The Wisconsin Days – Part Six

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…


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

The Wisconsin Days – Part Five

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…


The Wisconsin Days – Part Four

We were focusing on finding our footing and settling into our new life in San Francisco when, very shortly after the move, I was contacted by the Bureau of Mental Health in WI and was asked if I would write the manual on recovery that I had mentioned at the Q&A that day. This was simultaneously a huge surprise, a massive honor and an incredibly overwhelming idea. We were very passionate about all of our work with Health Action Network, but we never anticipated it being as consuming as it had become. I was very conflicted by the invitation to continue down this path as the word/concept/program/materials of Procovery were never part of the mission of HAN, and I was really looking forward to returning to our original mission and focus.

In all honesty, I’d never actually considered or anticipated taking on the writing of the manual when I suggested it. I think people have the ability to be far more ambitious and visionary, and tend to feel comfortable to think on a larger scale, when they won’t be the one doing the actual work, which was certainly the case here. I saw this as a great idea for someone else to execute.

I took a bit of time to think about the possibility of taking this on and I finally came around to seeing this as an extraordinary opportunity to make meaningful systems change, which was the entire basis for all of the work I’d been committing myself to. This became an idea that I just could not walk away from and I finally agreed to create the manual.

Not only did I not think all of the specifics through, I truly had no way of knowing at the time what the specifics would be, how I would approach this project, and ultimately, how profoundly challenging I would find the experience of turning this Q&A response into a reality.


Please check back for The Wisconsin Days – Part Five!

Until next time,


The Wisconsin Days – Part Three

Our personal life was thriving and so was our work through Health Action Network, but while our family loved Wisconsin and the amazing people we’d come to know, we were all a bit homesick. Shortly after the Wisconsin Blue Ribbon Commission on Mental Health Final Report was published, we relocated back to our home state of California, this time to San Francisco.

Prior to the move, I was asked to give a talk at an event for the Bureau of Mental Health in WI, and during the Q&A session after the talk, I was asked what I felt would be the recommended next step in recovery implementation in the public mental health system. I replied that I felt a shared manual on recovery was needed, one that crossed stakeholder groups and applied to consumers and loved ones and staff. While it was a short response to the question, it was a BIG idea and I knew that.

The response to my answer is something I will always remember, as the idea was, ever so clearly, NOT well received by those in attendance and many, many (understandable) objections were voiced. I made it clear that while I did understand and appreciate the objections, I remained steadfast that if we were to share a common concept, and vision and objective,we ought to be able to share one common book. It seemed simple and straightforward, but I was careful to make it clear that it was my belief, my opinion and my response to one question at one Q&A session after one talk.


Please check back in a couple of days for The Wisconsin Days – Part Four!

Until then,


The Wisconsin Days – Part Two

Shortly after the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal article was published (in which I first used the word Procovery), I was asked to give a keynote speech and lead a workshop on the concept of Procovery at the NYAPRS annual conference in New York. As I previously mentioned, there was no Procovery concept. It was simply a word created out of necessity, to assist in conveying a much larger point. But, I was intrigued by the idea of a broader scope and put some thought into whether or not a concept, based on a word I made up, was even possible. I ended up investing a large amount of time into the development of an initial overview of a concept that aligned with the word, and was surprised by how big it was becoming. It was like opening a door to a room no one knew existed and then no one is sure how it was missed for so long.

After the conference, I had the privilege of being invited to join the Wisconsin Blue Ribbon Commission on Mental Health and was subsequently asked by Sinikka McCabe (now Santala), the Director of the Bureau of Mental Health at the time, to write an article on the Concept of Recovery for the Final Report of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Mental Health. Below are a couple of excerpts from that Final Report from April 1997.


3. The focus of a recovery-oriented mental health system makes financial and therapeutic sense

How can we possibly afford to offer the resources necessary for individuals with a chronic illness to recover? In truth, at a time when cost control is critical, how can we not? Recovery is an everybody wins scenario. In a recovery-oriented system, mental health consumers rebuild meaningful lives while decreasing their dependence on the system. From both a therapeutic standpoint as well as an economic standpoint there should be little confusion in this regard. Rather than creating long term users of a system that fosters dependence, individuals will receive services that will enable them to recover and decrease their dependence on the system.


5. Summary

Recovery must not be used as a buzz word for cutting critical services. Such cutting will only increase the long term usage and and costs of the mental health system. Rather, it must be recognized that (1) as with chronic physical health issues, treatment requires the availability of an effective complement of “medical” and “rehabilitative” services and (2) all services must be delivered in a new manner with a focus on the basic principles of recovery.

In essence, the elements critical to bringing about recovery on a large scale are not costly or complex. Teilhard de Chardin said, “The focus is not to do remarkable things but to do ordinary things with the conviction of their immense importance. ” Mental health consumers want what everybody else wants. They want a home and loved ones, and to continue to grow as they age. They want their lives to have meaning. They do not want to die, never having lived.

A recovery-oriented mental health system moves beyond the focus of surviving and develops the focus on thriving. A mental health system must adopt a recovery-oriented delivery of services. It cannot afford to do otherwise, therapeutically, economically or societally.

As a reminder, these pieces of writing are from twenty-one years ago, yet still apply today.

Check back for the continued overview* of the evolution of Procovery. Next up, The Wisconsin Days – Part Three!


Until then,


*This blog series is quite a brief overview, with much left out for consideration of the reader’s time and patience.

The Wisconsin Days

To rewind a bit, it was the year 1996 and we were living and working in Wisconsin. My (late) husband, Randy Stratt, and I founded an all volunteer 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, Health Action Network, which was dedicated to informing, empowering and inspiring individuals to become more involved in their health care. By providing community forums, surveying people across the state, holding town hall meetings, providing educational workshops, publishing a newsletter and spending countless hours (which turned to weeks and then to months and beyond) advocating for people to ask questions, seek second (and third and fourth) opinions and place real focus on choices regarding medications and treatment, we diligently sought to inform, empower and inspire people to become more involved in their health care, and to become active participants rather than passive recipients.

Health Action Network’s work wasn’t specific to mental health care – that integration and focus would come later. At the time, though, I was writing an article for Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal and struggling to find a word that conveyed what I was attempting to address in the article. Frankly, I was stumped. Nothing worked or even really meant what I needed a word to mean. It was an incredibly strange place to be as a writer, needing a word that didn’t exist yet. Procovery came to me in a brainstorming session and I finally settled on it, not feeling that I had many other options. Procovery, a word that meant absolutely nothing to anyone as it wasn’t even a word at all, resonated with me enough to move forward, at least for the writing of the article. I thought it might end up being a space-filler, a stand-in, that would help me illustrate my point. It wasn’t anything beyond the word at the time, but what would come, the development of the concept and all that followed, were not something I could have fathomed.

Below is an excerpt from that article, What is Possible in Psychiatry: Five Psychiatric Steps That Mattered, published in the Spring 1996 edition of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal (Volume 19 Number 4), containing the first use of the word, Procovery, that would come to change the course of my life’s work.

As William Anthony (1993) describes, “Recovery involves the development of new meaning and purposes in one’s life as one grows beyond the catastrophic effects of mental illness.” It may be that the general meaning of the word recovery stands in the way of this powerful concept; perhaps a new word such as procovery might be adopted to refer to the recovery of a productive life regardless of the level of health attainable.


Thank you, all, for taking this look into the early days with me. Stay tuned for The Wisconsin Days – Part Two!


Until next time,


New Blog Series

Procovery Institute has been very quietly, and for the most part behind the scenes, testing, revising, updating and improving the Procovery program for over twenty years now – you could say we’ve been taking the slow and steady approach to program creation and implementation, but it honestly hasn’t always been steady.

Despite strong interest in the program from the very beginning, we have always been firmly committed to ensuring fidelity, above all, before we could offer the program to a far broader population. Toward this end, we have some exciting things planned this year but, first, we are going to offer a bird’s eye view of the last 20 years in this new series of blogs, taking you back to where it all started, how it all started and the ever-changing path that provided many challenges, many rewards and profound outcomes.

Please check back for our next blog, the first step inside our journey.

Until then,

Procovery Institute

Instructions for Living a Life

Instructions for living a life
Pay attention
Be astonished
Tell about it

 -Mary Oliver


Happy Friday, Procovery Community! We hope you live a lot of life this weekend!

Upcoming Opportunity – LA County

Happy Spring to our cherished Procovery community. We have an upcoming opportunity, specific to Los Angeles, which we very much look forward to sharing with you in the coming weeks!


It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.

-Rainer Maria Rilke

Gathering Support at Exodus Wellness!

Kathleen Crowley, Executive Director, and Acasia Stratt, Director of Operations at Procovery Institute were honored to present our Gathering Support workshop to a packed room at Exodus Wellness on Vermont, last Thursday.  

Pollyanne Hornbeck entered our Art of Moving Forward workshop contest earlier this year and, along with Gail Sulser at San Pedro Mental Health and John Czernek at Long Beach Mental Health, won a workshop at her site. Pollyanne recruited widely for the workshop, and generously hosted guests not only from Exodus, but South Bay and Long Beach and other agencies in Los Angeles.

Gary Gougis, a licensed Procovery Circle Facilitator from South Bay Wellness Center, was a special guest. Gary facilitated the original Procovery Circle at Exodus more than 7 years ago (!!!) and worked with Procovery Institute to get Pollyanne licensed and authorized to facilitate the Procovery Circle on her own.

Here’s what Pollyanne and Gary shared with us after the workshop:

“Being a big Procovery fan, and running a Circle at my center for over 7 years, it was wonderful to be chosen to host a Procovery Workshop. The idea of having Kathleen Crowley run a workshop at our center was cause to celebrate! Our clients love the sage advice, the can do attitude of the book and the structure of the Procovery Circle. For the clients to meet the author of a book they are so familiar with was exciting but even more engaging is to learn firsthand stories of her life so that the author becomes a real person just like you or me. It was fun to plan the event and get other agencies on board — our turnout was great, and our community always fabulous. I felt supported and cherished at the event. To learn more about how Procovery came about was interesting and educational. Everyone should have an opportunity like this.”

-Pollyanne Hornbeck, Peer Development Coordinator

“I had such a wonderful experience at Procovery Institute’s Gathering Support workshop at Exodus. Procovery never fails me! To see the happiness and enthusiasm for Procovery, from so many consumers and family members and staff, just brings an overwhelming sense of joy to my heart. And to see Acasia and Kathleen so, so, so happy and enjoying what they do over and over and over again — Procovery really enriches everyone. Thank you guys for including me and inviting me to participate and please believe me, I left there with another sense of awe about the amazing POWER of Procovery.”

-Gary Gougis, Senior Community Worker

Gathering Support is one of dozens of workshops Procovery Institute provides. Gathering Support can be a hugely beneficial component of healing, but can also be profoundly complicated for many reasons. In the workshop, we discussed some of the challenges associated with support.

  • It can be hard to ask for support because the person might say no.
  • You might not want to accept support, because you want to do everything on your own. You don’t want to need anyone else.
  • You might not know HOW to ask for help.
  • You might not know WHO to ask for help.
  • You might not know WHAT to ask for. The healing process can be so overwhelming that identifying something someone can do can, in itself, be overwhelming.
  • You can be afraid you are asking too much.
  • You can be afraid you will burn out supporters.
  • You can assume that just because people love you, they should be able to both know and provide what you need. But people can not give you, what they do not have and/or what they do to know you need.
  • Sometimes the people we anticipate will support us in a time of need, don’t. And that can hurt and can be devastating. But at the same time, often completely unexpected people come forward to support us, and that is an incredibly beautiful surprise.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on support and how to gather it — feel free to comment!

The Gathering Support workshop was filled with many individuals, one of whom was Dr. Philip Valdez. Phil is the new Program Director at Exodus Wellness and he was able to take the time to join our workshop, participate and let us know his thoughts after the workshop.

“On August 25th, 2016 Exodus Recovery Inc. had the pleasure of a visit from the author of The Procovery of Procovery. I am the new Program Director at our Wellness Center here in South Central Los Angeles. It’s always a pleasure to have great presentations. One of our staff members, Pollyanne Hornbeck, has been facilitating a Procovery Circle ever since I’ve been here at the Wellness Center. It was a special delight to have this presentation at our site.

I was impressed by Kathleen Crowley and the personal story that she shared, so freely, with a room full of people. I was also impressed with the organization of the event. Kathleen and Acasia Stratt (Director of Operations at Procovery Institute) were very professional and they were quite timely; starting on time and ending on time. One of the things I heard is that there are only two Procovery Circles licensed to facilitate Procovery in Los Angeles. I believe a lot of people can benefit greatly from this book and the theory behind it. My hope as Program Director is that I can share this with other directors and have more and more Procovery licensed facilitators at all of our sites for Exodus.

The field of mental health has always been a great challenge. As a Doctor of Clinical Psychology, I’ve found that human beings still do not completely understand mental illness, even though it’s been around for a very long time. Anytime I see something new or different it warms my heart. We don’t have the answers. Anyone who says we do is fooling themselves or trying to fool someone else. It’s brave for someone like Kathleen Crowley to talk about herself and then to write a great book with great ideas in it like The Power of Procovery. I truly believe this program can save people’s lives and put them on a good track in life. Give it a read! Get licensed to facilitate these groups! Change people’s lives.”

Lastly, we wanted to take a moment to touch on something really close to our hearts. Our experience at Exodus touched us deeply. At Procovery Institute, we often seek to inspire all of you, to let you know that we appreciate you, encourage you to take a moment and remember why you do what you do, and to remember how you have the opportunity to change lives every single day... But, last Thursday at Exodus, it was all of you who did that for us. We could not be more appreciative for the experience and we wanted extend our gratitude and say thank you to all.

Until next time… and with profound appreciation. Always.

Procovery Institute

“Even if you could do it all by yourself, why would you want to?” 
– Lee Jones, MD