A place of learning, connection and hope
for people who experience mental ill health, as well as carers, family & friends.

MHCC ACT is leading a project to develop a Recovery College for Canberra.

Recovery Colleges are like adult learning centres, offering a range of courses to help people understand their experiences of mental ill health and gain the skills to take control of their recovery journey.

A Recovery Colleges is not just for people experiencing mental health issues. Colleges also provide courses to assist carers and family members to understand and support their loved one.

There is no single model for Recovery Colleges. Established colleges in the UK, Sydney and Melbourne operate according to local community needs. Possibilities are determined by local resources and commitment from dedicated individuals.

All colleges are designed and developed by professionals in partnership with people with lived experience.

Project history

Interest in a Canberra College began in 2015, when Richmond Fellowship hosted a talk by UK Recovery College founder, Clinical Psychologist Dr. Rachel Perkins.

Funding is not yet secured to open a college in the ACT. A design plan for a potential college has been submitted to Government for consideration for the 2018–19 Budget.

As the project evolves, there will be new opportunities for involvement from community members. In particular, MHCC ACT encourages involvement from clinicians, mental health workers, carers, consumers and educators.

To request updates on the project, subscribe to the Recovery College mailing list below:

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Recovery College project report

A series of workshops to develop a concept for the Canberra College were held through May-June 2017. For an overview of outcomes,

read the full project report here.

More about Co-design

Co-design means equal partnership between mental health professionals, educators and people with lived experience. Co-design will shape all aspects of Recovery College design, development and implementation.

Learn more...

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A Recovery College is a place of learning, connection and hope for people who experience mental ill health, as well as carers, family and friends. It is like an adult education centre with all courses focused on managing mental illness and promoting individual recovery.

Recovery Colleges help people build a meaningful and satisfying life pursuing personal goals. They focus on strengths and hope, support people to take back control and develop self-management. They change the relationship between people who use mental health services and professionals into a partnership where expertise is shared and lived experience is valued equally.

In the mental health context, recovery is about creating the conditions in which we are able to live a full and satisfying life. It’s about becoming the best we can be, within the context of our past, present and future experiences, and focusing on what we can do, not what we can’t.

Recovery is not synonymous with cure, nor is it necessarily about overcoming illness or injury. It is a process in which we move from a place of ill health where functioning is difficult, to a place of better health where we function and live a satisfying life on our own terms.

Recovery Colleges are places of education; they are not treatment centres or service providers. They do not take a clinical approach of focusing on symptom reduction; they take an educational approach and focus on building strengths and capacity. In doing this, they complement other mental health services and help increase participants’ ability to stay well.

Recovery Colleges are developed and operated on the principles of co-design, co-production and co-facilitation, and they place the lived experience of mental ill health at the very core of their operations.

In the context of recovery college co-design, co-production and co-facilitation means work done in an equal, respectful partnership between mental health professionals and people with lived experience. The groups involved would be different in different contexts.

Colleges are designed and operated, and courses are developed and delivered, in collaborative partnerships between people with lived experience, carers, clinicians, support workers, other mental health professionals and educators. Each course is co-facilitated or delivered by a peer (lived experience) educator and a mental health professional educator. Often people working and educating in Recovery Colleges have lived experience and mental health or educational professional experience.

Each College offers a range of courses to suit the needs of its community. These include topics on understanding and managing various mental health conditions, but also on improving life skills, meeting carer needs, and understanding aspects of the mental health system.
Recovery Colleges use standard adult learning principles in developing and teaching courses. Adult Learning Australia identifies some key concepts for adult education.
Adult learners:
• Want to know why they are learning something
• Want to be seen as capable
• Bring existing knowledge
• Are ready to learn
• Want learning to be practical and relevant to their lives
• Are motivated to learn.
The length of courses varies according to the content and objectives of the course. Some are single two- or three-hour sessions; others have sessions once a week for several weeks. There are generally no prerequisites, and students self-select what they want to study (ie no set pathway as in other tertiary education).
Recovery Colleges are well-established in the UK but relatively new in Australia. The first Recovery Colleges opened in the UK about eight years ago. There are now almost 40 in operation in major cities and some regional areas. Other countries that have Recovery Colleges include the US, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Japan and Australia.

In Australia Recovery Colleges operate or are in development in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.

The location and building type varies with each College, and often depends on how they are being funded. In the UK, some Colleges are part of the NHS Trust and housed in modern city buildings, others are co-located with hospitals or other health or education centres. Some are in cottages or shop-front locations. Some have single premises, others have premises in different locations.
Recovery Colleges understand the importance of connection to students’ wellbeing, and offer spaces where students can meet new people and make friends. These might include student lounge areas, resource rooms with computers and small libraries, kitchen facilities and in some cases, outdoor areas. Students also have ready access to support staff and educators, with quiet areas for discussing how they are going.

A few Colleges have started to establish online resources and social media presences for students.

Anyone over the minimum age. The minimum age is decided by individual colleges but in most cases is above 18.

While Colleges are primarily designed for people experiencing mental ill health and their carers, they are open to the whole community and encourage anyone who wishes to learn about mental health to attend courses.

Courses are developed and delivered using the principles of adult learning. A different education approach would be needed for young people.

Courses enable participants to share their personal stories which might include, for example, stories of abuse, trauma, suicide attempts, self-harm, psychosis, addiction. For some it might be the first time they have told their story and they might do so with powerful emotion. While Colleges help people learn how to tell stories safely (to avoid vicarious trauma etc), what is safe for an adult might not be safe for a younger person.

Most Colleges take enrolments in person, through forms, or online. Colleges produce a prospectus for each semester or trimester describing the courses to be offered.

When students join a Recovery College they discuss their goals with an educator or student support worker and develop an individual learning plan, selecting a course or courses that will help them meet their goals. Students are supported throughout their studies by their educators, support staff and fellow students.

Courses are generally free of charge.
No. Learning primarily takes place in the classroom or course location. Any additional work outside course sessions is at the student’s discretion.
How completion of a course is recognised varies between colleges. For example, some issue certificates of completion for each course, and provide an individual transcript of courses completed as requested.
Recovery Colleges help students reduce the incidence and severity of relapse, and enable them to gain confidence, skills and participate more fully in life. For many students this can become a launch pad into mainstream education, employment and re-connection with the community.