Training for peer interviewers at Rethink

This was a five-day training course run by mental health charity Rethink, to prepare a group of mental health service users becoming involved as peer researchers on a qualitative research project exploring recovery for people with severe mental health problems.

What was the aim of the training?

The aim was to equip service users with interviewing skills prior to their involvement in a qualitative research study.

Who were the target audience?

Service users who were recruited to be researchers on the project.

What did the training involve?

The initial training days included training in interviewing and work to develop the interview schedule.

Day 1: Team development and a review of the research topic ‘Recovery from mental illness’ – including sharing personal experiences.

Days 2 and 3: Interviewing skills. Topics included:

  • why peer interviewing is a good idea
  • good practice in interviews – the start, middle and end of interviews
  • skills in questioning and listening, probing questions and follow-up questions.

There was role-play in groups of three: one interviewer, one interviewee and one observer to listen and give feedback. People swapped roles so that everyone got a chance to practise interviewing and receive feedback. The participants also discussed how to deal with difficult interviews, coping with distress and asking questions about sensitive topics.

Day 4: Ethical issues: confidentiality, informed consent and protocols for reporting any serious concerns about interviewees. There were further opportunities for role play plus discussions to finalise the interview schedule.

At the end of the four days the trainees took away a copy of the interview schedule and were asked to try it out with a friend. They chose to tape record these interviews themselves.

Day 5: A few weeks later, the group came together again to review their experience of piloting the questions, and their experience of interviewing. They finalised the schedule and received further feedback on their interviewing skills.

Further training was delivered by a member of the Rethink staff to coincide with the phases of data analysis and report writing.

What were the outcomes?

The training helped to improve participants’ interviewing skills, and also helped with team-building. By sharing their perspectives about recovery, team members came to understand and respect different points of view, which helped with developing the topic guide used in the interviews.

Who developed the training? Were service users involved?

The training was developed and delivered by Alison Faulkner who is a trainer with a mental health service user perspective. Alison promoted a shared approach to training, which was based on sharing her own skills and knowledge, but also recognised and built on the skills and knowledge that participants brought. New ideas and tips for others therefore emerged in every training session.

How did you support service users after the training?

The service user researchers were offered telephone support from a member of staff at Rethink throughout the project and had occasional meetings as a group.

Was the training evaluated?

Participants were asked to fill in a self-assessment form to evaluate whether the training had improved their knowledge and research skills generally, as well as specific interviewing and questionnaire design skills. The responses were generally very positive and depended to some extent on their previous knowledge. One participant had an MA in Health Research so her knowledge and skills showed little improvement; whereas others with little or no previous experience found that the training improved their skills and knowledge significantly, particularly their interviewing skills. The training was valued for the opportunity it gave people to learn together and bond as a group.

When is this training most useful? Who is it most useful for?

The training was designed to develop the interviewing skills and confidence of service user researchers within a qualitative research study. Similar studies involving service users as peer interviewers may find it helpful to adopt this approach.

Who commissioned this training?

The research project and training was commissioned by Rethink. The project was funded by Astra Zeneca.

Contact for more information:

Alison Faulkner

John Larsen, Head of Research and Evaluation at Rethink

The service user researchers’ summary of the findings: Recovery insights: Learning from lived experience

Full report: Getting back into the world

May 2012