Academic Psychiatry

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 475–480 | Cite as

From Surviving to Advising: A Novel Course Pairing Mental Health and Addictions Service Users as Advisors to Senior Psychiatry Residents

  • Sacha AgrawalEmail author
  • Pat Capponi
  • Jenna López
  • Sean Kidd
  • Charlotte Ringsted
  • David Wiljer
  • Sophie Soklaridis
Empirical Report



The authors describe a novel course that pairs service users as advisors to senior psychiatry residents with the goals of improving the residents’ understanding of recovery, reducing negative stereotypes about people in recovery, and empowering the service users who participated.


Service users who had experience working as peer support workers and/or system advocates were selected for a broad and deep understanding of recovery and an ability to engage learners in constructive dialogue. They met monthly with resident advisees over a period of 6 months. They were supported with monthly group supervision meetings and were paid an honorarium. Quantitative evaluations and qualitative feedback from the first two cohorts of the course, comprising 34 pairs, are reported here.


The first cohort of residents responded with a wide range of global ratings and reactions. In response to their suggestions, changes were made to the structure of the course to create opportunities for small group learning and reflective writing and to protect time for residents to participate. The second cohort of residents and both cohorts of service users gave acceptably high global ratings. Residents in the second cohort described gaining a number of benefits from the course, including an enhanced understanding of the lived experience of recovery and a greater sense of shared humanity with service users. Advisors described an appreciation for being part of something that has the potential for changing the practice of psychiatry and enhancing the lives of their peers.


Positioning service users as advisors to psychiatry residents holds promise as a powerful way of reducing distance between future psychiatrists and service users and facilitating system reform toward person-centered recovery-oriented care.


Psychiatry/education Patient participation Mentors Physician-patient relations Patient-centered Care Education/medical/graduate 



The authors would like to thank Michael-Jane Levitan for her assistance with data collection. This work was supported by a Phoenix Call to Caring grant from Associated Medical Services Inc.

Compliance with Ethical Standards


On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


  1. 1.
    Mental Health Commission of Canada. Changing directions, changing lives: the mental health strategy for Canada, Calgary, AB. 2012.
  2. 2.
    Social Care Institute for Excellence. A common purpose: recovery in future mental health services. 2007.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. Achieving the promise: transforming mental health care in America, Rockville. 2003.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    American Psychiatric Association. American Association of Community Psychiatrists, Recovery-Oriented Care in Psychiatry, (n.d.). Accessed 27 April 2015.
  5. 5.
    Wear D, Skillicorn J. Hidden in plain sight: the formal, informal, and hidden curricula of a psychiatry clerkship. Acad Med. 2009;84:451–8. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31819a80b7.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Wahl O, Aroesty-Cohen E. Attitudes of mental health professionals about mental illness: a review of the literature. J Community Psychol. 2010;38:49–62. doi: 10.1002/jcop.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Towle A, Bainbridge L, Godolphin W, Katz A, Kline C, Lown B, et al. Active patient involvement in the education of health professionals. Med Educ. 2010;44:64–74. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2009.03530.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Fadden G, Shooter M, Holsgrove G. Involving carers and service users in the training of psychiatrists. Psychiatr Bull. 2005;29:270–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Happell B, Byrne L, Mcallister M, Lampshire D, Roper C, Gaskin CJ, et al. Consumer involvement in the tertiary-level education of mental health professionals: a systematic review. Int J Ment Health Nurs. 2014;23:3–16. doi: 10.1111/inm.12021.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Spencer J, Blackmore D, Heard S, McCrorie P, Mchaffie D, Scherpbier A, et al. Patient-oriented learning: a review of the role of the patient in the education of medical students. Med Educ. 2000;34:851–7.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Wykurz G, Kelly D. Developing the role of patients as teachers: literature review. Br Med J. 2002;325:818–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Repper J, Breeze J. User and carer involvement in the training and education of health professionals: a review of the literature. Int J Nurs Stud. 2007;44:511–9. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2006.05.013.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Morgan A, Jones D. Perceptions of service user and carer involvement in healthcare education and impact on students’ knowledge and practice: a literature review. Med Teach. 2009;31:82–95. doi: 10.1080/01421590802526946.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Jha V, Quinton ND, Bekker HL, Roberts TE. Strategies and interventions for the involvement of real patients in medical education: a systematic review. Med Educ. 2009;43:10–20. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2008.03244.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Ikkos G. Engaging patients as teachers of clinical interview skills. Psychiatr Bull. 2003;27:312–5. doi: 10.1192/pb.01-495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    P. Raju, R. Kronick, P. Capponi, Candid conversations between psychiatry residents and consumers. Can Psychiatry Aujourdh’ui. 2008;4.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Kidd S, McKenzie K, Collins A, Clark C, Costa L, Mihalakakos G, et al. Advancing the recovery orientation of hospital care through staff engagement with former clients of inpatient units. Psychiatr Serv. 2014;65:221–5. doi: 10.1176/ Scholar
  18. 18.
    Agrawal S, Edwards M. Upside down: the consumer as advisor to a psychiatrist. Psychiatr Serv. 2013;64:301–2.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Drapalski AL, Medoff D, Unick G, Velligan D, Dixon L, Bellack A. Assessing recovery of people with serious mental illness: development of a new scale. Psychiatr Serv. 2012;63:48–53.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    SAMHSA. National consensus statement on mental health recovery. 2004.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Gates LB, Akabas SH. Developing strategies to integrate peer providers into the staff of mental health agencies. Adm Policy Ment Heal Ment Health Serv Res. 2007;34:293–306. doi: 10.1007/s10488-006-0109-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Repper J, Carter T. A review of the literature on peer support in mental health services. J Ment Health. 2011;20:392–411. doi: 10.3109/09638237.2011.583947.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Meehan T, Glover H. Telling our story: consumer perceptions of their role in mental health education. Psychiatr Rehabil J. 2007;31:152–4. doi: 10.2975/31.2.2007.152.154.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Academic Psychiatry 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Addiction and Mental HealthTorontoCanada
  2. 2.University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Yale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  4. 4.Voices from the StreetTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Aarhus UniversityAarhusDenmark

Personalised recommendations