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

The peer support relationship is based on mutuality, empathy and empowerment. Relating to people who have experienced trauma can be exhilarating and worthwhile, but it can also be devastating and disturbing. As peer supporters we are encouraged to try to feel what it feels like to be the other person. The ability to skillfully sense our way into someone’s life experience and emotions is useful, because empathy helps. However it can be a challenging experience. 


In module 11 we focus on self-care in the peer relationship and encourage you to consider how you can develop strategies and approaches to ensure that you stay well when working in situations such as those where trauma is being discussed. People who have had their boundaries violated will tend to test the boundaries of those they interact with.


Those who have experienced trauma can also experience ‘victimstance’ thinking where they perceive themselves as being attacked where no such intent existed. This can result in a sense of feeling persecuted, which invites the other into the role of rescuer. In module 4 we learned about power in the peer relationship. We will also go onto to look at boundaries and working with risk in module 10. 


Mental health service users as a group have a high prevalence of trauma. In addition to this past experience of trauma, some people face trauma within mental health services. This can be caused by forced treatment, loss of liberty, physical restraints and debilitating medications. When labelled with a psychiatric diagnosis, the person’s experience can be further embedded in the ‘self as problem,’ and their pain viewed as a symptom to be treated.


In the role of ‘patients’ we can learn to view ourselves and our experiences through others’ eyes rather than through our own. Our most personal  experiences are interpreted and named by others. Through this we learn to believe that we are ‘mentally ill.’ If we challenge the treatment we could be considered non-compliant, if we disagree with the label we are in denial, and if we ask too often for the help we’ve been told that we need, we are  considered ‘revolving door patients’.


Yet all of these things seem to validate and justify others’ opinions that we are the ‘problem’ and in need of ‘treatment’. As peers we have the opportunity to break the cycle by developing relationships that share power, generate new ways of seeing and thinking, and by listening to each other in ways that don’t judge or assess. These relationships can then become the basis for challenging the ongoing proliferation of trauma as well as building more empowered communities.


Trauma informed peer support


When we are thinking about trauma we need to understand its characteristics. It is not just about the event itself, but also about the personal, unique and cultural meaning that the event has for the person and also the impact it has on the person’s life. The destructive force that trauma has on a person’s life has to do with all of these characteristics and also the recognition that it depletes the coping resources that people have.


When those resources are depleted our relationships with others become a crucial way of being able to cope. However one of the issues around trauma is that it significantly impacts on our sense of identity and the way we form relationships. Since peer support is all about building relationships, peer supporters need to pay attention to how trauma can make that even harder. One way to do this is to ask a person ‘what happened to you?’ rather than ‘what is wrong with you?

Exercise Files
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