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

We will now examine two important aspects of peer support, mutuality and empowerment.




Mutuality means that both parties in a relationship can benefit. This can also be described as a reciprocal relationship. Where mutuality exists there can be:


  • shared learning and growth
  • greater respect and trust
  • a valuing of each other’s experience and contribution
  • increased equality within relationships
  • a shared investment in making the relationship work
  • shared working out of the rules of the relationship


Another way to examine mutuality is to consider dependence, independence and interdependence. Traditionally, we have been encouraged to strive for independence – to stand on our own two feet and to be self-reliant. This was considered to be the best way to avoid becoming dependent upon others. We now understand that it is healthier and more realistic to recognise that we are all interdependent. This means recognising we can all provide
and receive support mutually.


Empathy contributes towards mutuality. Empathy relates to the capacity to develop an understanding of another person’s thoughts and feelings. To achieve empathy with another individual it is necessary to try and view the world from their perspective. Empathy can help people build trust and respect in relationships. While having shared experiences can lead to greater empathy this is not always the case.


Empathy differs from sympathy in that it involves a degree of connection with an experience rather than simply feeling sorry for someone. The maxim ‘you should not judge another person until you have walked a mile in their shoes’ gives a general notion of the meaning of empathy. 




Empowerment is the process whereby people take control of their lives. It is central to personal recovery (as we identified in session 2). It can be understood as having a sense of personal strength and efficacy and by having control over one’s life. The process of empowerment may also produce hope, another key aspect of recovery. It is also closely linked to strengths-based approaches which we will go on to examine in more detail in Session 9. 


Power as a commodity is something which is rarely given away and generally has to be taken in some form. This means you cannot necessarily empower another person. However, an important aspect of peer support is that it can create an environment that encourages people to take a greater degree of power and control in their own recovery.


‘It is the role of the peer worker to ensure that service users are empowered to take control of their own recovery, and encouraging an environment where both parties can share their experiences of what works.’ (Campbell & Lever, 2003)


It is also possible for empowerment to happen in negative circumstances. For example, where the anger felt by people who have been marginalised or oppressed is used as a motivator for social change. The opposite of empowerment is disempowerment. Having an understanding of how power may be taken away and how that feels may help develop our learning on how to take it back.

Exercise Files
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