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The Wisconsin Days – Part Six

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After The Power of Procovery was published in 2000, I began receiving requests for a guide to be written about implementing Procovery support groups. The need for a guide like this made perfect sense and seemed like it would be a huge complement to the manual, but I truly had no interest in doing this at the time. I was still working on a 100% volunteer basis and strongly planning to refocus on Health Action Network’s original mission, and this felt like an extension of work I thought was put to rest when The Power of Procovery was published. It’s very interesting that we sometimes cannot see that what seems like a door closing is actually a door opening.

After much thought, I finally agreed to move forward with the guide, as I had with the manual, and decided that I would approach it in the same manner as that project. I interviewed people who identified as having benefited from support groups throughout their healing process. I wanted to determine specifically what their experience had been with support groups along the way, including the negative, neutral and positive experiences. While we largely wanted to determine what had worked, we also wanted to remain aware of the commonality between what didn’t and why.

The process was, once again, far more complicated and challenging than I could have anticipated going into it. Again, synthesizing the seemingly diverse opinions and thoughts, that seemed entirely at odds with each other, seemed impossible. As had been the case while writing the manual, with my husband Randy’s immense help, I was able to identify the underlying patterns and find core elements to what people felt had helped, hurt and everything in between.

In 2001, I published Starting a Procovery Circle: Just Start Anywhere, the first in a series of guides*, and I began the process of speaking about and training on Procovery Circles in Wisconsin. I look back and am simultaneously surprised by just how much has happened over the last 17 years and also find myself wondering how it all went by so quickly. It’s been really wonderful to experience this journey in a different way, through the writing of this blog series.

While these blogs could go on forever, the point of this series was to merely crack open a door so that some of the behind the scenes breakthroughs, roadblocks and successes, could be shared. This concludes The Wisconsin Days. Next up in the series: The Los Angeles Days. We hope you’ll stay tuned!

Until then…

Kathleen

*While these guides are no longer available or in-print, this will be touched on during The Missouri Days part of the series.
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The Wisconsin Days – Part Five

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In order to write the manual on recovery, I decided that what I needed to do was interview people who had healed, often seemingly despite all odds, so I could better understand what they attributed their healing to. I then would need to talk to loved ones and staff, to gain their perspective. This, in itself, was a huge undertaking, but the most difficult time came after I completed these thousands of interviews. I was dumbfounded to find that there was seemingly no commonality — not just between the 3 stakeholder groups, but within them. There really did appear to be just as many paths to healing as there were to illness and it felt, for a time, as though every single person would need their own completely innovative and targeted plan for healing. While the idea of completely individual, tailored and targeted healing plans seems ideal, it also would mean that recovery would be impossible to implement systemically.

But, fortunately, with the help of my patient and dedicated husband, who by that point had taken a very demanding job outside of his contribution to Health Action Network, a commonality began to emerge from the thousands of index cards that were, by then, lining the rooms of our home in San Francisco. Each index card ended up being a crucial piece of the puzzle, but when you don’t see the picture of the puzzle before attempting to put it together, it can feel like an impossible task with endless possibilities. Ultimately, 8 principles (attitudinal) and 12 strategies (skills) emerged as the pattern and I spent day after day and night after night, turning this beautiful and complicated puzzle into book form.

The manual that felt absolutely impossible to write was published in the year 2000 as The Power of Procovery in Healing Mental Illness: Just Start Anywhere.

Please check back for Part Six, the final piece of the The Wisconsin Days series, soon!

Until then…

Kathleen