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Implementing Recovery-based Care: Tangible Guidance for SMHAs - page 14 / 44





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NASMHPD/NTAC e-Report on Recovery – Fall 2004

Wellness Toolbox) when upsetting things happen. She works with others as they all develop lists of signs that they are not feeling so well—signs they formerly ignored. Then, she uses her Wellness Toolbox to develop a list of things she could do to help herself feel better when she is not feeling so well. Next the group discusses those times when you are feeling really bad—very anxious and upset, hearing voices, wanting to abuse substances, thinking about self harm. Sarah says that in the past, when she felt this bad, she would call the crisis line and get herself admitted to the hospital. But others encouraged her to look at her Wellness Toolbox and see if there were some things there she could do instead. She decided that if she spent some time talking to a peer, wrote in her journal about how she was feeling, spent some time diverting her attention with a project, or took her dog for a long walk, she could probably get through this hard time.

The group even worked through the process of developing Advanced Directives that included lists of when people want others to assist them, who they would want to do it, what they want them to do, and what others can do to help. She developed, with the support of her peers, a plan so she could stay at home or in the community, even when she was feeling very bad.

As Sarah began using this—her own recovery plan as a guide to living each day—she realized that along with her plan and the support of her peers she could make choices about her life. She could take risks. She could begin to plan for living in her own apartment, going back to school, getting a job that she would enjoy and perhaps even getting into an intimate relationship. She could see herself through a new lens—the lens of a capable and competent woman.

She also realized in working with others that being “uncomfortable” and having difficult feelings is something she could deal with. She didn’t have to call them symptoms of anything. She could be with these feelings for a time and/or use her strengths and resources to get through it.

As you can see in this example, Sara is changing her lens from mental patient to person. You may also notice another contributing factor to this “unlearning” process—the intentional use of non-medical language. Talking, for example, about our “experiences” and “feelings,” instead of our “symptoms,” as we do when we are developing a WRAP, opens us up to a different conversation in which our lived experience can be explored through multiple lenses.

Implications for Mental Health Services

The recovery movement has challenged the way we think about mental illness and even the concept of mental illness. It has helped many people begin to have hopes and dreams—something they had been discouraged from having in the past.   

At its core, recovery challenges the stories that we’ve been told about our experiences and what they mean. It opens up the possibility of discussion about how we can work

NASMHPD/NTAC e-Report on Recovery – Fall 2004

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