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

The relationship between risk, mental health and recovery is complex. When we think of risk we tend to concentrate on the negative aspects of risk – we think of the things that could go wrong.


The reality is that risk is a two way process and when it comes to supporting recovery we also need to be aware of the risks of not trying out things and not taking chances. This aspect of risk is sometimes described as positive risk taking and it can be an important part of growth and recovery.


Service providing organisations are interested in the more negative aspects of risk. While this has the potential to lead to risk averse cultures and  services, they do need to manage risk responsibly, particularly when people using their services are at their most unwell and could be a risk to themselves and other people. 


When considering risk we should be aware of the following:


  • Risk has positive and negative aspects.
  • Sharing decisions and being clear on decisions means risks are shared both within teams and with the person using the service.
  • Different practitioners and professions can have different levels of tolerance to risk.This could be related to their responsibilities or their  practice or values.


Working with risk in peer support relationships


Risk is about much more than managing or preventing things from going wrong. Positive risk taking is an important element of recovery because it provides an opportunity to move forward. This could mean stepping out of our comfort zone and trying new things.


After all, we must recognise that risk-taking is an inherent part of all our lives. People with lived experience of mental health problems have to take positive risks to move on in their recovery and you will have had to take some risks to get onto and through this course.


While it might seem obvious that taking certain risks helps us to grow, it can feel more uncomfortable when the people we are supporting start to try new things. We may be aware that their previous attempts didn’t work out, or you could have tried what it is they are suggesting and it didn’t work out for you.


Sometimes this gets confusing. We want people to be supported in making new choices. But when we see their choices as potential hazards we can find ourselves trying to convince them to either not do what they want, or to do it differently. This is motivated by our own discomfort.


Because of our position of power, we can find ourselves being rather coercive, and this is not where we should be going as part of a productive peer support relationship.  


Risks and ethics


All types of service provision and professional groups tend to be underpinned by ethical codes or statements. Ethical statements basically tell us how we should act in any given situation. They usually have moral assumptions embedded in them.


Statements of professional ethics are inseparable from personal beliefs in the sense that individuals either agree with them or not. The debates around mental health provision and practice can be  controversial. One example is the medicalisation of the majority of mental health issues versus the notion of a peer support relationship that works with individuals to support them to find their own voyage of recovery.


In ethical dilemmas there is usually no clear or easy answer to many of the complex questions in relation to mental health. This is due, in part, to the fact that mental health care takes place in a problematic environment where issues and questions constantly arise, and cannot necessarily be ‘solved’.

Exercise Files
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