University of Illinois at Chicago
Department of Psychiatry
Center on Mental Health Services Research and Policy

National Research and Training Center (NRTC)


A Randomized Controlled Trial of BRIDGES Consumer-to-Consumer Education in the State of Tennessee

The purpose of this Center research project is to test the effectiveness of a peer-led educational intervention that was developed by consumers and family members from the state of Tennessee. The education program is called BRIDGES, which stands for Building Recovery of Individual Dreams and Goals through Education and Support ( The BRIDGES program is a 10-week, manualized education course designed to provide basic education about the etiology and treatment of mental illness, self-help skills, and recovery principles in order to empower participants to return to valued social roles within their communities. BRIDGES is a peer-led program and all instructors are adults with mental illnesses.

BRIDGES classes are interactive, and include group discussions and exercises designed to apply information to everyday situations. Course topics include recovery principles and stages; problem-solving and communication skills training; community support systems; employment; spirituality; substance abuse prevention; building supportive relationships with others; brain biology and psychiatric medications; standard and non-traditional treatments; relapse prevention; and coping skills. Agendas, information sheets, and other handouts are distributed during each class. The BRIDGES course and all materials are provided free-of-charge to participants.

The proposed 3-year project will take place in 3 regions in Tennessee in order to maximize the participation of a diverse group of people in the project: the Eastern, Middle, and Western regions. Participants in the study and will be randomly assigned to one of two groups. In the intervention group, individuals will take the BRIDGES course soon after enrolling in the study. In the control group, they will wait approximately 9 months to take the BRIDGES course.

All study participants will complete telephone interviews at three points in time: one month before the start of the BRIDGES course, at the end of the BRIDGES course, and six months after the course ends. Interviews will assess their knowledge of the causes and treatment of mental illness; level of social support; emotional well-being; empowerment; hope; and employment, housing, and mental health treatment goals. All study participants will be compensated for their time at each interview. All BRIDGES instructors will be experienced facilitators and will be paid for teaching the course. Study results will provide important information on how the BRIDGES program improves participants' knowledge of the causes and treatment of mental illness, increases their social support, enhances their emotional well-being and feelings of self-worth, and increases their ability to identify and pursue self-defined life goals. A study advisory committee composed primarily of people in recovery (including BRIDGES instructors from outside TN) will provide input into the study design and assist in interpreting the results.

The UIC CMHSRP is part of the ongoing Education and Research efforts of the UIC Department of Psychiatry

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