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

In module 9 we learned that trauma can affect people’s sense of safety and trust. While people can have very different responses to traumatic events there are some fairly common responses that can affect relationships including the peer relationship.


When people have had experiences that leave them feeling constantly overwhelmed, powerless and/or disconnected, they might have developed coping strategies that, to them, feel quite soothing. Some of these strategies could feel frightening to others. For example, sometimes people who have been in combat have learned to bury their emotions. When they come home, they can have a very difficult time sharing their pain with their partners, and simply explode when things feel overwhelming.


People who have experienced abuse can have difficulties with their bodies. This can sometimes result in them developing eating disorders, self-harming or even feeling chronically suicidal. Others might engage in high-risk activities  to re-enact the trauma.


Traditionally, these coping strategies have been understood as symptoms of illness to be treated, rather than adaptive reactions. This has left some people either keeping their strategies a secret or leading them in and out of services and treatments. Without a forum to talk about these strategies and feelings they can continue to be automatic responses to current stressors.


Peer supporters can offer a very different kind of conversation. While there may still be the responsibility to report something risky, peer supporters can talk to people, empathise, seek to understand, and share your own stories as well as your fear. The most important thing is to maintain trust (or re-establish it if it’s been broken), stay open, and work towards something that will help both in the peer relationship learn from the experience.


Approaches to this different type of conversation will include:


  • Being aware of our own discomfort with the situation and instinctual reactions such as trying to ‘fix it’;
  • Reflecting on what the person is feeling when they engage in behaviour deemed to be risky such as self-harming or suicidality;
  • Seeking to empathise with or validate the person’s feelings to build mutuality;
  • Using open questions to open up a constructive dialogue;
  • If expressing their own fears, the peer supporter needs to do this in a way that does not alienate the other person.


Learning to think about behaviour deemed risky including self-harm and suicide as a language of pain can help us talk about feelings in a way that doesn’t involve power being taken away. It helps peers learn to understand and express a range of emotions in the safety of mutual relationships, and it builds depth, trust and learning for both people.

Exercise Files
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