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

There are a variety of skills we can use to help us communicate in a way that supports empathic and mutually empowering peer relationships. This type of communication might be described as intentional communication as it involves using the way we hear and communicate as a tool.

 

It recognises the power in communication and requires us to really work at our communication and to be more contemplative in how we do so. The following list describes ten key skills and techniques of effective and intentional communication.

 

Active listening – listening differently

 

Active listening is hard work and takes practice because it’s not something we necessarily normally do. It’s an important tool in effective peer communication and might also be described as listening differently. Listening differently means coming in with curiosity and should help you develop a deeper understanding of the other person and what is important to them.

 

Active Listening

 

Listening from a position of not knowing

 

This position allows us to get to know each other without assumptions. It offers the opportunity to be curious and to stay away from assessment, evaluation and judgment and hopefully it begins a conversation in which both people become more self-aware while learning and growing together.

 

Listening for the ‘untold story’

 

Most of the time, we listen to the story being told as if it is the “truth.” We forget about perspective and we react to what is being spoken. However, if we look at the bigger picture, we can listen for how this person has learned to tell the story in this way. We can listen for assumptions they may have about us and themselves; and we can ask questions that explore what different things mean. This takes us away from just jumping into problem solving based on the “told” story.

 

Providing validation

 

We miss a lot of potentially different conversations if we find ourselves jumping into the conversation as ‘the fixer’. Sometimes when we jump right into problem solving, not only do we get stuck in sort of an “expert’ role,” we also lose out on a much richer conversation. In these cases the person may walk away feeling somewhat unheard and disconnected. Validation
supports us in feeling really listened to.

 

Reflecting on feelings and emotions

 

Many times we listen to other people’s words without noticing emotion. Other times we assume that they’re feeling a certain way because we know how we’d feel in the same situation. When either of these things occurs, we only hear a small part of the story, and we don’t learn much about them as whole people.

 

If we listen with emotion then we are more likely to hear the story of the whole person and therefore allow people to feel cared about and validated. Saying, for example, “that must be very hard for you” rather than trying to move the conversation on when someone becomes upset can help open up the conversation and lead to richer connections.

 

Asking clarifying questions

 

When we listen for the big picture, asking questions that get beyond assumptions help us to see more clearly. For example, when someone is talking about depression, we might ask, “What does depression mean to you?” or “Help me understand how depression is different for you than feeling sad.” Here are some words and phrases that may help open up the story:

 

  • Help me understand…
  • How did you learn…?

 

Asking powerful questions

 

Asking powerful questions will move the conversation away from problem solving and toward creating possibilities. By asking certain questions, we can begin to help people move more in the direction of what they want in their lives rather than always moving away from what they don’t want in their lives. Consider these examples:

 

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What would make it different?
  • If things were better for you what would have changed?

 

Using recovery language

 

The use of recovery language is closely associated with our ability to share hope and identify strengths. The language we use can also be important in the development of empathic and mutual relationships. We understand that the language we use is a potentially powerful and the things we say and how we say them can have a considerable impact on others.

 

Direct, honest and respectful communication

 

This gets particularly challenging when there’s something emotional involved. We walk on eggshells, avoid the person, talk about them behind their back or even lie. All of these attempts at communication or avoidance of communication are pretty common in casual relationships. As we know peer relationships are different in this respect as they are far from casual – there is a greater intention that requires conversations that go beneath the surface.

 

You’ll find that the more you practice honest direct respectful  communication, the deeper and more trusting your relationships will become. You’ll also notice that as you are open to owning your part, others are more willing to do the same.

 

Sitting comfortably with silence

 

Silence is an essential part of communication which people may find difficult. As a peer supporter if we understand these issues then we can come to understand that silence is a key part of the communication process and as such not be in such a hurry to close it down. Silence can give individuals time to think and to formulate an answer with meaning rather than just say the first thing that comes to mind. Learning to be comfortable with silence can be very empowering because it’s clear that you’re working that much harder on connecting with the non-verbal. The important thing about silence is that you don’t assume what’s going on based on your discomfort and then, that you are patient while the process unfolds.

Exercise Files
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