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HIV Positive Mental Health Consumer Support Group Leadership Training

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HIV Positive Mental Health Consumer Support Group Leadership Training

Background and Purpose

As one of the training projects of the former UIC National Research and Training Center, the HIV+ Mental Health Consumer Support Group Leadership Training Manual builds upon two distinct yet complimentary trends in mental health and rehabilitation service delivery.  The first is consumer-to-consumer peer  support offered by persons coping with psychiatric disability, and the second is the peer support and mutual assistance model commonly used among persons affected by HIV/AIDS.  This project explores the use of consumer peer support for HIV+ persons with psychiatric disabilities.  A training manual currently is being developed to guide and support consumers who wish to facilitate peer support groups for other HIV+ mental health consumers. 

The Project

Support groups offer benefits to participants that span the spectrum from medical, clinical and services knowledge, and practical advice to emotional support and an improved sense of well-being and quality of life.  The many issues confronting mental health consumers, such as stigma, medication compliance and interactions, symptomatology and illness exacerbation, and coping with a chronic disability are quite similar to those faced by people living with HIV/AIDS.  Furthermore, mental health consumers with HIV/AIDS must address issues specific to their "dual" status, such as interactions between psychotropic medications and HIV drugs, high risk  behaviors related to increased symptoms, and a paucity of integrated mental health and HIV/AIDS services for people with psychiatric disabilities. 

As part of the initial stages of the project, a literature review has been conducted with existing support group manuals, curricula, and other program materials from both the HIV and psychosocial rehabilitation fields.  In addition, project staff have consulted with local, state, and national HIV/AIDS and mental health organizations, community groups, and advocacy/empowerment centers involved in conducting peer support groups in order to obtain information about training programs and on-going clinical support provided for consumer group leaders.  With the knowledge gained from these materials and relevant contacts, topics which are being addressed in the project include:

  • Outreach to potential members
  • Publicizing the group
  • Support group formation
  • The group's purpose
  • The length of time the group will meet
  • Group members' composition
  • The group leaders' characteristics
  • The meeting context
  • Stage of infection of group members
  • Handling loss and grief
  • Sources of support for group leaders.

The support group format can be used to address these concerns and offer emotional support that comes from group interactions.  In addition, the manual also will address common issues and important resources and support systems for group leaders.  With the help of a project Advisory Board, a training manual is being developed and reviewed.

Related Materials

The following related materials are available from our HIV/AIDS Publications page:

  • HIV/AIDS & People with Serious Mental Illness: Strategies for Service Providers Working with Mental Health Consumers
  • Living with Psychiatric Disability and HIV/AIDS: Mental Health  Consumers Speak for Themselves

For more information about this project, please email Lisa Razzano, Ph.D. or phone her at (312)422-8180 extension 20.

 Project Staff

Lisa A. Razzano, Ph.D., Principal Investigator

Judith A. Cook, Ph.D., Co-Principal Investigator

Marie M. Hamilton, L.C.S.W ., Training & Curriculum Development Specialist

John Perry, M.A., Consultant

Dan Curley, M.A., Consultant

 Project Advisory Board

Kate R. Donegan, Ed.D., Matrix Research Institute, Philadelphia, PA

Heather K. Horton, M.A., Thresholds Bridge Programs & The University of Chicago 

Karen McKinnon, M.A., Columbia University HIV Mental Health Training Program, New York, NY 

Christopher Mitchell, D.S.W ., UIC Jane Addams College of Social Work 

Armando Smith, A.C.S.W., Teen Living Programs, Chicago, IL


Center for Mental Health Services


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


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