Presentation by Jo Sommer, Vicki Katsifis, Katherine Gill
Recovery colleges (RC) have been widely implemented in the UK (There are 30). There are six in the rest of the world, with three of those in Australia. Today’s presentation was on the experiences and achievement of a newly established RC in South-East Sydney.
The RC runs free courses in four streams
- Understanding mental health conditions and treatments
- Rebuilding your life – developing knowledge and skills
- Getting involved in services and making a difference
- Recovery supporting practices (for MHS staff)
The RC curriculum and courses are co-produced by clinical and peer educators. This is the synthesis of lived experience and professional expertise. Co-production entails a flat structure, no hierarchy. It can be a difficult process as clinicians and people with lived experience can have different perspectives. Their ideas won’t necessarily immediately meld together, but generally they become quite complementary when combined. Given this is a new initiative, this co-production is quite rewarding for the educators as well as the students.
The students who took these courses said they felt empowered in ways they hadn’t experienced before. They said it increased a sense of hope and connectedness and was a catalyst for change. A pilot evaluation of the RC involved asking students to set goals which the course may help them with. Out of the 28 students in the pilot study, 25 achieved or at least partially achieved one of their goals. These were often quite specific goals such as employment, weight loss, accommodation, relationships etc.
The pilot didn’t uncover many significant differences in quantitative measures of wellbeing or recovery, but the qualitative results and feedback indicated the RC was well received by students. All of the students said they had their expectations met or exceeded and all of the students said they would recommend it to someone else. The pilot also indicated that further research should focus on the effect that participation in these courses has longitudinally on wellbeing and use of other services.
As a personal reflection on this presentation, I found it quite interesting to hear that some of the clinical educators reported that as a result of the co-production process, they were re-evaluating the way they communicated in their normal practice.