Peer support specialists and recovery coaches are powerful recovery role models that engage each individual served in a personal recovery programme.  Based on the person’s goals the peer staff offer a wide range of support activities, skill building, and case management.

What is recovery?

Recovery means different things to different people, but in mental health the term “recovery” is about building a meaningful and satisfying life in the presence or absence of symptoms or challenges.  Recovery is a movement away from diagnosis, illness and symptoms, to health, strengths and wellness.  These simple concepts are a radical challenge to existing mental health service provision and to the wider society in general. 

The notion of recovery holds within it complex concepts.  People do not recover in isolation, but are connected through social inclusion (ie: employment, housing, community connections and involvement), empowerment and self-awareness.  These ideas can be challenging to service providers, carers, families, friends and the wider society.

  • Recovery is about living a life beyond illness
  • Recovery is defined by the person themselves and will look different to each person
  • Recovery is a process, a way of life, an attitude and a way of approaching the day’s challenges
  • Recovery is not about the elimination of symptoms, it is much broader.

Road to Recovery - our publication

Some of our Recovery College East students have been involved in the publication of this fantastic new book, Road to Recovery: Our Stories of Hope.

In the book, there are some inspirational stories describing the incredible journeys people have taken on their road to recovery.  We've been truly humbled putting these stories together and we hope you can experience some of that inspiration when you read them.

You can download a copy from the link in Further Information below. We now have printed versions available for you to buy that are just £5 each. If you'd like to buy a copy, you can send a cheque for £5 payable to Recovery College East to our address at the bottom of this page. Alternatively, you can pop into either of our colleagues in Cambridge or Peterborough and buy one there. Addresses for the college sites are at the bottom of this page.  We hope you enjoy it! 

Background of peer support

Developed in Arizona, USA by Recovery Innovations (now RI International) to provide individual and hospital-based peer support.
“Peer support specialists and recovery coaches are powerful recovery role models that engage each individual served in a personal recovery programme.  Based on the person’s goals the peer staff offer a wide range of support activities, skills building, and case management.”  www.recoveryinnovations.org


History of our Peer Employment Training Programme

In 2010 CPFT made a firm commitment to create a critical mass of peer workers by ensuring that a significant proportion of our staff are peer workers and experts by experience.  We worked alongside Recovery Innovations to deliver our initial Peer Worker Training Programme.  Since then we have trained nine cohorts of peer workers establishing peer worker roles on wards and in community locality teams across the Trust.

Our achievements

  • CPFT has now delivered 9 cohorts of training (currently delivering cohort 10)
  • Training is delivered through Recovery College East in Cambridge and Peterborough
  • Training has been accredited at Level 4 with the Open College Network (OCN)
  • Following successful graduation from the training, peer workers have been able to apply for posts within CPFT
  • The posts are available in younger people’s services, adult services and older people’s services, both on our wards and in the community
  • Our vision was, and still is, to have peer workers in all service areas
  • Peer worker posts offer a range of vacancies that provide a few hours work up to full time work
  • CPFT has successfully graduated 118 students from the training since 2010
  • CPFT has offered employment to more than 60 of these graduates
  • CPFT was awarded “demonstration site” status with the Implementing Recovery through Organisational Change (ImROC) programme
  • CPFT has assisted many other organisations in their own peer worker developments

What is peer support?

The recovery movement has seen the introduction of a new role, that of a peer worker.  New to mental health, but not new to other health fields, the role of the peer worker is to increase hope and engagement by the power of “having been there”.  Hope is central to the belief required for people who face significant mental health challenges and forms an important part in supporting people’s transition into recovery.

  • Inspiring hope and optimism
  • Empathy
  • Mutuality
    • Equals and co-learners
    • Both have something to give and learn from each other
    • Don’t try to fix or direct one another
    • May partner on action plans and collaborate on solutions
    • Sometimes just listen, be with and bear witness
    • Have mutual responsibility for the relationship
  • Friendship
    • But peer support is an intentional friendship

What is a peer worker?

A peer worker is someone who has been there themselves and can help a person to focus on their own recovery.  A peer worker will have experience of having significant mental health challenges themselves (usually by accessing secondary mental health services) and can use this personal experience to help others on their recovery journey, through promoting hope and providing support based on common experiences.  Peer workers are recruited because of their lived experience and their passion to support individuals through their recovery journey.


  • Someone with lived experience of mental health challenges
  • Someone who is employed specifically as a result of their experience
  • Someone who has the ability to share their recovery journey with others
  • Someone who can motivate and encourage others

What unique qualities do you need to become a peer worker?

Peer workers need to be able to:

  • Hold the hope for a person receiving services and believe in their potential and strengths
  • Value every peer as a unique human being
  • Accept peers where they are at
  • Listen non-judgmentally to experiences of peers
  • Encourage people to make their own choices
  • Trust the authenticity of a peer’s personal experiences
  • Express a genuine concern for a peer’s well-being
  • Dedicated to promoting recovery opportunities in the lives of peers
  • Be able to utilise one's own lived experiences of recovery to inspire recovery in the lives of others

How do I train to be a peer worker?

People with lived experience who want to become peer workers must first go through a training programme before they can apply for a post within the organisation.  The Peer Education Programme (PEP) is an intensive 12 week training programme with 3 additional days of work experience and a range of assessments and self-directed study.

Why does it work?

 Why does it work






What do you need to access the Peer Education Programme (PEP)?

  • Experienced significant mental health challenges or have lived experience (via accessing secondary mental health services) eg. below:
  • A specialist referral from the GP
  • Community mental health pathway/or community team
  • Seeing a consultant psychiatrist
  • Seeing a CPN or social worker (being seen by a specialist mental health worker)
  • Good standard of secondary education to GCSE/diploma level or evidence of equivalent
  • Demonstrate a clear understanding of peer support
  • Complete a training application form and a wellness tool (ie: have a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) or Whole Life Plan in place)
  • Attend the PEP Essential Information Session followed by a Group Interview Session and a One-to-One Interview
  • Available to attend all the PEP training days
  • Ability and willingness to share personal lived experiences with others
  • Be committed to actively participate in the training
  • Dedicated to promoting recovery opportunities in the lives of peers
  • Want to work as a peer worker within CPFT after the training

What does the PEP involve and how do I become a peer worker?

Students attending the PEP will have to successfully complete all aspects of the education training prior to graduation.  After graduation, students can then apply for posts within CPFT, as and when they become available. Jobs are not guaranteed and peer workers must go through the same CPFT application and interview process as any other applicant.  The training involves:

  • Modules are taught one day a week over 12 weeks (from 9 am – 5 pm) at Recovery College East
  • Completion of 15 modules in total
  • Topics include: shared decision making; telling personal stories; recovery language; self esteem; managing ethics and boundaries; the power of peer support
  • Weekly homework
  • Three work experience days within teams in the Trust
  • Reflective journal for work experience
  • Learning portfolio, work experience, reflection, communication assessment and final exam
  • Level 4 OCN accreditation
  • Graduation celebration, including sharing your story
  • CPFT Graduation certificate and Open College Network (OCN) certificate

What opportunities are there for a peer worker after completion of the accredited PEP?

  • Peer workers are now able to apply for posts within the Trust
  • Paid employment in other roles
  • Paid employment with a partner organisation
  • Volunteering through Recovery College East, CPFT and many other voluntary opportunities
  • Support is provided by CPFT for peer workers through quarterly Peer Worker Professional Forums after graduation
  • Managerial supervision with line manager in team
  • Reflective practice sessions in the Trust

How do I book a place on the PEP?

For further information, or to book a place on the next PEP Essential Information Session, please contact:

The Recovery College Team
Recovery College East
01733 746662 or 01223 227510

The work of peer workers

See below a short film on “The work of peer workers” created by Henry Shepherd, peer worker.  If you are unable to use Vimeo, the video is also available on YouTube by clicking here.
(Our video works best in Google Chrome rather than Internet Explorer.) 


RAND summary on the PEP project

RAND has published a two-page executive summary on CPFT's PEP project.  To read the summary, see the link below.

Peer support champions in Uganda

A short film has been published about mental health peer support in Uganda from those who provide it and receive it.  Mike Ilamyo was commissioned to create this film for the Butabika-East London Link and Heartsounds Uganda. You can view the film here.

Would you like more information about PEP or do you want to have a peer worker work in your team?

If you would like more information about the PEP, or would like a member of the project team to attend your team meeting, project, group or organisation, then please contact either:

Sharon Gilfoyle
Head of Inclusion
T 01733 748382
E sharon.gilfoyle@cpft.nhs.uk
The Recovery College Team
Recovery College East
01733 746662 or 01223 227510


What now for CPFT?

  • Cohorts 12 & 13 have just completed there training and will be graduating in July 2019
  • Further cohort planning for future project ventures in Cambridge and Peterborough
  • Continue to create peer worker posts
  • Increasing openness and delivering structural change within the Trust
  • Working collaboratively together to deliver recovery and social inclusion within services
  • Recovery learning and networking with wider organisations
  • Continue to challenge stigma of mental health issues
  • Promote the recovery ethos

Other CPFT recovery focused projects/activities

Useful CPFT website link pages

The CPFT website has pages on recovery topics and peer employment information. Click here for further recovery information titles.

Other useful links topics are:


The page was last updated on 13 June 2019 by terry.protheroe.


Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust
Elizabeth House, Fulbourn Hospital
Cambridge, CB21 5EF

T 01223 219400 (open 8:30am to 5pm)
F 01480 398501

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