Vermont Recovery Education Project

History

In August of 1995, the Commissioner of the Department of Developmental and Mental Health Services (DDMHS) established a programmatic priority for the development of recovery-oriented services in the adult mental health service system. One of the major strategies of this programmatic priority was the establishment of a Recovery Education Project. After one year of piloting recovery education activities, Vermont Psychiatric Survivors (VPS), with the assistance of DDMHS, received a generous grant from the Henry van Ameringen Foundation to implement the Vermont Recovery Education Project from July 1st, 1997 to June 30th, 1999. This document summarizes the major activities and results of an evaluation of the Vermont Recovery Education Project.

Introduction

For the Vermont Recovery Education Project, recovery has meant finding hope, developing a personal understanding of the experience of mental illness in one's life, and developing the skills and knowledge to support one's own wellness, and, in some cases, full recovery. Over the past two-and-a-half years, the Vermont Recovery Education Project has designed and implemented a program to teach recovery skills and practices to citizens with psychiatric disabilities, their family members, and professional support providers. Using three educational formats (Recovery Education Cycles, Recovery Education Events, and Training of Recovery Educators), this project has provided a statewide focus on hope, personal responsibility, self-advocacy, education and support.

Designed by Mary Ellen Copeland in coordination with other people who have experienced psychiatric symptoms as well as health care professionals and related organizations, the educational program has maintained two objectives:

To teach individuals who experience psychiatric symptoms, their family members, supporters and health care professionals how to reduce or eliminate psychiatric symptoms safely, simply, and effectively on a daily basis, and how to get well and stay well. These skills are taught complementary to, and not exclusive of, other treatments, including medication and rehabilitation supports.

To teach peers (others who have experienced mental illness) who have attended a Recovery Education Cycle to become "Recovery Educators" using a variety of formats to network and teach recovery skills intensively to people in their region using a variety of formats.

 

Recovery Education Cycles

Each Recovery Education Cycle involved forty hours of training using a curriculum developed by Mary Ellen Copeland. Between fifteen and twenty consumers (individuals with psychiatric disabilities), family members, community members, and mental health staff participated as learners in each cycle. Typically, two Recovery Educators taught each cycle: one individual with a psychiatric disability and one community mental health staff member. In some instances the community mental health staff was also someone who had experienced mental illness. The forty hours of class were structured in various blocks of time. For instance, some cycles were two hours a week for twenty weeks or one six-hour day per week for seven weeks, or even one hour a week for forty weeks. The various formats were developed based on the preferences of attendees and the educators, as well as feedback from previous participants.

Each cycle covered the following topics: essential recovery concepts such as hope, responsibility, self advocacy, education and support; medical care and health management; how to develop and use various support systems; developing a healthy lifestyle; suicide prevention; beginning steps to dealing with trauma; and the development of a personal Wellness Recovery Action Plan, or WRAP. The WRAP, developed by Mary Ellen Copeland as a component of the Recovery Cycle, is a personal monitoring system in which an individual documents techniques and strategies for reducing symptoms as well as for ongoing management and prevention of symptoms. Components of the WRAP include:

  • a plan for daily maintenance
  • identification of situations that trigger symptoms and strategies to address these
  • identification of early warning signs and what to do when they appear
  • a plan for how to deal with pre-crisis and crisis situations.

Participants received a WRAP workbook at the start of each cycle and were encouraged to complete sections of the workbook during the cycle.