Research Snapshot: Recovery education centre helps recovery in people transitioning from homelessness

What you need to know

Recovery Education Centres aim to help people experiencing mental health problems and illnesses, but there is limited evidence on their outcomes among people who have experienced homelessness. Researchers interviewed participants in one Toronto recovery education centre. They found that it helped their recovery by providing supportive relationships and role modelling, an environment that was judgment-free and reduced self-stigma, and empowering skill-building sessions. Participants felt the program increased their self-confidence, sense of control, ability to set goals and plan for the future, and capacity to advocate for themselves, relate to others, and behave in ways that benefited others.

 

This Research Snapshot was written by Rossana Coriandoli based on the article, “Mechanisms of change and participant outcomes in a Recovery Education Centre for individuals transitioning from homelessness: a qualitative evaluation” published in BMC Public Health in 2020. Read it below or download the PDF.

Research Snapshots are brief, clear language summaries of research articles, presented in a user-friendly format.

What is this research about?

Recovery education centres are intended to help people who are experiencing mental health problems and illnesses by focusing on their strengths, personal growth, empowerment, and choice. However, there is limited evidence on the outcomes of people who participate in these centres, especially among those who have experienced homelessness.

Researchers conducted a study to identify the recovery outcomes of people who participated in a recovery education centre, and how these outcomes were affected. The research focused on adults with mental health challenges who were transitioning from homelessness.

What did the researchers do?

The researchers interviewed participants of a Toronto recovery education centre who had unstable housing. Interviews took place six to 14 months after enrollment. The interview questions explored their experiences and their views on the key outcomes and the mechanisms or ways these outcomes came about.

The researchers analyzed the qualitative interview transcripts using a method called inductive thematic analysis, which uses the data itself to guide the analysis. Independent researchers double-checked the data to ensure it was accurately captured participant perspectives and experiences.

What did the researchers find?

There were 20 participants in the study. On average, they were 45 years old and were mostly Caucasian (80%) and women (65%). More than half of them had completed post-secondary education, a quarter had completed high school (25%), and one-fifth had completed some post-secondary school.

All the participants been homeless in the previous two years, and three were homeless at the time of the study. Only two participants were employed at the time of registration.

The study participants had taken part in an average of 80 hours of programming at the recovery education centre, but the range was from four to 249 hours.

Participants felt that the centre helped their recovery process by providing the following:

  • a judgment-free environment
  • supportive relationships, support, and role modelling
  • an environment that reduced self-stigma
  • the capacity to reclaim power over their lives.

Participants felt the program provided various improvements:

  • better health and wellbeing
  • increased self-esteem, confidence, and sense of identity
  • increased empowerment, control, and personal responsibility
  • capacity to relate to others, behave in ways that benefited others, and ability to advocate for themselves
  • ability to set goals and to think about and plan for the future.

Limitations of the research

Since the researchers used a cross-sectional study design, they were unable to find out if there was a cause-and-effect relationship between participation in the Toronto and the participants’ outcomes.

The study’s participants had a slightly higher education level than is generally the case for people who are homeless, so the results may not be the same for people with different education levels. It’s also possible that interviews conducted when the participants had completed more or fewer hours of programming may have identified different mechanisms and different outcomes.

About the researchers

Nadine Reid,1 Bushra Khan,2 Sophie Soklaridis,3 Nicole Kozloff,4 Rebecca Brown,5 and Vicky Stergiopoulos6

  1. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto
  2. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto
  3. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Department of Psychiatry and Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto
  4. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health; Department of Psychiatry and the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto
  5. Centre for Urban Health Solutions, St. Michael’s Hospital, Unity Health Toronto, Toronto
  6. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto.

Keywords 

Recovery, homeless, homelessness, mental health, mental illness, support, stigma

This Research Snapshot was written by Rossana Coriandoli based on the article, “Mechanisms of change and participant outcomes in a Recovery Education Centre for individuals transitioning from homelessness: a qualitative evaluation” published in BMC Public Health in 2020. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-020-08614-8