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

We’ve discussed boundaries in this module, in formal peer support settings. This can be a difficult balance, because it involves supporting and encouraging a person, while maintaining the distance needed to be an effective peer supporter. 

 

However, it does offer the possibility of developing and maintaining a good relationship founded in hope, trust and respect. The aim is to help to create an environment where recovery can begin to happen. However there is a risk that some may misunderstand the relationship and mistake it for friendship.

 

Boundaries show that we are taking responsibility for our own lives and that we knowingly accept the consequences of our choices, in this way peer supporters model recovery: they show that they are accountable for their actions and choices. Therefore, boundaries are not just beneficial to the peer worker but for others too.

 

Thinking about the things you have already learned about the potential consequences of not having clear boundaries in formal peer support settings, consider these questions:

 

  • Why might boundaries become blurred in peer support environments?
  • What can be done in recognition of this?
  • What skills will peer supporters need to use when clarifying and agreeing boundaries?

 

Here are some scenarios that you may wish to think about, in relation to these questions. 

 

Scenario 1

 

John is a peer supporter. He knows that one of the people he supports is an experienced roofer. John asks this person to help him fix a leak.

 

Scenario 2

 

Rachel has been supporting Amy for four weeks. One evening when Rachel is out with her friends at a local bar she bumps into Amy. Amy asks Rachel if she wants a drink and although Rachel says she is fine Amy buys her another glass of wine. Rachel feels embarrassed and hurriedly thanks Amy before turning back to her friends.

 

Scenario 3

 

Bob has had his benefit payments stopped and has no money. He asks his peer supporter for help and they agree to lend him some money until next week.

 

Scenario 4

 

Kate (peer supporter) and Susanne have connected well since they started working together. At the end of a session Susanne comes over to hug Kate and to tell her how much she means to her and how she feels that she could not live without her.

 

The Complex Issue of Boundaries

 

The scenarios are designed to encourage you to think about the complex issues of boundaries. There are not necessarily any right or wrong answers, but a common theme is the need to ensure clarity and negotiation at the outset.

 

In scenario 1 there are issues around dual relationships and along with ethical considerations there could also be legal implications for John and his employer. There is a need to consider the location of power in the relationship. What happens if the person agrees and something goes wrong? What happens if the person does not agree?

 

In scenario 2 there are issues around honesty and a lack of openness about boundaries. This demonstrates the need to negotiate clear boundaries at the outset. 

 

In scenario 3 the peer supporter would need to consider how lending money would affect the power balance in the peer relationship and the implications of the money not being paid back.They should also consider whether it would be setting an unhelpful precedent and also be mindful of any organisational policies.

 

In scenario 4 the peer supporter has to be honest about their levels of comfort with physical contact. Some people are fine with hugging and others aren’t. Kate may also want to sensitively explore what Susanne means when she says she cannot live without her. It is important not to overly interpret this and remember that phrases like that can have a variety of meanings to different people.

Exercise Files
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