Course Content
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. 
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Useful Resources
Peer Support Training
About Lesson

At its most basic level, peers are people who have a degree of equality with each other. This equality may come through having shared experiences, backgrounds or characteristics. You may be able to think of some examples in your own life. Perhaps you play five-a-side football regularly with the same group of people, or you may have just had your first baby and have joined a support group, or you may have campaigned on a local issue with your neighbours.


Peer support is generally understood to be a relationship of mutual support where people with similar life experiences offer each other support especially as they move through difficult of challenging experiences.


The following definitions provide a comprehensive understanding of peer support:


‘Peer support is an emotional support, frequently coupled with instrumental support, which is mutually offered or provided by persons having a mental health condition to others sharing a similar mental health condition to bring about a desired social or personal change.’ (Gartner and Reisman, 1982)


‘…a system of giving and receiving help founded on the key principles of respect, shared responsibility, and a mutual agreement of what is helpful.’ (Mead et al, 2001)


‘Through the process of offering support, companionship, empathy, sharing and assistance…feelings of loneliness, rejection, discrimination and frustration…are countered.’ (Stroul, 1993)


Peer support exists in many different forms in mental health. The informal sharing of experiences and knowledge between people using services is not new. Similarly peer support between people with shared experiences in self-help and mutual support groups is well established. What is new, thought, is the relation of specific peer roles (paid and unpaid) in mental health services and organisations to support people in their recovery.


While these different forms of peer support have common foundations they differ in the extent to which the roles are formalised. The process of formalising the naturally occurring peer relationships brings opportunities and challenges. These challenges can be addressed and opportunities enhanced by care planning and by remaining true to the underlying principles and values of peer support.


“The essence of peer support begins with informal and naturally occurring support, which is also normally the bedrock of service user groups. In essence service users use their own knowledge and expertise to help both themselves and others. This help has the authenticity of being rooted in personal experience, which is  acknowledged as the most powerful and effective way of learning. As peer support becomes more structured and organised, it can become more focused and helpful but care must be taken that its essence is not lost within these more formal and professional structures. (Faulkner and Basset, 2010)”


Exercise Files
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