CMHA at the forefront of innovation
CMHA is at the forefront of developing responsive, cutting-edge services and supports. One of
CMHA’s latest innovations is leading the development of Recovery Colleges in Canada. First
established in the UK, and becoming a growing presence around the world, Recovery Colleges offer
a unique learning environment. Recovery Colleges bring together the expertise of people with lived
experience of mental health and substance use problems, along with the expertise of professionals
to collaboratively co-develop and co-deliver courses that are relevant and highly valued by the
CMHA is excited to be a part of the growing interest and demand for Recovery Colleges. Currently
there are several Recovery Colleges in Canada, with many CMHAs eager to develop a Recovery
College in their community.
Drawing on the experience of like-minded organizations around the world, CMHA is poised to
embark on a journey to support and facilitate the development of Recovery Colleges in Canada and
to work collaboratively with the community to build and foster this unique opportunity to learn and
What is a Recovery College and its origin?
Recovery Colleges are innovative learning centres where people gain knowledge and develop new skills; however, they are so much more than that. Recovery Colleges open the door to deeper understanding of one another and foster a culture of hopefulness that reveals new possibilities and opportunities for people. They are the heart of an organization where people are engaged and contributing, where they find new avenues of personal discovery and where energy and spirit thrive.
Recovery Colleges were established in 2009 in London and have been in existence for a decade (Perkins et al., 2018). There are at least 85 Recovery Colleges in the UK (Anfossi, 2017). This model focuses on bringing together the expertise of both professionals and people with lived experience in a process of co-production, co-delivery and co-learning. The term Recovery College is widely used in the UK. Other terms that are used for the Recovery College model include Empowerment College, Learning Centre, Well-being Learning Centre. In addition to the UK, Recovery Colleges have been established in Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, the Republic of Ireland, Scandinavia, Western Europe and Canada, with a similar model called Empowerment Colleges also being developed in Germany, Holland, Italy, Poland and Bulgaria. (Perkins et al., 2018).
Peers and Peer Support play a fundamental role in Recovery Colleges. For more information on peer support, please visit www.peersupportcanada.ca. The lived experience that individuals or groups have in common in relation to a mental health problem or illness could be related to their own mental health or that of a loved one (Sunderland & Mishkin, 2013). Peers can offer understanding, emotional support, and inspire hope and the possibility of recovery (Sunderland & Mishkin, 2013).
Recovery Colleges are communities where students connect with other students and courses are designed to encourage the connections between students and the sharing of ideas and experiences through discussion, emphasizing on both inclusion and equality. Students who are focused on recovery and share messages of hope and strategies that have worked for their own well-being. Education in recovery colleges is non-directive and uses a problem-solving approach consistent with peer support. Throughout the course, students can meet others with similar experiences and become friends and peer supporters to one another.
The six principles of co-production
Co-production has been identified by learners as one of the most valued features of the Recovery College model (Kaminsky & Moore, 2015; Hall et al., 2018). People with lived experience of mental health issues, family members and supporters have a wealth of untapped knowledge and expertise which has traditionally been overlooked by medical establishments and service providers. In the Recovery College model, the value of this knowledge and experience is not only acknowledged but also fostered and utilized fully in the development and operation of the College.
1) Strengths-based approach: people with lived experience are viewed as and valued as equal partners in the process of designing and delivering services
2) Building on people’s existing capacities: going beyond recognition of people’s strengths, identifying these capabilities and enhancing opportunities to grow these capabilities
3) Reciprocity and mutuality: citizens and professionals work together to forge new ground based on mutual respect, sharing responsibilities and expectations
4) Peer Support: full involvement of peer roles alongside professional roles
5) Re-conceptualizing roles: recognizing the value of all roles, without hierarchical worth
6) Facilitating rather than delivering: where agencies provide the context for inspiration and growth rather than the deliverers of service (Slay & Stephens, 2013)
For any inquiries about Recovery Colleges, please contact email@example.com