You’ll use what you learned in kindergarten all your life, but when you’re teaching adults, you’ll need to use Adult Learning Skills. Some of these skills are illustrated below. For instance, tell people what you are going to teach them, teach it and finally demonstrate how it works in a practical way.
8 Principals for Conducting Sessions for Adult Participants
- Focus on “real world” problems.
- Emphasize how the learning can be applied.
- Relate the learning to the goals of the participant.
- Allow debate and the challenging of ideas.
- Listen to and respect the opinions of participants.
- Encourage participants to be resources to the trainers and to one another.
- Treat participants like adults. (shocking!)
For this and almost every other training for mental health peers, you should start out by telling your own Recovery Story. Make it short but with some raw depths of sorrow, a dramatic turning point and finish with what volunteering or working as a peer specialist does to enrich your own life. As you tell your story, you’re modeling something short and to the point, which the people you’re training can use in a variety of situations. Recovery Stories can be used to train others, help others or explain Recovery to the normals.
Ask each person to introduce themselves and how we might all remember their name. Then each person should tell his or her own Recovery Story. If any of them start rambling or getting away from recovery–especially if they start telling an “Illness Story”–interrupt them — don’t jump in while they are talking about trauma or triumph– but look for a pause. By interupting them, you’re modeling how they themselves can interrupt someone to help keep Recovery Stories stay on track.
You’re teaching the use of the formula “What it was like. What happened. And What it’s like now.” Sharing stories is therapeutic, but remember you’re also training them. Keep in mind, better trained peers means providing better services and helping more people. You’re teaching them to model short, sorrow-to-recovery testimonials. This short Recovery Story is the kind of thing which works best in groups. The long versions of people’s stories can be part of one-on-one sessions.
Next focus on the message of the training which you are conducting. For instance, “How to be a better Peer Counselor”. To introduce your theme, first ask them why they have come to the training. Point out there are no right or wrong answers.
Theme of the Training and the Method or Gimmick You’ll Use
So first you’ll ask people, “Why are you here?” Once you’ve heard all their answers, tell them that you are going to teach them (insert your theme here–we’ll use Becoming a Better Peer Specialist).
Next, you introduce the method or gimmick you re going to use to train them. In this case, we’ll illustrate the “Solving the Puzzle” method.
So when they’ve finished answering the “Why They Are Here Question”… say, “I’m going to teach you how to be a better Peer Specialist. We need to solve puzzle of how we can do that.
Use the Method or Gimmick –in this case the “Solving the Puzzle”
Introduce the puzzle theme: Ask each of them to take a few pieces of a jig-saw puzzle from a bowl (use interesting, over-sized jig-saw puzzle pieces).
Ask each one to say one good thing about him or herself for each piece they took from the bowl. (You’ll see how this puzzle/confidence building will be used with them later in the main part of “Solving the Puzzle”.
Teaching the Basic Theme in No More than Four Bullet Points or Numbered Steps
Now use four bullet points (or numbered steps) or less to teach your basic material. At each step ask for examples from the audiences’ own experiences. Intersperse your own examples. For instance, if you are talking about “How To Be A Better Peer Specialist”, you might say, “When someone doesn’t show up at the Consumer Recovery Center, call that person that day or the next and ask how they’re doing or leave a message. And as long as they don’t show up, call and deliver that message every day until they either show up or ask you to stop calling.
(This would be a good time to tell the story about the new peer specialist who was told by his supervisor to call people on the clubhouse’s list of members who weren’t coming in. The next day the new peer specialist said he’d called everyone, so the supervisor told him to call everyone who hadn’t showed up. Another day went by and the peer specialist asked if he’d called enough, and the supervisor told him to keep calling until everyone showed up. So the peer specialist didn’t ask any more but just kept calling. One person he would call but all he got was an answering machine, so he kept leaving a message that the person was missed and he should come in tomorrow.
Then one day, someone new to the peer specialist came into the clubhouse, so the peer specialist greeted him at the door. The new arrival said, yeah, he was glad he’d come in. He said, “Someone from the clubhouse called me every day for the last year and left a message. I didn’t know how I would have made it except for those calls. They were the only person I talked to the whole time.”
What Do You Do Once You Get The Person To Come To The Clubhouse?
The numbered points for this example might be:
- Take the time to talk with him or her or just hang around, until you feel both of you are comfortable with each other (this may take 5 minutes or 5 years).
- Ask them to tell their story, if they are comfortable to share it–this may come out all at once or in little pieces. Their life story, or their past, though is different than their Recovery Story. Their Recovery Story is something which they may not even have started thinking about.
- Find something you can share with them every day — maybe you can start following their sports team in a column in the paper. Or if they’re interested in dinosaurs, collect them from Goodwill–whatever it is that interests them, take an interest in.
- Share some aspect of how you overcame an obstacle which is similar to an obstacle they face. Ask them if they think that might help. If they say “no”, ask them what might.
Pulling the Theme, the Method and a Practical Plan Together
Move on to the conclusion of the training when they are going to incorporate everything into a concrete plan for how they will better interact with their friends, their peers or the normals.
For team exercises, pass out an easel-sized pieces of paper to each team. Ask each team to give itself a name. (If you’re training people to act and implement what they’re learning individually, pass out big, oversized sheets to each person.)
Give out markers, glitter glue, etc. (Did I mention this should/could be a “Flower Power” recovery style program with children’s and adult’s silly toys– and don’t forget the spray can of silly string!).
Solve the Puzzle of How We Can Be Better ______ (in this case Be Better Peer Specialists)
They are going to solve the puzzle of what is missing so they can be better ________. They are going to leave the training with new skills and concrete plans to use them.
Ask them to draw a big puzzle piece and write inside it what is missing from them achieving their goals. Once they have all written what is missing, have do a read around. As they say out loud their missing pieces, write them down.
Once everyone has had a chance to speak out loud what they are missing, ask each person or group to return to their puzzle and write in solutions.
Once everyone has had a chance to write in solutions or solve the puzzle, ask each team or person to read their “solution to the puzzle” out loud. Write these solutions on a fresh piece of paper. If a solution isn’t strength-based, immediately re-phrase it as a strength-based solution and write it down.
Ask the group as a whole to each come up with solutions to other people’s puzzles and write these additional solutions down.
Sort out all the puzzles and solutions, so they are together. Tell them you are going to email all this to everyone. (Do this no later than the next day. Include a link to the blog or Facebook page where you’ve posted all the puzzles and solutions)
Thank them for coming and tell them they have been a great group. Give them the blog address, your email address and your phone number, if you’re going to continue to be working with this group of people.
Thanks to Stephanie Kay Lane of Helping Other People Excel (HOPE)/Capitol Clubhouse/Northwest Seeds of Change and a great friend for inspiring this blog.
From our Mental Health Action leadership training September 20th, 2011 at the Palisades Retreat Center in Federal Way Washington, co-mentored by Helen Nilon, Mental Health Action’s Executive Director.