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What is a Recovery College?

Recovery Colleges are a new approach to supporting people living with mental health problems. They are collaborative, strengths-based, person- centred, inclusive (i.e. available to all) and community-focused. A Recovery College provides support to students (mainly mental health service users but also family members, staff and other stakeholders) through adult education rather than through clinical approaches. You can find a recent update on Recovery Colleges here. The first Recovery College opened in England 2010, and there are now 77 across England (according to a recent survey), each working with up to 1,000 students at any time. many more are opening around the world. But there has been little work studying the impact of Recovery Colleges.

What is the RECOLLECT Study?

The National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) funded the Recovery Colleges Characterisation and Testing (RECOLLECT) Study (grant RP-DG-0615-10008) (2017-2018). The study addressed three questions:

  1. What are the defining characteristics of a Recovery College, and how does it differ from other medical and adult education approaches?
  2. How do Recovery Colleges work, and how do they benefit service users? 
  3. Who uses Recovery Colleges?

What did we find?

We developed a framework for collaborative data analysis:

Jennings H, Slade M, Bates P, Munday E, Toney R (2018) Best practice framework for Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) in collaborative data analysis of qualitative mental health research: methodology development and refinement, BMC Psychiatry, 18, 213.

We used this framework to co-develop a model of mechanisms of action and outcomes for students attending Recovery Colleges:

Toney R, Elton D, Munday E, Hamill K, Crowther A, Meddings S, Taylor A, Henderson C, Jennings H, Waring J, Pollock K, Bates P, Slade M (2018) Mechanisms of action and outcomes for students in Recovery Colleges, Psychiatric Services, 69, 1222-1229.

We also investigated mechanisms of action and outcomes at other levels:

Crowther A, Taylor A, Toney R, Meddings S, Whale T, Jennings H, Pollock K, Bates P, Henderson C, Waring J, Slade M (2019) The impact of Recovery Colleges on mental health staff, services and society, Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, 28, 481-488.

We developed a fidelity checklist and measure, and evaluated the measure in 39 Recovery Colleges:

Toney R, Knight J, Hamill K, Taylor A, Henderson C, Crowther A, Meddings S, Barbic S, Jennings H, Pollock K, Bates P, Repper J, Slade M (2019) Development and evaluation of a Recovery College fidelity measure, Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 64, 405-414.

The RECOLLECT Checklist is intended to help Recovery Colleges in their development. There are three versions to capture different perspectives. You can download the student version here, the peer trainer version here and the manager version here. The RECOLLECT Fidelity Measure produces a quantitative score, and is primarily for use in evaluation. You can download the RECOLLECT Fidelity Measure here. Both the RECOLLECT Checklist and the RECOLLECT Fidelity Measure can be freely used for education, clinical or research purposes, providing (1) they are not changed and (2) no charge is made for their use. They can also be translated providing conditions (1) and (2) are met, and you send us the translation so we can make it available as a download.

We published an overview paper about Recovery Colleges:

Whitley R, Shepherd G, Slade M (2019) Recovery Colleges as a mental health innovation, World Psychiatry, 18, 141-142.

We are also preparing a casemix analysis based on three Recovery Colleges.

What’s next?

We have been awarded a NIHR Programme Grant for Applied Research (grant NIHR200605) for a follow-on study (2020-2025) called RECOLLECT 2. Click the link on the left for further information.