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

Note: This part of the course covers trauma – if at any time in this module you find things challenging or difficult, please take a break, and reach out to someone for support if you need to. 


What is trauma?


Trauma occurs when an external threat overwhelms a person’s coping resources. It can result in immediate psychological distress, sometimes diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or it can affect other aspects of the person’s life over a period of time.


Sometimes people aren’t even aware that their problems are related to a trauma that occurred earlier in life. Many people who experience mental distress have experienced significant trauma in their lives. This trauma may not be recognised.


Trauma is unique to each individual — the most violent events are not always the events that have the deepest impact. Trauma can and does happen to anyone, but some groups — including women and children, people with disabilities and people who are homeless or living in institutions — are particularly vulnerable due to their circumstances.


‘Traumatic reactions occur when action is of no avail. When neither resistance nor escape is possible, the human system of self-defence becomes overwhelmed and disorganised’ (Herman, 1992). 


Trauma can affect people in many different ways. These are often grouped under three headings:




  • Flashbacks — reliving the trauma suddenly and unexpectedly — this can be like reexperiencing the event ‘live’ in the moment, and can  induce racing heart, and fight or flight effects.
  • Nightmares.
  • Frightening thoughts.




  • Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience.
  • Feeling emotionally numb.
  • Feeling strong guilt, depression, or anxiety.
  • Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past.
  • Having trouble remembering the traumatic event.


Hyper-alertness that cannot be easily controlled


  • Being easily startled.
  • Feeling tense or ‘on edge’.
  • Having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts.
  • Being constantly alert and vigilant (known as hypervigilance)


All or any of the above manifestations of trauma are very distressing in themselves, and are very damaging to mental wellbeing. They are barriers to recovery, and they limit the possibilities for healthy social interactions and living an enjoyable life.


Trauma can result from a wide variety of events: experiencing or witnessing violence; abuse; accidents; abandonment or neglect; cultural dislocation; natural disasters. Chronic stress factors like poverty and racism can also have traumatic effects over time. Trauma can be intensified by happening early in life; by recurrence and also be secrecy whether imposed by perpetrators or self- imposed due to self-blame and shame.

Exercise Files
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