Programming Connection

Positive Self-Management Program  

The Gilbert Centre for Social and Support Services


How Does the Program Work?

The PSMP is owned by the Self-Management Resource Center (SMRC), which maintains program materials and conducts ongoing evaluation of the program. Organizations (e.g., the Gilbert Centre) that would like to run the PSMP must obtain a licence from the SMRC. The program book, Living a Healthy Life with HIV, can be purchased through Bull Publishing along with a companion relaxation CD. SMRC supplies standardized workshop content. The consistency of the workshop delivery and content are strictly controlled by SMRC and no additional outside materials are used as part of the PSMP. The program protocol and the companion book have been updated to reflect new information about living with HIV and new topics such as monitoring, taking HIV medication, building support systems, and evaluating symptoms over time.


Anyone with HIV can participate in the PSMP. The Gilbert Centre has also expanded program participation to include personal support team members for people with HIV (e.g., partner, family member). Inclusion of a member of the support team is optional (participants can complete the program on their own) and usually limited to one support team member per participant. Support team members attend all workshops with participants. The program consists of 2.5-hour sessions once a week for six weeks with five to 12 participants per cohort.

Potential participants come to the program through an ASO or other organization, or hear about it by word of mouth. They can sign up for the program through a client care worker at the Gilbert Centre or any organization that is running a PSMP workshop series.

Workshop topics

As part of the program, clients are helped to create their own weekly action plans to practise the skills they learn in the workshops and they are given the opportunity to share their action plans with other program participants. Clients learn about dealing with difficult emotions, relaxation techniques, physical activity, communication skills, and dealing with depression. They receive a book called Living a Healthy Life with HIV, which has information that is covered in the program as well as material on additional topics that participants can refer to after they complete the program.

Topics covered over the six weeks include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Week 1: common problems among people with HIV, distraction as a self-management tool, defining common terms (e.g., CD4, T-cell and viral load test), and completing an action plan for the coming weeks (completed each week)
  • Week 2: decision-making skills, ways to manage difficult emotions, problem-solving steps, and dealing with fatigue
  • Week 3: the role of the healthcare team, symptom evaluation, support mechanisms for maintaining medication regimes, using a medication/symptom log, and relaxation techniques
  • Week 4: symptoms of depression, how to manage mild depression, benefits of exercise, reasons why safer sex is important, disclosure, and communication skills
  • Week 5: what is healthy eating, getting a good night’s sleep, physical activities and goals, types of advanced directives (e.g., will, power of attorney), and how to change negative thinking into positive thinking
  • Week 6: strategies to work effectively with a healthcare team, roles in care, how to develop personal support, goal setting, and plan making

The sessions are highly interactive and include the use of brainstorming, problem solving, and working in pairs with report-backs to the larger group. Each week participants receive an activity to work on for the following week, to prepare for the workshops and to practise skills. Additionally, the PSMP provides support team members the opportunity to share with, and learn from, one another.

Each organization sets the times for its workshops according to the preferences and needs of its participants.

Trainers and leaders1

Master trainers, who have completed a master trainer course and have facilitated at least two of the workshop series, train peer leaders to deliver the PSMP. Master trainers must facilitate at least one six-week workshop series once per year to maintain their leader certification. To become a peer leader for the PSMP requires completion of the CDSMP training program (four days) and then one day of training specific to the PSMP. In the 12 months after they complete their training, peer leaders must facilitate at least one six-week workshop.

Peer leaders are usually past participants of the PSMP who either are identified by master trainers or who self-identify as being interested in becoming a leader and have the potential skills to do so. Peer leader training focuses on ensuring the fidelity of the program with regards to the content and delivery method. Training also includes leading activities and a focus on presentation skills (e.g., eye contact, clarity). Peer leaders receive reimbursement for their involvement in the program.

  • 1. Self-Management Resource Center: