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

Scientific findings now confirm that trauma affects the nervous system (and in children, brain development) and can have a lasting impact. One study looked at the ‘adverse childhood experiences’ (ACEs) of 17,000 people, correlating their ‘ACE score’ with a range of medical and social problems.


According to this, people with high ACE scores are much more likely to develop mental health symptoms, abuse substances, have chronic illnesses and die early. Women are significantly more likely than men to have high ACE scores. 


There are two ways through which adverse events have an impact:


  • Trauma affects the developing brain and body and alters the body’s natural stress response mechanisms.
  • Trauma increases the need to ‘self-soothe’ through inherently risky behaviours such as smoking, drinking, over-eating and engaging in risky sex — things that trauma survivors sometimes do to manage difficult feelings.


It is essential that these behaviours are recognised as coping responses rather than ‘bad choices’ if peer relationships are to be effective. The table below offers a list of behaviours, viewed from two perspectives: one is the professional or societal perspective and the other is from the perspective of the person who is exhibiting the behaviour.


Trauma Behaviours


Perhaps there lies purpose, strategy, and meaning behind what appears to be people’s dysfunctional behaviours? Consider the argument that trauma responses are the normal human responses to abnormal experiences involving horror and terror. This way of looking at trauma tends to normalise behaviours like ‘exaggerated startle response’ rather than seeing them as symptoms of an illness.

Exercise Files
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