This is part one of a series.
Be sure to listen to Podcast below named “Samantha’s Song”
There is strong research pointing to the effectiveness of meaningful activity, employment and social involvement inthe recovery process of people with mental health challenges,and these aspects can be addressed and fostered within the Home-based services at Windhorse Community Services (WCS)as part of the Recovery Plan. In recent years, and in response to the wishes of families and clients, Community Programs (CP) was created to offer structured programs that enhance social opportunities amongst the Windhorse larger community and provide more formalized supported employment and educational services. Community Programs, with its philosophy and practices evolving from Psychiatric Rehabilitation, was initially seen as a deviation from the traditional Home-based services at the core of the Windhorse Model of treatment. In exploring the relationship between Home-based services and CP,one gains a deeper understanding and appreciation of the similarities in their theoretical foundations within their diverse therapeutic environments and approaches (see Diagram #2) . Over the years, CP has evolved into a hybrid, more fluid program, fusing together elements of Psychiatric Rehabilitation (PR), the Windhorse therapeutic approach—which has its foundations in the research and writings of Dr. Ed Podvoll and Chogyam Trungpa—and the personal supportive counseling styles of each CP staff member.
Community Programs and Windhorse – Written by JoAnn Dorio Burton, CPRP
The core belief at WCS is that basic sanity is intrinsic and that windhorse(energy in the body and mind that can be aroused in the service of healing an illness or depression,RS pg 224) is an expression of this basic sanity in action. The WCS approach is created/intended as a Home-based treatment modality in which the skills of Basic Attendance are employed by trained staff to (1) overcome the obstacles to recognizing moments of recovery,(2) foster their appearance,and (3) relate to them thoroughly when they do occur, thus arousing windhorse(RS pgs.267).
The WCS approach is unique in treating individuals with mental health challenges by primarily engaging in positive and consistent relationships through the synchronization of body, mind and environment. One canwork with one’s mind to reclaim sanity and bring forth movement/energy (windhorse) towards fulfilling life goals. This core belief and treatment philosophy is woven into the philosophy of CP, which promotes the idea that recovery is possible. CP staff can observe and call upon a person’s strengths and inner wisdom at any point in the recovery process,thus reinforcing the belief in basic sanity that exists in everyone regardless of their experiences.
Many of the skills of Basic Attendance (Being Present, Letting In, Bringing Home, Letting Be, Bringing Along, Recognizing, Finding Energy, Leaning In, Discovering Friendship andLearning, RS 267 to 279) are also practiced within CP through individual and group work outside of the home. Thus,the treatment is similar in both settings, in one’s home or in the community,with the skills of Basic Attendance at the core. The activities offered in CP can become the vehicle where positive relationships are formed; body/mind and environment are synchronized; recovery moments can be recognized and fostered; and windhorsecan be aroused. Activities and services available through CP can also be viewed for some individuals as a necessary and important stepping stone towards achieving one’s living, learning, social and employment aspirations.
At the heart of the Windhorse approach is the practice of mindfulness. All staff are required to maintain a contemplative practice throughout their tenure at Windhorse Community Services. Mindfulness-awareness sitting meditation is the most commonly used practice amongst staff, although other practices such as yoga, tai chi, and contemplative prayer are also valued. Theability to work with one’s own mind is enhanced through a mindfulness practice,and staff have a lived experience of the approach. Similar to training in other therapeutic endeavors, WCS staff gain first-hand knowledge, skills and experience in working with their own mind that can validate and enhance the work. Staff are able to discover their own moments of clarity and sanity. They can then recognize moments of clarity and sanity within their clients and become an expression or model for living mindfully in the present moment. A person who is mindful and present in the moment will impact any environment,including the people in that environment in a subtle but therapeutic way. This expression of mindfulness can be the impetus that calls forth from the client the desire for mindfulness and basic sanity. Finally, by maintaining a contemplative practice, staff will embody the work and can be present to whatever arises in themselves or their clients. This can be very helpful when dealing with individuals who experience extreme states of mind.
Marks of Sanity
The similarity between Home-based treatment and CP becomes more evident when reviewing what Dr. Podvoll identifies as the Marks of Sanity: the six trademarks or signs of the recovery process (Repulsion, Longing to Transcend, Urge for Discipline, Compassion, Environment of Clarity, and Courage,RS pgs 358-371). An additional sign of recovery is Sense of Humor.Just as clients are observed to move through the recovery process within the Home-based treatment setting, CP staff are trained to recognize and foster the recovery process as clients start to become involved in activities, classes or employment services.
The use of the word “participants” refers to all community members who are involved in CP—clients, staff, interns, family members. Mutual recovery can be experienced by all participants,and the relationships developed through CP are akin to that of a friend, peer or colleague rather than professionals to their clients.
Repulsion: As participants interact with other participants in CP and witness individuals taking risks and moving forward in their recovery,the idea that things can be different starts to germinate. Participants start to feel the repulsion towards their predicament/situation and report that they are “sick of being sick.”
Longing to Transcend the Sense of Self: All activities can become a mindfulness practice and a way to begin working with one’s mind. Participants “engrossed in activity” start to see a way beyond the narrow and limiting constructs of their mental processes. CP involvement gives participants an opportunity to step outside themselves and discover strengths, interests, abilities that may have been deemed lost. The sense that maybe there is more beyond the centric self starts to develop and take root. Participants can start to experience themselves in different roles (job seeker, friend, student) rather than as a “client” or as a “disabled” person.
Urge for Discipline: Participants naturally progress towards a desire to develop discipline in their lives,and CP gives them an opportunity to engage in structured, routine activities where a sense of commitment and responsibility to a larger cause can take hold and grow.
Compassion: The relationships that develop between participants in CP are grounded in respect, kindness, acceptance, hope, and the belief in self-determination and empowerment. As participants begin to feel that they can “come as they are,” a sense of appreciation and compassion naturally arises for themselves and others. Interactions amongst participants can foster a sense of benefit to others and develop a feeling of worthiness.
Environment of Clarity: CP provides the opportunities for synchronization of body and mind through involvement in the various activities and services. Active involvement in CP demands that a person stay present, in the moment, and engaged. Participants can witness the workings of their mind when they lose their attention and get lost in their internal experience. Moments of basic sanity are also observed and strengthened,and participants begin to understand that they have choices that can promote recovery.
Courage: It takes courage to step into CP, meet new people, try different experiences, and put oneself out into the world. As participants continue to engage in CP and take risks, courage and self-efficacy is built and strengthened. With courage and the feeling of self-efficacy, participants can move beyond any fear and/or anxiety that may arise when the possibility of recovery begins to take hold. The stage is set for participants to begin to reclaim their lives again.
Sense of Humor: As participants become involved in CP,they naturally become more relaxed and light hearted. Coming as you are, feeling accepted, being playful, having fun and laughing together creates lasting memories and deepens relationships. Isn’t this what life is all about?
The intent of this paper was to explore the relationship between Home-Based services and Community Programs at WCS,with the hope of gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation of the similarities in their theoretical foundations within their diverse therapeutic environments and approaches. It became obvious to this author that regardless of the different treatment modalities offered through Home-based services or CP ( BA Shifts, individual psychotherapy, group work via activities and classes, employment counseling),the fundamental treatment philosophy is the same. All WCS staff, whether involved in Home-based services or CP, are expected to develop and maintain a contemplative practice as a way to work with their own minds. It is critical that staff recognize their own agendas, issues of countertransference,and exchange when working with clients,regardless of the treatment modality.
Finally, as an alternative to the supports and community integration that Home-Based services offer, CP can be viewed as an adjunct but important stepping stone that allows clients to move forward beyond their Home-based teams in a structured, supported manner (see Diagram #3). Clients begin to experience the elements of recovery through involvement in their Home-based teams. As they ground/align themselves towards basic sanity,a shift in focus from inner preoccupation to the outer world begins. Clients express their desire to connect in with others and the larger world via employment, school, and meaningful activity. CP becomes the arena where that longing can be manifested. The goals of recovery and community integration are the same regardless of treatment modality (see Diagram #1).
JoAnn has over 30 years experience supporting people with mental health challenges. Her specialty is in Employment Services and Recovery Education. She has several papers and editorials published in the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal and has presented at many national conferences. She considers herself to be an educator, trainer, counselor, coach and advocate. JoAnn is passionate about her work and tries to infuse her sense of humor in everything she does.
Tim graduated with an MA in Contemplative Psychotherapy from Naropa University. He has been a part of the Windhorse community for over 6 years. He serves as Team Leader and is grateful to be a part of such an uplifted therapeutic community.
Samantha is a poet and fiction writer whose work has appeared in magazines such as Conjunctions, DIAGRAM, Black Warrior Review, and Puerto del Sol. Her work was nominated for the Best New Poets anthology and she is the recipient of the Frances Locke Memorial Poetry Award.