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

If you launch in to an account of your story from how bad it was to where you are now, you will probably overwhelm Sylvia. We need to consider what part of our story Sylvia is actually interested in knowing about? It is likely that she wants to know if you have been a client too. This is the time to simply establish a mutual relationship by identifying your common experience. You might say, ‘I used to access services in the mental health system and I’d be happy to share some of my experience if you’re interested.’


The key thing about sharing your experience is to maintain hope within the peer support relationship and to do this we need to: 


  • Seek to discover common ground
  • Recognise that each person is unique
  • Understand that each person’s experience reflects what they have come to know because of where they have been.


As we have learned from discussing our own recovery experiences and the value of role models there is a difference between sharing an experience that focuses on recovery and one that focuses on illness.


A focus on illness communicates just how bad it was and tends to elicit sympathy rather than inspire hope. It can also distance you from the person you are trying to share your experience with by overwhelming them with the futility of even trying to cope.


Sharing a recovery experience, on the other hand, creates an opportunity for others to learn what you know because of where you’ve been; what helped you move beyond your challenges and what you do now to continue your journey and maintain your wellness.


It illuminates aspects of the challenge and the hope in reclaiming your life. It  is rarely told in one sitting.


But what do you do if you and the person you are supporting don’t have a common understanding of your shared experiences? For example, you might be from completely different cultures or backgrounds and what they might describe as trauma, you might not. 


How do you communicate that there is hope in recovery from mental health issues when this is the case? The answer to this lies in the fact that shared experience in peer support can in some cases have less to do with similar experiences and a lot more to do with understanding some of the consequences of living with a diagnosis.


While the sharing of experience is a highly powerful tool, it must be done in a way that continually provides space for each person to explore for him or herself and find their own solutions. A person might say, “Have you been through what I am going through? Can you tell me how to deal with this?”


In such circumstances an response which is mutual, authentic and intention could be “Yes, I have experienced some similar things. I’d be glad to share how I worked through them, but first I’d like to hear some of your ideas. What have you tried so far?”


It is also important to consider what you may need to avoid when sharing your own experiences to ensure that your interactions remain intentional; 


  • Shifting the focus too much onto yourself and your story.
  • Taking up too much time with my story.
  • Using the peer support meeting for the primary purpose of releasing  my own pain/working through my own challenges.
  • Comparing my own story to my peers “What I have been through is worse!”
  • Sharing parts of my story to ‘steer’ my peer into doing what I did
  • Including specific details about trauma and other experiences.
Exercise Files
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