Cedar House Recovery College was initially set up with input from NHSE and Nash Nomori, an expert by experience. Since it’s conception in 2018 it has evolved immensely, not least thanks to the efforts of the new lead on the project Adele Conway Bennett.
A trained occupational therapist, Adele has been running recovery colleges in various guises, in the community, for over 12 years. Adele has given fresh impetus to the Cedar House Recovery College and restructured some of what is offered to ensure maximum participation and rehabilitation.
The college now offers a 12-week, structured course at Cedar House for groups of up to 10 patients. Patients are able to attend just one course or to keep repeating if they feel they would continue to benefit. And as you would expect, patients have been very much involved in the development of the courses and what is needed to help them prepare for life beyond Cedar House.
The aim of the course is for patients to understand what recovery means to them and what it is that they need to do to keep well. This can range from self-awareness, to time-keeping, to engaging with others and also to physical fitness. The course explores the multiple elements of ‘keeping well’ and helps patients to not only understand the different facets but also, which are most applicable to them e.g. triggers for anxiety/emotional outbursts, what are they and how do you manage yourself in these situations? Patients then develop their own recovery plan based on this knowledge.
A key component of the course is that of developing independence, a particularly important trait for those who may have been cared for by others for a large part of their lives. Learning how to speak up about what is important to you is a key development goal for some patients.
The course may also highlight educational needs such as basic literacy requirements. The patient, with support from the Recovery College will then go on to address these needs via the Cedar House Academy which is run by qualified teachers.
The onus of the course is not only on developing understanding of oneself but also developing skills through participation, for example, some of the work is done in groups. For some patients this may prove challenging, but this in itself highlights an area for development and a focus for recovery. It may be that the individual will never be able to function in a group setting but acknowledgement of this enables understanding. This means that the patient has the ability to manage this element of their life – simply by knowing that group settings are not for them and having the assertiveness and confidence to express this.
That said, the course does include lots of group work but this is closely facilitated with firm boundaries around taking turns, respecting and listening to others and the use of inappropriate language. During the course individuals are encouraged (though not pressured) into presenting to the group. This can be formally or simply sharing ideas or discussing interests. The aim is the same; to instil confidence and self-belief that many of our patients have lost or never had.
Care plans and recovery plans will of course go with patients when they leave Cedar House and whilst the two have similar aims, they are distinct. Whilst patients’ care plans are developed with their input, the responsibility for their care rests very much on the professional team. Conversely, a patient’s recovery plan is something that the patient must take ownership of and this is an important distinction. We like to think of it as more of a life plan.
Some of our patients will always need support of some kind, but with the skills they learn in the recovery college alongside their recovery plan, the aim is that they will continue on a positive trajectory with clearly defined hopes and dreams that they are able to work towards achieving.