Category Archives: Consumer Movement in Addictions and Mental health

Peer Supported Open Dialogue

The NHS Peer-Supported Open Dialogue Conference is happening this month in London.

We know the benefits of peer support from personal experience and through our work and that a more holistic and collaborative approach better supports recovery.

Open Dialogue was developed in Finland over 20 years ago and has since been taken up by a number of other countries including some states in America – it has also been very popular in Australia.. It is a simple and effective model that encourages the involvement of family and friends and  respects the individuals choices.

The results that Finland have achieved over the past 20 years as well as internationally in comparison to “Treatment as usual”  (usually medication and hospitalisation) are amazing.

Find our more through these links and feel free to post your thoughts and experiences.

The NHS Open Dialogue Project

Neuroplasticity and Wellbeing

We recently wrote a bit about mindfulness and gratitude in the March issue of the Buddies Newsletter and included some information about neuroplasticity – the brains ability to rewire itself towards more positive emotions. It was great to receive such positive feedback from readers about the newsletter in general and a humble thanks to them. We want to share news about the great work the Buddies are doing AND give all the readers something they can take away too that will hopefully make a positive difference in their lives.

Do you want to feel happier?What we think about we bring about and changing our thoughts can change our lives for the better. Change can be a simple process – no blood, sweat or tears required here! It is about keeping it simple – making small changes that when applied long term can make a BIG difference.

If you are keen to read the Newsletter you can download a copy here for some tips and advice on some ways to wellbeing.

We also included a link to a Tedx talk by Dr Rick Hansen which you can have a look at here if you are interested.

What are your thoughts about neuroplasticity and do you have any positive experiences you would like to share?

A Genetic Link To Schizophrenia?

Did you see One News last night where they talked about the latest brain research showing a potential genetic link to schizophrenia? I have noticed articles popping up on different social media forums about this lately so thought it timely to prompt a discussion.

What are your views?






Reflections on Intentional Peer Support Training

Intentional Peer Support Training (IPS) Training.

By Sarah O’Connor

I’m a theory girl. Even as a child I always managed to nail the theory part of music, but the practice? Not so much. So when I started learning about intentional peer support (IPS) as a theory, for a work project, I soaked it up.  What I was missing though, was learning about the skills to practice IPS.

Which is where training in IPS comes in. IPS was founded by Shery Mead.

Intentional Peer Support is a way of thinking about and inviting transformative relationships between people. Practitioners learn to use relationships to see things from new angles, develop greater awareness of personal and relational patterns, and support and challenge each other in trying new things.

I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to learn about IPS alongside a team of Buddies volunteers.

The training is a 5 day course with two IPS trainers.  In the training, a few ideas really stood out for me.

The Space in Relationships

This is an interesting way to think about relating to another person.  Instead of thinking about your own and another person’s thoughts and feelings when having a conversation, consider the idea of a relational space between two people.

This means the connection between two people is an active, alive space where two people make an effort to listen and respond to each other in a meaningful way.

Being curious about what a person has to say, without making assumptions and understanding that you can both learn from each other, are intentional ways of connecting to another person.

Some ways of relating to people such as giving reassurance, advice and being directive are not intentional ways of connecting with another person.


Sometimes there can be a “disconnect” in a relationship space.  Say for example, you’ll be taking to someone and they appear distracted, impatient, look away and start fidgeting.  Sometimes, if this happens you might take offense, and make assumptions about what is going on.

Tom Jones looks really bored and like he wants to leave.  Maybe I have done something to offend him?

Our discussion about this really interested me. With IPS you need to adopt the position that you don’t know what is going on for Tom Jones, and for the relational space to work, you need to state clearly, what you are noticing and check out how it is for him.

Hey Tom, I’m noticing there is a bit of a disconnection in this conversation we are having. Are you feeling that too?  I’m wondering where we can go from here?


Sitting with discomfort.

This is a hard one!  Everyone has times where situations can be uncomfortable, but to relate to people in an intentional way, you need to learn to stay with the discomfort.

It can be so tempting with things that are uncomfortable to avoid, run, hide or not try… But running from discomfort doesn’t really get you very far, does it?

For a great example of how to sit with discomfort, check out the role play “Negotiating Reality” with Shery Mead and Beth Filson

You will see how through acceptance, enquiry, trust and clear communication, two people can experience an uncomfortable situation, without avoiding or fleeing the discomfort. What happens is that both parties get though the experience together, and reach a place where they are both at ease.

World view

Everybody has a different “worldview”, or way of seeing the world. So many things influence our world view; our education, religion, family, age, ethnicity. With IPS you need to be able to acknowledge and respect that people have different worldviews- and accept it.   As a theory, this sounds pretty straight forward.  As a practice, it’s a different story.

One of our tasks was to keep a look out for different world views- I found myself looking everywhere and it wasn’t hard to find them.

When you come across different world views, IPS challenges you to accept these world views, no matter how different they may be from your own.

What don’t you give it a try yourself and see what happens…

The tip of the iceberg.

We probably all like to think that we don’t judge people on appearances.  But we often do. IPS talks about the “tip of the iceberg” . This is the idea that when we see someone, we really only see what’s on top.  We can never know what’s going on for a person unless we actually get to them and learn from them.

It’s all very well us learning this, but not everyone else communicates like this, do they?

This was a point raised by a participant during the training.  And it’s a fair one. But one of the trainers raised a good point too.

If you believe this is a good way of communicating, and you practice it yourself, in your everyday relationships, the idea is that it will get through to other people too, through a kind of osmosis.

It may not seem entirely natural way of communicating at first. But the idea is that you practice being curious, communicating clearly, not making assumptions and moving towards something in your relationships.

That’s the idea. Practice, practice, practice.

Karpan's Dreaded Drama Triangle

The Dreaded Drama triangle!

It’s pretty clear to see this is an anxiety based, problem focused triangle with some negative roles at play. Characteristics of a persecutor might be that they have a lot of power over the “victim”, a rescuer enables a victim (to feel good about themselves) and a victim is helpless and vulnerable.

In the middle is a whole lot of space, where no one takes any responsibility.

Our discussion about the different roles we play in our relationships, revealed that we can take on different roles at times and go round in round in circles (or in this case, triangles!) Probably everyone on this earth can relate to at some point, participating in this drama triangle, even though it’s kind of uncomfortable to admit.

The good news is that these roles can change, and life does not have to play out like Karpan’s drama triangle! As demonstrated in David Emerald’s Empowerment Dynamic, the roles can change for the better into a passion based, outcome focused triangle.

The Empowerment Triangle

The “persecutor” becomes a challenger, whose role is to ensure the creator is clear about what they want. The “rescuer” becomes a coach and the “victim” becomes a creator.  The rescuer is on an equal level with the creator, sees them as capable and asks questions which enable them to make informed choices. jpg

What I especially like about the new triangle is that the victim role becomes the creator. The creator’s role is to think about what they want and what their goal, which fits into the intentional peer support model of moving towards something.

What I also like about the new triangle is that the creator is at the top of the triangle not the victim at the bottom.


If you are practising intentional peer support, you need to be able to sustain it and part of this is by using a process of co-reflection.

The process is similar to work supervision. In intentional peer support being reflective involves discussing connections and disconnections you have in the peer relationship and owning your own part in this. In co-reflection you can discuss how you could do things differently in the future.

On the last day, everyone in the training was invited to do a brief presentation, demonstrating what they have learnt about IPS.

My overall summary in the presentation is that IPS is like writing a story- both people come to the relationship with commonalities and different ideas (worldview) and become co-authors of a new story. Both parties are responsible for how the story plays out. Some points of note- “Don’t judge a book by its cover” (the idea of not making assumptions and looking beyond the tip of the iceberg.)

Through dialogue, using your imagination and by being curious, a new story can be created (moving towards).


So as I mentioned earlier, I’m a theory girl. But this training teaches the theory behind IPS and ways in which to practice it. With a smart and funny group of people to learn with, this training has provided a new way of thinking about communication and relationships.

I’m looking forward to meeting up with everyone again when we receive our certificates and in the meantime I need to keep in mind the facilitator’s parting words of wisdom.

If you don’t use it, you lose it!  

Mental Health Blog Fest!

Check out the impressive (109 and counting) International blog roll of people with experience of distress who have something to say.  There is something there for everyone, I haven’t had time to browse yet but even the names are evocative…Bipolar Manifesto,  It’s Good to be Crazy SometimesSocial Nutmeg LivingMy Anxiety Diaries,  A Bipolar Insomniac’s Late Night ThoughtsMake BPD Stigma-Free!,  Borderline Blonde,  The Elephant in the Room. Lauren has pulled this together for her project getting mental health bloggers around  the world to contribute to an art auction.  Take a look and  let us know in the comments what your favourite is.

bylaurenhayley 109 mental health blogs and counting… 

Maintaining the Integrity of Peer Roles

by Eileen McAtee

It was one of those times where I printed out something from the internet and added  it to my reading pile which I  proceeded to ignore for months.  Nearly a year later I finally read the paper and  next minute I was running around the office telling everyone “what she said!”

The paper was Sandy Watson’s keynote from the 2013 Peer Conference in Australia put on by the Centre of Excellence in Peer Support. Sandy Watson was among the first consumer workers employed by a public mental health service in Australia in 1993. Her paper demonstrates her experience and I think  articulates really clearly one of  the key emerging issues for the  peer workforce. Sandy calls it hybridisation and in particular the fact that often we don’t distinguish very clearly between consumer engagement and leadership and peer work:

‘…the mental health peer workforce has reached a new level of maturity, and now consists of two distinct but related disciplines.  The discipline of consumer engagement and leadership; and the discipline of recovery peer work.’

Even more concerning  is the lack of differentiation between peer workers and  non-peer, community and or clinical mental health work. Sandy gives examples of this in her presentation.

“Some quick examples: a peer worker triaging consumers on the telephone line in a community managed service including calling the police on service users;   peer workers conducting assessments and documenting these in the exact same way a community mental health worker in the service would conduct and document these assessments; accessing clinical files without the knowledge or the consent of any person for whom the clinical file pertains;  sitting on treating teams and seeing themselves as part of the treating team; taking available community mental health worker shifts in the same service they are recruited in as peer workers because there isn’t enough peer worker hours and they want more work; sitting in on clinical changeover whilst clinicians discuss patients; peer workers talking about their caseloads and describing service users as their ‘clients’. Often this occurs with some vague sense of discomfort that something isn’t right, but no valid analysis follows.”

One solution to the role confusion is for anyone being recruited to a designated recovery peer work position to be recruited in light of the values of peer work:

“This is a new workforce and it is imperative that these values are used, rather than just the stock and standard values of the service, or of the other workforces. The values of peer work are fundamentally different to that of the mental health workforce, especially around the
concepts of equality, mutuality and reciprocity.”

I urge everyone to read Sandy’s paper in full. Her hand drawn cartoons are a delight.

One Small Step for Mental Health Consumers

By Eileen McAtee

The Working Group expresses its concern relating to the widespread practice of seclusion in psychiatric units. While recognizing the Government’s achievement in reducing the incidents of seclusion since 2009, the Working Group urges the authorities to eliminate this practice.

(From the United Nations Working group on Arbitrary Detention Statement at the conclusion of its visit to New Zealand 24 March –7 April 2014)

By Eileen McAteeThe United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has been in New Zealand for three weeks visiting places of detention around New Zealand and meeting with representatives from the Human Rights Commission, the legal profession , academics and representatives of civil society organisations.

End Seclusion Now a lobby group calling for an immediate end to the practice of solitary confinement (or seclusion) in our hospitals made a submission to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. The submission asked the Working Group to strongly denounce the practice of seclusion in mental health facilities in New Zealand, to call for legislative change and to restore the right of individuals to have their complex and challenging responses to their life situations responded to in a way that does not cause further trauma. Members  of End Seclusion Now, who are able to personally  testify to the trauma caused by the practice of seclusion,  also  met  with  a member of the Working Groups Secretariat from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

The Secluded Individual Bullseye Diagram, developed by Anne Helm,  expresses the impacts of the practice on the secluded person. It addresses the four dimensions of the person as set out in Te Whare Tapa Whā written about by Dr Mason Durie. Seclusion negatively affects these interrelated dimensions, Taha Tinana (physical health), Taha Hinengaro (psychological health), Taha Wairua (spiritual health) and Taha Whanau (family health).

The United Nations Working Group  will present their full report  and recommendations to the NZ government  towards the end of the year.