Course Content
Introduction
This session will introduce students to the course and through the use of exercises promote general discussion encouraging the students to begin to get to know each other. The session will cover confidentiality, participation, commitment and a general overview of the course. 
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What is Recovery?
The aim of this session is to explore the development of the recovery approach in mental health and to examine key concepts in recovery and a range of factors that support recovery.
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Personal Recovery
The aim of this session is to explore personal experience of mental health problems and recovery and consider how the key concepts and factors supporting recovery (covered in session 2) have impacted on your own story of recovery.
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What is Peer Support?
Now that we have been introduced to recovery characteristics and developed an understanding of the things that can help and hinder that process, we are going to consider the role the role of peer support in more detail. Firstly, we will examine what we mean by a peer and we will then go on to consider the relationship between peer support and recovery.
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The Peer Relationship
In this session we will examine in more detail the processes and practices of establishing peer relationships. We will build on our earlier learning about the role of mutuality and empowerment in peer relationships. There will be a focus on issues of power, choice and control in peer relationships.
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Review and Evaluation
The aim of this session is to give candidates the opportunity to reflect on learning to date; provide support and feedback on the assessment task and to review the content to date. The first assessment task is a written assignment in essay format where students consider their personal recovery story in relation to the recovery approach and the role of peer support.
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Use of Language and Communications
As peer supporters, the language we use and how we communicate are key to building good connections with the people we are supporting. This session will focus on how we use the language of recovery and our wider communication skills in the peer relationship. The language of recovery is designed to bring out the strengths and abilities of those in recovery. The aim of this session is to introduce candidates to elements of effective communication, including verbal and non-verbal communication, active listening and the use of recovery language, and to enable them to use these to foster an effective peer support relationship.
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Using Your Experiences Effectively
One of the most effective ways to explain recovery to others is by people sharing their experiences. It brings to life the reality of recovery. This session builds on previous learning to enable peer supporters to develop their skills and experience in sharing their experiences in ways that are helpful. This sharing is often described as intentional.
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Surviving and Thriving
The aim of this session is to look at approaches to working with people which focus on their strengths and capabilities and on building resilience. This will include examining the ways in which strengths based approach might validate and reframe experience and how it uses role modelling and hope to help individuals build resilience. Strengths based approaches are at the heart of peer support practice.
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Positive Risk Taking and Boundaries
The aim of this session is to examine the implications of formalised peer support, encouraging students to examine the related concepts of boundaries, role tension and working with risk. The session will introduce the concept of positive risk taking and the approaches that can be used to help in this process. This will include examining the balance between risk and responsibility in the peer relationship. As part of this, students will deal with the difficult topics of trauma, suicidality and risk.
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Review and Evaluation
The aim of this session is to give candidates time to review and evaluate the course and their experience of it, and to finish off any outstanding work. it is an opportunity to reflect on learning, discuss experiences and discuss the final assignment.
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Useful Resources
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Peer Support Training
About Lesson

Formalised peer supporter or peer worker roles exist within wider contexts that help define and shape practices. This includes having an awareness of perceptions and approaches to risk and boundaries within the peer relationship.

 

In module 5 we looked at the processes and practices of establishing peer relationships; particularly focusing on the role power in the peer relationship. This module builds on this by looking at two further aspects of the peer  relationship both of which have implications for the power balance.

 

Boundaries

 

Boundaries refer to the borders or limits of a relationship. They relate to what is and what is not acceptable, and the types of boundaries that exist vary depending on the type of relationship. As relationships become more formal – such as where one party is in a peer supporter role whether paid or unpaid – clear and negotiated boundaries become more important. There are reasons why more boundaries exist in more formal relationships; particularly where one party has a responsibility and duty towards the other as a service provider. 

 

Boundaries in formalised peer support

 

The peer relationship can be complex as it requires peer supporters to support, encourage and share experiences with a person while still maintaining the distance that is required to be an effective worker. An awareness of boundaries in practice is therefore a key element of the role. In the formalised peer support relationship there is a need for a clear negotiation of relationships.

 

It is important that peer supporters have a clear idea of their role and boundaries. Policies will describe the organisation’s position and supervision can help support understanding and practice. Where boundaries are negotiated and on the table from the outset there should be no tension between formalised peer support and boundaries. However when considering boundaries the following should be kept in mind:

 

  • The need to be aware of and open and up front about the existence of boundaries increases as peer relationships become more formalised.
  • While peer support is based on sharing experiences and what people have in common it does not mean that they become friends.
  • Where one person is in a formal role of offering support (paid or unpaid) there is a professional responsibility to maintain boundaries.
  • Clear and negotiated boundaries are essential in good peer support practice.

 

Professional boundaries are often dictated by professional codes of conduct and are put in place to make sure that the person in power does not abuse his or her position. Peer support boundaries are complex in that personal mutual relationships are formed but within the confines of a role that has certain responsibilities. The peer supporter’s role is therefore focused on negotiating boundaries in a way that is transparent and authentic. Peer supporters should feel comfortable in the art of negotiated boundaries.

 

Where it is done well it leads to clarity and honesty and, as a result, more mutually empowering relationships.

 

Understanding and maintaining the boundaries

 

In formalised peer support many different issues impact upon and affect the relationship:

 

  • The more time peer supporters spend with people and the more intense the relationship becomes, the more difficult it can be for both parties to understand and maintain the boundaries that allow for a mutually empowering relationship.
  • There is a power imbalance inherent within the relationship which peer  supporters need to be aware and mindful of. Their professional responsibilities may include reporting back to other team members or participating in reviews or planning meetings and this may require them to write notes about the person using the service.
  • Peer supporters may find themselves in confusing situations as they assume their role. For example they may be working in a service where they received support and the people they previously knew as service providers are now their peers and colleagues. This needs to be addressed openly with supervisors and colleagues to clarify any expectations.
Exercise Files
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