New research reveals peer-based connection supports healing, growth after loss

Landmark study identifies best practices for successful peer-to-peer connections


ARLINGTON, Va. – A ground-breaking new study commissioned by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) was released today, identifying best practices and essential elements in peer-based support for the bereaved. This study takes peer support from a commonly accepted model of care to an evidence-based best practice.

Retired Army Col. Paul Bartone, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow for the Center for Technology and National Security Policy, completed a two-year systematic literature review and exhaustive interviews with subject matter experts, providing solid evidence that peer support approaches lead to significant benefits for all those facing extraordinary challenges, including for bereaved survivors and military members facing adjustment challenges.

Bartone’s analysis of the literature and interviews yielded eight best practices. Successful peer support programs should:

  1. be easily accessible and quick to respond;
  2. be confidential;
  3. provide a safe environment for the survivor;
  4. provide a peer supporter who closely matches the survivor in life experience;
  5. carefully select peer supporters in order to assure their suitability for the role;
  6. partner closely with mental health professionals;
  7. provide thorough training for peer supporters; and
  8. assure that peer supporters are monitored and cared for.

The results of the study are far reaching, and can be applied to many situations, from care for surviving family members to those suffering from addictions to cancer patients to military members who have served in battle. It has already garnered interest from hospitals, addiction treatment centers, weight loss clinics and a range of support groups as a guideline for successfully connecting peers to empower them as support for those who are fighting their battles.

For decades, TAPS has been successfully connecting grieving military family members to each other as a therapeutic method of finding hope and healing through the peers’ ability to normalize and validate the experience of traumatic grief. TAPS was founded out of tragedy and connection when Caring for the Families of America’s Fallen Heroes Since 1994. the organization’s founder and president, Bonnie Carroll, gained support through connection with the other widows who lost husbands in the same Army plane crash in 1992.

"TAPS has been a pioneer in proving that peer connections – a widow comforting another widow, a sister relating to another sister, a father finding support with another dad – are therapeutic for all who are grieving a loss. From those connections, tremendous healing takes place," said Deborah Mullen, whose husband, retired Adm. Mike Mullen, served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2007 to 2011.

View the full report Peer Support for Bereaved Survivors: Systematic Review of Evidence and Identification of Best Practices. For more information about TAPS, please visit the website.



The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is the national organization providing compassionate care for the families of America's fallen military heroes and has offered support to more than 70,000 surviving family members of our fallen military and their caregivers since 1994. TAPS provides peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, grief seminars and retreats for adults, Good Grief Camps for children, case work assistance, connections to community-based care, online and in-person support groups and a 24/7 resource and information helpline for all who have been affected by a death in the Armed Forces. Services are provided free of charge. For more information go to or call the toll-free TAPS resource and information helpline at 1.800.959.TAPS (8277).