice. 1999;6(2):165–187.

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Davidson L, Chinman M, Sells D, Rowe M. Peer support among adults with serious mental illness: a report from the field. Schizophrenia Bulletin. 2006;32(3):443–450.

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Davidson L, Guy K. Peer support among persons with severe mental illnesses: a review of evidence and experience. World Psychiatry. 2012;11(2):123–128.

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Salzer MS, Shear SL. Identifying consumer-provider benefits in evaluations of consumer-delivered services. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal. 2002;25(3):281.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Solomon P. Peer support/peer provided services underlying processes, benefits, and critical ingredients. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal. 2004;27(4):392–401.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Gates LB, Akabas SH. Developing strategies to integrate peer providers into the staff of mental health agencies. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research. 2007;34(3):293–306.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Gates LB, Akabas SH. Inclusion of people with mental health disabilities into the workplace: accommodation as a social process. Work Accommodation and Retention in Mental Health. 2011:375–391.

  9. 9.

    Van Ments M. The effective use of role-play: practical techniques for improving learning. London: Kogan Page; 1999.

  10. 10.

    Gropelli TM. Using active simulation to enhance learning of nursing ethics. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing. 2010;41(3):104–105.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Shearer R, Davidhizar R. Using role play to develop cultural competence. Journal of Nursing Education. 2003;42:273–276.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Fertleman C, Gibbs J, Eisen S. Video improved role play for teaching communication skills. Medical Education. 2005;39(11):1155–1156.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Jeffries PR. A frame work for designing, implementing, and evaluating simulations used as teaching strategies in nursing. Nursing Education Perspectives. 2005;26(2):96–103.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Lane C, Rollnick S. The use of simulated patients and role-play in communication skills training: a review of the literature to August 2005. Patient Education and Counseling. 2007;67(1):13–20.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Lane C, Hood K, Rollnick S. Teaching motivational interviewing: using role play is as effective as using simulated patients. Medical Education. 2008;42(6):637–644.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Littlefield JH, Hahn HB, Meyer AS. Evaluation of a role-play learning exercise in an ambulatory clinic setting. Advances in Health Sciences Education. 1999;4(2):167–173.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Simpson MA. How to use role-play in medical teaching. Medical Teacher. 1985;7(1):75–82.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Froehle TC, Robinson SE, Kurpius WJ. Enhancing the effects of modeling through role-play practice. Counselor Education and Supervision. 1983;22(3):197–206.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Hargreaves R, Hadlow J. Role-play in social work education: process and framework for a constructive and focused approach. Social work education. 1997;16(3):61–73.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Kinney M, Aspinwall-Roberts E. The use of self and role play in social work education. Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, The. 2010;5(4):27–33.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Mooradian JK. Using simulated sessions to enhance clinical social work education. Journal of Social Work Education. 2008;44(3):21–36.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Moss B. The use of large-group role-play techniques in social work education. Social Work Education. 2000;19(5):471–483.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Petracchi HE, Collins KS. Utilizing actors to simulate clients in social work student role plays. Journal of Teaching in Social Work. 2006;26(1–2):223–233.

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    DeNeve KM, Heppner MJ. Role play simulations: the assessment of an active learning technique and comparisons with traditional lectures. Innovative Higher Education. 1997;21(3):231–246.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Jenkins P, Turick-Gibson T. An exercise in critical thinking using role playing. Nurse Educator. 1999;24(6):11–14.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Berkhof M, Van Rijssen HJ, Schellart AJ, Anema JR, Van der Beek AJ. Effective training strategies for teaching communication skills to physicians: an overview of systematic reviews. Patient Education and Counseling. 2011;84(2):152–162.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Pearce J, Mann MK, Jones C, et al. The most effective way of delivering a train-the-trainers program: a systematic review. Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions. 2012;32(3):215–226.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Gordon M, Findley R. Educational interventions to improve handover in health care: a systematic review. Medical Education. 2011;45(11):1081–1089.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Milne DL, Sheikh AI, Pattison S, Wilkinson A. Evidence-based training for clinical supervisors: a systematic review of 11 controlled studies. The Clinical Supervisor. 2011;30(1):53–71.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Errington E. Role-play. HERDSA; 1997.

  31. 31.

    Swink DF. Role-play your way to learning. Training and Development. 1993;47(5):91–97.

    Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Blatner A. Foundations of psychodrama: history, theory, and practice. New York: Springer; 2000.

  33. 33.

    Northcott N. Role-play: proceed with caution! Nurse Education in Practice. 2002;2(2):87–91.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Maier HW. Role playing: structures and educational objectives. Journal of Child & Youth Care. 1989;6(4):145–150.

    Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Steinert Y. Twelve tips for using role-plays in clinical teaching. Medical Teacher. 1993;15(4):283–291.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Joyner B, Young L. Teaching medical students using role play: twelve tips for successful role plays. Medical Teacher. 2006;28(3):225–229.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Jacobsen T, Baerheim A, Lepp MR, Schei E. Analysis of role-play in medical communication training using a theatrical device the fourth wall. BMC Medical Education. 2006;6(1):51.

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Gallagher MS, Hargie ODW. An investigation into the validity of role play as a procedure for counsellor skill assessment. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling. 1989;17(2):155–165.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Pomerantz AM. Who plays the client? Collaborating with theater departments to enhance clinical psychology role-play training exercises. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 2003;59(3):363–368.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Keltner NL, Grant JS, McLernon D. Use of actors as standardized psychiatric patients: facilitating success in simulation experiences. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and mental Health Services. 2011;49(5):34–40.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Bellack AS, Morrison RL, Mueser KT, Wade JH, Sayers SL. Role play for assessing the social competence of psychiatric patients. Psychological Assessment: A Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 1990;2(3):248-255.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Alkin MC, Christie CA. The use of role-play in teaching evaluation. American Journal of Evaluation. 2002;23(2):209–218.

    Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Gabriel JA. Using role play as a training and supervisory tool. Child Welfare: Journal of Policy, Practice, and Program. 1982.

  44. 44.

    Levenson RL, Herman J. The use of role playing as a technique in the psychotherapy of children. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training. 1991;28(4):660-666.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. 45.

    Gates LB, Mandiberg JM, Akabas SH. Building capacity in social service agencies to employ peer providers. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal. 2010;34(2):145–152.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Conflict of interest

The authors of this manuscript declare no conflict of interest.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Hans Oh MSW, MEd.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Oh, H., Solomon, P. Role-playing as a Tool for Hiring, Training, and Supervising Peer Providers. J Behav Health Serv Res 41, 216–229 (2014).

Download citation


  • Learning Objective
  • Teaching Methodology
  • Social Care Professional
  • Social Work Education
  • Peer Support Program