Bryher Bowness

Thesis title:

Involving informal carers in research: exploring the experiences of family/ friends of individuals with mental health problems and creating change through the Recovery College


Background Recovery Colleges are part of a global innovation to introduce recovery-orientated practise into mental health, taking an adult education approach. They operate through a process of co-production, where courses are designed and facilitated by trained staff and experts-by-experience. To date, Recovery Colleges has primarily been evaluated in terms of benefits for service users, but a proportion of the students who attend are family/ informal carers for those with mental health problems. Little is known about the outcomes of carer involvement in Recovery Colleges, and there is scope for increasing the relevance of provision for carers. Methods This thesis will consist of four parts. Study 1: A survey to explore the extent Recovery Colleges across England cater to carers. Questions were posed to Recovery Colleges in part of a National Survey conducted by RECOLLECT 2 to produce brief descriptive statistics regarding provision for carers. Study 2: A systematic review to investigate the methods and outcomes of working with carers to conduct research, analysed through a narrative synthesis to better understand how to involve carers in a feasible and beneficial way. Study 3: A focus group study exploring the experience of carers of Recovery Colleges. Working alongside a carer co-researcher, carers who have attended a Recovery College and Carer Leads will be recruited for focus groups to explore their experiences and ideas for improvement, which will then be thematically analysed. Study 4: Two Participatory Action Research projects to understand the needs of family/ informal carers for those with mental health problems, and design a Recovery College course to meet these needs. Collaboratively with carers, these studies will be designed and proposed to two Recovery Colleges. Carers will then be recruited to participate in these studies, with the aim of using participatory methods to make meaning and create change.

First supervisor:

Vanessa Lawrence


1- Health Practices, Innovation & Implementation