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July 21, 2011 Volume 2, Issue 27
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Webinar recordings, and PowerPoint presentations,
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Working To Recovery: Our Story
by Ron Coleman and Karen Taylor
Working to Recovery (WTR) was established in 2002 by Ron Coleman and Karen Taylor. Based in Scotland, WTR offers training and consultancy around the world to many different kinds of agencies and organizations specializing in mental health practice. In this article, Ron and Karen describe their approach to recovery, the work they do, and what motivates them.

We met at a community psychiatric nursing conference in 1998, fell in love, and have been together ever since. We might be regarded by some as an unlikely couple:

Ron is an ex-mental health service consumer who has fully recovered from a label of “chronic schizophrenic.” His recovery process was kick-started by a young, vibrant support worker who had persuaded him to attend a hearing-voices group in Manchester, England, in 1991. This proved to be a crucial turning point in Ron’s life, and he went on to lead the Hearing Voices Network in England.

Ron also discovered he was a passionate speaker and trainer. He has since come off all medication and State benefits and now travels the world, spreading the message that recovery is possible, particularly for those with a chronic diagnosis—people who are often given little hope.

Meanwhile, Karen trained and worked as a psychiatric nurse but had always been frustrated by the lack of practice-based approaches to working with people with psychosis. She believed that pharmacology was only part of the answer.

We are probably best known for our recovery work on psychosis and hearing voices, although we also specialize in self-harm, personality disorders, risk training, person-centered planning, and mental well-being.

After moving from England to Scotland (returning to Ron’s roots), we were instrumental in setting up the Scottish Recovery Network (http://www.scottishrecovery.net) and assisting in the establishment of the Hearing Voices Network for Scotland.

Concentrating on strengths. We particularly enjoy running training courses together. We have pioneered a Recovery Champions course, which focuses on diminishing the idea of an “us” and “them” between professionals and consumers. This is achieved through reflective action-based exercises, which help to demonstrate that everyone is on a recovery journey and that all humans, to some extent, are flawed and striving for wholeness. From this foundation of universality, we show how working together in the spirit of real partnership and equality enables the building of relationships and the harnessing of people’s strengths. It is these processes that lead to successful recovery journeys for mental health consumers. Further, our experience is that this way of working often leads to less burnout for staff and fewer returns to the hospital for consumers, as adopting this approach is much more creative, emotionally fulfilling, and self-directed.

Central to this way of working is concentrating on people’s strengths and recognizing the fundamental need that humans have to take risks to develop their potential and growth. If this is done in a supportive and hopeful manner, it leads to services that promote informed risk-taking, rather than adopting a more defensive role.

We have come to understand that people’s stories, once heard and believed, are important in the recovery process, so we use person-centered planning tools to help workers and consumers tell their story and create a future for the consumer. This is also founded on our certainty that mental illness is related to trauma in a person’s life. We have been influenced by the work of Jack Pearpoint from Canada, who promotes the use of Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope, and we have adapted it to work in mental health settings.

Running these courses has led us to many countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Italy, and Denmark. One of the most unusual places we have run our recovery course is Bethlehem Psychiatric Hospital in Palestine, where the nursing staff are implementing recovery practices in very adverse conditions.

Various projects. Another important part of the work we do is disseminating information, including through our own publishing house, P & P Press, publishing many books written by both consumers and professionals. Our best-selling product is the workbook, “Working With Voices,” which has been translated into many different languages.

Our latest project is setting up the International Centre for Recovery Action (ICRA, http://www.icra-wholelife.org), an online recovery community and e-learning site focused on recovery practice. This exciting new initiative is being developed in partnership with the International Mental Health Collaborating Network. ICRA Whole Life will enable the development of recovery action by connecting people and communities worldwide as learning collaborators through meaningful education and training, practice development, and research.

Recovery is about people being able to take up their lives again. To achieve this, it is essential that individuals are supported and enabled in their recovery journey by effective and dedicated mental health workers and services. We are optimistic about the future, as we have noticed a real change in the way services are thinking about their role in assisting people to recover their lives. We intend to continue to spread positive and hopeful messages about recovery, and invite you to join us in this mission.

To contact Ron and Karen, email info@workingtorecovery.co.uk. To access the WTR web site, visit http://www.workingtorecovery.co.uk.

Pearpoint, J. (N.d.). Inclusion Associates. Retrieved from http://www.inclusion.com/aspearpoint.html.

Pearpoint, J., O’Brien, J., & Forest, M. (N.d.). Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope (PATH). http://adcpathways.org/documents/d1077561737/pathprocess.pdf

Webinar Announcement
The RTP Resource Center is pleased to announce
the third Webinar in a four-step series:
Step 3 in the Recovery-Oriented Care Continuum:
Promoting Recovery Through Psychological and Social Means
Thursday, July 28, 2011

2:00–3:30 pm EDT

This Webinar will describe a few approaches to promoting recovery that involve psychological and social interventions. First, David Kingdon, M.D., will update participants on the state of the art in cognitive-behavioral psychotherapeutic approaches to serious mental illnesses (schizophrenia and bipolar disorder). Next, Larry Davidson, Ph.D., will describe the key common elements of psychiatric rehabilitation approaches that involve in vivo support (supported employment, education, housing, etc.). Finally, Jayme Lynch, CPS, will describe the role of consumer-run programs and businesses as they offer alternatives to traditional programs and settings (e.g., clubhouses).

David Kingdon, M.D., is Professor of Mental Health Care Delivery at the University of Southampton, United Kingdom, and Honorary Consultant Adult Psychiatrist for the Hampshire Partnership NHS Trust. Over the past two decades, Dr. Kingdon has worked with Douglas Turkington from Newcastle and other colleagues using cognitive-behavioral therapy to develop techniques for treating patients with persistent delusions and hallucinations, using cognitive-behavioral therapy. His research interests are in cognitive therapy for severe mental illness and mental health service development. He has published extensively on these topics.

Larry Davidson, Ph.D., is the Development Services Group, Inc., Project Director for the SAMHSA Recovery to Practice initiative. A Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Program for Recovery and Community Health at the Yale University School of Medicine and Institution for Social and Policy Studies, his work has concentrated on processes of recovery from and in serious mental illnesses and addictions; evaluation of innovative recovery-oriented practices, including peer-delivered services; and designing and evaluating policies to promote the transformation of systems to the provision of recovery-oriented care. In addition to being a recipient of psychiatric care himself, Dr. Davidson has produced more than 200 publications, including the 2009 book written with several of his colleagues, A Practical Guide to Recovery-Oriented Practice: Tools for Transforming Mental Health Care (published by Oxford University Press), and the more recent book, The Roots of the Recovery Movement in Psychiatry: Lessons Learned (Wiley–Blackwell). His work has influenced the shape of the recovery agenda and the translation of its implications for transforming mental health practice, both nationally and internationally.

Jayme Lynch, CPS, is the Director of the Decatur, Ga., Peer Support and Respite Center, a Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network initiative offering 24/7 consumer-directed peer wellness and crisis respite services. The center uses peer support services in a safe, noncoercive, nonclinical, and homelike environment in a community setting, and is offered as an alternative to other crisis services. The goal of this project is to encourage consumers to use their crises as learning opportunities, developing their internal and external resources to better understand, manage, and avoid future crises and hospitalizations.

To Register, go to

Please share this announcement with friends and colleagues who may be interested in learning more about recovery-oriented practice in behavioral health services. For more information on SAMHSA’s RTP project, please contact the RTP Resource Center at recoverytopractice@dsgonline.com or 877.584.8535.

First Nations Behavioral Health Association’s Society of TRUTH Initiative
The Society of TRUTH's (Tribal Families, Rural and Urban, Together Healing) mission is to provide a coalition of organizations and grassroots community members that is inclusive of all youth, family, service recipients, and elders, for sharing information, resources, and effective practices that support intergenerational healing while sustaining the health of our communities.

Their vision is that all American Indian/Alaska Native families* will have safe and healthy communities where they can access the information and resources needed to support personal choices for healing and wellness, including indigenous ways of life. (*This includes other indigenous populations, e.g., people native to Hawaii and the U.S. Territories, etc.)

For more information, please visit

Funding Opportunity: Healthy People 2020 Community Innovations Project Request for Proposal
People with mental and substance use disorders die decades earlier than the general population. The following funding opportunity supports the 10x10 Wellness Campaign's goal to promote wellness and increase life expectancy by 10 years over a 10-year period.

Project Purpose
This Request for Proposal (RFP) recognizes the lead role that community-based organizations play in improving a community’s health. The purpose of this RFP is to solicit community-level projects that use Healthy People 2020’s overarching goals, topic areas, and objectives to promote improved heath at a community level. Funding is intended to support activities above and beyond general operations. Using the projects funded through this RFP, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion intends to evaluate how the objectives of Healthy People 2020 are being used to improve the health of communities.

Funding Information
  • This is a one-time funding opportunity.
  • Awards will range from $5,000 to $10,000.
  • Up to 170 award recipients will conduct projects between December 1, 2011 and May 31, 2012.
Proposals are due by 7:00 p.m. EDT, August 5, 2011. Postmarks will not be accepted.

More details are included in the Healthy People 2020 RFP, which is available online at http://www.healthypeople.gov.

To access the PDF of the proposal, please visit http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/implementing/HP2020CommunityInnovationsRFP.pdf

The RTP Resource Center Wants to Hear From
Recovery-Oriented Practitioners!
We invite practitioners to submit personal stories that describe how they became involved in recovery-oriented work and how it has changed the way they currently practice.
The RTP Resource Center Wants to Hear From You, Too!
We invite you to submit personal stories that describe recovery experiences. To submit personal stories or other recovery resources, please contact Stephanie Bernstein, MSW, at 877.584.8535, or email

We welcome your views, comments, suggestions, and inquiries.
For more information on this topic or any other recovery topics,
please contact the RTP Resource Center at
877.584.8535, or email recoverytopractice@dsgonline.com.

The views, opinions, and content of this Weekly Highlight are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of SAMHSA or HHS.