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January 12, 2012 Volume 3, Issue 2
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The Weekly Highlights archive is a virtual library of information on recovery. Topics range from peer specialist training and recovery-oriented systems to personal accounts of addiction, mental illness, and wellness. If you have missed a week's publication, check out volumes 1, 2, and 3—more than 70 archived issues are available.

The Origin of CHARGE
by Gerald Butler
I started drinking at the age of 11 because it was the only way to quiet the voices I'd been hearing all my life. It was the 60s and little was known about chemical imbalances and mental illness. By age 14 I was an alcoholic and spent the next 33 years hopeless and homeless, dealing with two diseases, alcoholism, and mental illness. In early recovery I realized I lacked a basic sense of self-esteem, so I picked up the flute I used to play before getting really sick. I was amazed how the music not only elevated my self confidence, but also helped the healing process. I knew I had something that needed to be shared, so I called on other artists in recovery and started the Recovery Band to spread the message of hope.

Charlotta Gavin began attending our rehearsals at Michigan's Detroit East, as she always wanted to sing gospel. As artists in recovery we all knew the advantages of a positively charged environment, so we surrounded Charlotta with love and support. It was amazing watching her confidence grow right before our eyes, and soon she decided her recovery was more important than anything else. Today, Charlotta takes less medicine and has a great job as a peer specialist.

Seeing the effects of our efforts with Charlotta and other consumers, I formed the Center of Healing Arts, Recovery, Guidance, and Empowerment. The word Guidance was quickly replaced with Growth as we realized our environment was one where people would take charge of their own lives. The most anyone can do is support people in their self-improvement journeys. Since CHARGE does not conduct treatment, it was imperative to establish an atmosphere where a person's talents and abilities would drive the program—not his or her illness. So we moved into an old car factory that had been converted to an artist's Mecca called "The Russell Street Bazaar." The Bazaar provided a creative, positive space for thousands of professional and amateur artists. Our band began doing gigs for the artists. In exchange, they worked with our folks.

Around this time, the Michigan Department of Community Health introduced Dr. Priscilla Ridgway's "Recovery Enhanced Environment." Finally, there was a name and description for what we were doing. The CHARGE recovery-centered environment is a setting where peers and people in recovery can connect. In my conversations with Dr. Ridgway, she stressed the importance of keeping the very thought of treatment out of our program. Treatment happens when we work with staff during early stages of the healing process. Recovery is a very personal journey where we begin to take charge of our own lives. No one can dispute the healing powers of a peer-run, recovery-centered environment.

Human Characteristics in Recovery
About 75 percent of adults who have a mental illness experienced its onset before their teenage years. Instead of learning life lessons during that crucial time of development, many of us were dealing with our disease. Valuable lessons such as making complex decisions, setting priorities, forming strategies, organizing plans, and building relationships are learned in adolescence. The lack of these traits can often be mistaken as illness-related in clinical settings. Thus, it is imperative that when a person has reached the fourth and fifth stages of recovery, he or she is exposed to growth-centered environments before considering an independent life in society. It is at this juncture that very basic human characteristics come into play.

How CHARGE Works
The human psyche enables people to adapt to almost any situation, regardless of how bleak things may seem. Prior to treatment, many of us built our lives around hopelessness. In some ways, hopelessness can become a comfort zone. We know how it feels when someone encourages us to leave that comfort zone only to discover that what was promised was only an attempt to make the program seem as if it truly had our best interests at heart. CHARGE is not an arts program, but a very simple, honest collective of folks sharing their recovery experiences with people contemplating treatment and striving for independence. Thanks to the efforts of Michigan's Department of Community Health, the State is in an ideal position to be a national model of what a recovery-centered State should look like.

We work closely with the Michigan Recovery Council, Michigan Disabilities Rights Coalition, various centers for mental health, and many community-based organizations. There are clear differences between clinical and recovery-centered environments, and peers have a true understanding of the healing process, having walked in the shoes of those seeking recovery. Peer specialists and staff must have a mutual respect for each other's values, working as a team to ensure consumers get the best of both in their recovery journeys.

Gerald Butler, founder and director of CHARGE, is a Certified Peer Specialist and the 2007 Michigan Department of Community Health "Person of Interest" Award recipient. Contact him at

Trauma-Informed Care Webinar Less Than 2 Weeks Away
This session will help practitioners determine when and how extensively traumatic experiences have affected people with behavioral health conditions and how to incorporate that knowledge into their care-planning approach. In a comprehensive discussion on trauma-informed care, presenters will describe a range of supports, implementation tools, and interventions to address the role of trauma in recovery.

January 25, 2012

3–4:30 p.m. EST

Three multidisciplinary practitioners will share their perspectives on the differences between trauma-informed systems and other systems of care, including how trauma-informed assessment incorporates approaches to ensure safety, meet the consumer's needs, and avoid interventions that could recreate aspects of previous traumatic experiences. Presenters include practitioner Kevin Huckshorn, RN, MSN, who will talk about assessing trauma in an outpatient setting; Paula Panzer, MD, a recovery-oriented practitioner who will address trauma-informed care planning; and Eric Arauz, MLER, a member of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association RTP Steering and Curriculum Committees, who will discuss interventions and supports that have helped facilitate his recovery from personally traumatic experiences.

To register, click here.

NEW! RTP Resource
Framework for Recovery-Oriented Practice
In the paradigm of mental health treatment, the concept of recovery refers to a personal experience, process, or journey defined by the individual. While recovery is unique to each person, mental health services have a role in creating an environment that supports individual recovery efforts. To this end, the Framework for Recovery-Oriented Practice explicitly identifies the principles, skills, and practices that should underpin the work of mental and behavioral health professionals. The framework provides broad guidance to practitioners and service leaders, spanning different treatment settings. It was designed to complement existing professional standards and competency frameworks. The Framework was published by the Mental Health, Drugs and Regions Division of the Victorian Government Department of Health in Melbourne, Victoria.

Read about the Framework.

RTP in the News
In the January 2012 issue of the American Psychological Association's (APA's) Monitor on Psychology, a description of the RTP project highlighted the value of recovery-oriented practice for psychologists. The article begins with a personal account from Peter Ashenden, a member of the APA Recovery Advisory Committee that oversees development of the forthcoming curriculum.

Peter was determined not to let severe depression keep him from earning a college degree and securing a job. But the clinical staff at the day facility where he received treatment in the 1980s had a different idea—a sheltered workshop for people with disabilities. "The workshop was putting caps on lipstick tubes for six hours a day," remembers Peter, who now directs consumer and family affairs at the insurance company OptumHealth.

For Peter, it was a perfect example of what happens when a mental health system hasn't embraced the idea that people can recover from mental illnesses. Now part of an APA team devoted to Recovery to Practice, he is working to ensure psychologists get the training they need to help people with mental health conditions live meaningful lives in the community.

To read the article, click here.

Changes to the Recovery Month Web Site
The Recovery Month Web site has a brand new look.

If you are in recovery or seeking recovery resources for someone close to you, an entire section of tools and resources is available. Information related to Recovery Month can still be found—under new sections organized by activity, interest, and need.

Do you want to spread the word about a community event promoting recovery? A special "Event Planning" section will help you get started. There is also helpful information about national hotlines, multimedia products, and SAMHSA's Toolkit, a great way to find educational materials for your community.

Click here to explore the SAMHSA Recovery Month Web Site.

Recovery Beats the Demons
For years, people have linked the onset of major mental illness to an inevitable and irreversible downward spiral. But the Recovery Movement, a social shift towards empowerment and self-determination, challenges this notion at its core, asserting that even the most serious mental illnesses can be overcome.

To many this sounds impossible, particularly because recovery model tenets contradict typical approaches to treatment. Instead of concentrating solely on symptoms, recovery focuses on the person behind the symptoms. Where clinical care often emphasizes medication, recovery incorporates a patient's hopes, dreams, and creative interests. At the heart of the recovery model is the process of social interaction—psychosocial rehabilitation—a major component of this school of thought.

Read how one man shattered stereotypes of mental illness in his attempt to recover from schizophrenia.

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 practice.
The RTP Resource Center Wants to Hear From You, Too!
We invite you to submit personal stories that describe recovery experiences. To submit stories or
other recovery resources, please contact Cheryl Tutt, 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

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 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.