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

Non-Verbal Communication

You might think that the majority of our communication is verbal. However, you will probably be surprised to learn that the majority of what we communicate to others is understood without a single word being spoken. You pick up the majority of your understanding of what is being communicated to you, or what the other person is trying not to communicate to you, through body language or non-verbal communication.


We communicate and express our feelings, attitudes, beliefs and values non-verbally. These messages are made clear by such things as our facial expressions or our eye contact or lack of it.


Our active listening skills are also evident in non-verbal communication. For example, you show interest if you lean forward when speaking to someone, or if you make linking phrases such as, ‘You were just saying’. You can support this by making good and appropriate eye contact. (If you look at someone for too long they might think that you are angry with them or trying to intimidate them. If you make fleeting eye contact, they might think that you are shy, lacking or confidence or uneasy about speaking to them.)


Appropriate non-verbal communication can therefore effectively support verbal communication. Some other forms of non-verbal communication include:


  • Body movement: the way in which we walk, move our head, sit, cross our legs and fold our arms can indicate how we are feeling.
  • Posture: sitting with crossed arms can indicate, ‘I’m not taking any notice’ or ‘I don’t trust you’, whereas leaning forward during a conversation can indicate, ‘I’m interested in what you are saying’ or ‘I am enjoying this conversation’.
  • Muscle tension: the tension in our face, feet and hands can tell  someone how relaxed (or not) we feel in any situation. We can use this to assess the distress that a situation might be causing an individual.
  • Gestures: these are arm and hand movements that can help us to understand what a person is saying. Gestures can mean different things to different people, so it is good practice to understand from the perspective of the other individual what they are trying to say. A ‘thumbs up’ sign is universally understood as a positive gesture.
  • Touch: touching is a key method of communication. A gentle hand on your shoulder or someone holding your hand can convey messages of care, affection and concern.


However, it is also a very emotive thing and many people don’t feel comfortable with touch. You should try to understand the individual and to assess whether touch is acceptable to them. It is also a good idea to assess whether it is an acceptable environment to use touch — for example, the privacy of someone’s bedroom might not be an appropriate environment to use touch as a means of communication.

Exercise Files
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