Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Social Welfare

Content Description

1 online resource (viii, 194 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Eric R Hardiman

Committee Members

Victoria M Rizzo, Katharine J Bloeser


military culture, military experiences, military veterans, peer support, qualitative description, women veterans, Women veterans, Peer counseling, Sexual harassment in the military

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Work | Women's Studies


This research explores peer support described by women who have served in the United States Armed Forces. Women military veterans are a growing subpopulation with unique experiences and challenges as women who have served in a male-dominated warrior culture. Understanding women veterans’ experiences and how they view peer support will help improve their mental health and well-being. Research questions included: (1) How do women veterans describe peer support for their mental health and well-being? (2) What does peer support mean to the woman veterans in this study? (3) For what life situations is peer support helpful for women veterans? (4) What is the lived experience of women veterans participating in peer support programs?Through qualitative description (Sandelowksi, 2000), 25 women veteran interviews were used to answer the research questions. Women veteran interviews were purposively selected from a larger study of veterans using peer support services in New York State. Transcripts were analyzed using a combined deductive and inductive approach, with in-vivo coding to capture the veteran’s words verbatim. The women veterans considered peer support a relationship between veterans that is based on shared military experience and who may also share similar life challenges. Peer support meant creating a therapeutic environment without the stigma of formalized therapy. Women veterans found peer support helpful for numerous situations related to military service and transition after service. The availability of another woman veteran peer was essential for discussing sensitive topics such as sexual assault or harassment in the military. The implications of this research impact social work practice on every level, as well as other professionals and fields. Micro social workers should incorporate peer support into treatment plans to encourage women veterans’ socialization. With the findings, academics should develop curriculum on military culture to educate students and interns. Administrators should design programs that utilize peer support services to engage women veterans. Finally, this research will better inform policy makers to legislate veteran healthcare and military policy. Future research can uncover elements of veteran-centric peer support models as a step toward forming a grounded theory of understanding and explaining veteran peer support.