RTP Workshops are designed and implemented by Peer Mentors, often with the guidance and/or participation of clinicians. People who have suffered from substance abuse and/or mental illness often encounter difficulties when transitioning out of clinical care. These workshops are designed to help the patient reconnect with the community. Participants are asked for feedback, which leads to evaluation and improvement of the workshop. These workshops are offered to all patients within the Mental Health Mission, not just those who are being mentored.
Bloom Where You're Planted
People don’t want to just overcome severe problems, they want rewarding lives. Clients will be taught tenets and skills aimed at helping them identify, pursue and fulfill their most cherished needs, goals and wishes in valued areas of life.
One of the goals of this workshop will be to help foster optimism. Many studies have been done on optimism. One study, for example, looked at optimism and coping behaviour (Carver, Sheier & Weintraub, 1989). Results show that optimists tend to be problem-focused and plan-oriented. They tend to accept the reality of stressful events, try to see the best in bad situations and they try to learn something from them. Regarding the “Count your Blessings” part of the workshop: Several studies have shown a strong positive link between gratitude journaling and well-being (for one, see Emmons, R.A. & McCullough, M.E., 2003).
The topic and focus of the workshop will be: examining our strengths, values and what is meaningful to us and staying optimistic despite any challenges.
Goals of sessions:
- Increase a sense of contentment and happiness.
- Realize and accept responsibility for one’s own happiness
- Acknowledge client’s strengths
- Explore client’s values
At the first and last session of the workshop, clients will be asked to fill out a simple questionnaire (Fordyce Emotions Questionnaire). This will help in evaluating the effectiveness of the workshops’ main objective: increasing satisfaction and happiness.
Number of sessions:
Six sessions would be ideal.
Session one: Complete questionnaire. Choose your most important values from a list of 50 common values. Examine seven common sources of meaning and identify with areas that are most relevant.
Session two: Workshop “closed door-open door.” Explore times when the client overcame obstacles in the past.
Session three: Discuss the benefits of being optimistic and grateful. Start a gratitude journal.
Session four: Review gratitude journal and discuss writing a thank you letter to someone who has been helpful in the past.
Session five: Goal setting and pleasure seeking. Write out short and long-term goals and steps to achieve them. Discuss finding some pleasurable goals that will increase positive emotions. Discuss client’s responsibility to create increased happiness for their lives.
Session six: Write out road signs to happiness on index cards. Complete questionnaire. Discussion on the workshop.
Intended peer participants:
GEH clients with sustained abstinence nearing discharge.
Kindergarten 2.0 ...... Rediscovering how to have Fun in the Moment
Most people can agree that Kindergarten offers some of the best opportunities to experiment with creativity and to experience joy. Much of that has to do with its lack of formal structure and competitive expectations. The challenge is never to create a “masterpiece” but rather to try new things and have fun while you do. The process is more important than the product.
The workshops will consist of separate workstations equipped with various materials and there will be music playing in the background. Participants will be encouraged to spend as much or as little time as they want in each workstation. These stations would include such activities as finger painting, shaping clay, building structures with paper, toothpicks, clay, etc. The emphasis would be on freeing the imagination from the limitations of time constraints and performance expectations. The emphasis would be on enjoying the tactile pleasure and the thrill of creative engagement. Mixing media, drawing blind-folded, painting with the “wrong” hand, cutting out each other’s paintings and creating a group collage are a few examples of ideas.
Snacks would be available. Power naps would also be allowed.
Objective/Goal(s) of session:
The experiences will show that setting aside time for open-ended, fun activities is an important habit to acquire before a peer has completely transitioned. It’s a healthy habit that decreases stress. It can fill in empty time slots, in the case where the peer has a lot of extra time, and it should continue to have its own time slot when a peer is becoming busier and busier.
By learning that the joy of “doing” is at least as important as the accomplishment of finishing, the peer feels free at the moment to explore new things. Trying new things is an important component of self-care. It is a vital habit worth pursuing as it can help the peer find new passions or rediscover old ones. It can also lead to new social connections in the neighbourhood. There will be a bulletin board of suggested creative Montreal activities to try, e.g. Art Hives/Tam-tam Meet-ups/cooking lessons/guitar lessons/woodworking class/ceramic workshop/blacksmith workshop, etc.
Number of sessions: 3
Intended audience: This would be good for both AMI and GEH peers.
What’s Next? Rediscovering our Sober Selves
This workshop encourages participants to explore who they are now and what they need to move forward in recovery. It focusses on setting goals, redefining one’s self, and finding joy and passion in life.
Session 1: Where am I? (There’s a Hole in my Sidewalk)
Session 2: Who am I? (with handouts)
Session 3: What do I want? (handouts i.e. Finding my Passion)
Session 4: How do I get there? (Introduce SMART goals)
Sessions 5 & 6: Review and discuss SMART goals
Goal of session:
For participants to make important self-discoveries, to feel that they are acquiring tools and gaining motivation, and to hopefully find satisfaction in setting and accomplishing goals.
Initially intended for the Griffith Edwards Centre but can be modified for the Allan Memorial Institute.
Number of sessions:
6 total sessions, 4 consecutive leading up to introduction of SMART goals. The last 2 sessions are to review and discuss SMART goals.
*Note: maybe we can consider a part 2 to this workshop which would include 4 sessions of 4 weeks focusing only on SMART goals?
Black or whiteboard, papers, pens, folders, and handouts.
Designed and Facilitated by: Francine Weinstein and Kathryn Gill
Informal Group Discussions
Although the RTP Program currently has a Needs Assessment interview in place to assess:
- What are patients’ core concerns and goals?
- What patients suggest that the RTP can offer them.
This Needs Assessment is confidential, one-time or infrequent, and specific–no information would be recorded that isn’t the patient’s direct answer to the questions. It provides information which is to be used more for later “research/quality assessment/quality improvement” than for short-term development and understanding. Relying on the research-oriented Needs Assessment and the personal Peer to Mentor relationships to design programming leaves a significant role in our understanding of the RTP: the short-term, the uncatalogued, and the informal.
This proposal suggests establishing a bi-monthly, unstructured group discussion, featuring Peers, Peer Mentors and possibly any staff/steering committee members that may be interested in participating, as part of the core programming of the RTP.
Since the topic or topics for these Informal Group Discussions would be, by nature, flexible, this section will detail how various aspects of the proposed sessions can be useful to our program and patients. For a quick list of objectives without in-depth description, see Objectives.
- Collected User-Base (Group): Generally, the terms “user-based” or “patient-based” implies the involuntary grouping of patient/peer opinions into a set of needs/feedback. Individual patients become a user-base via surveys which maintain their individuality but compromise the flexibility of their feedback, or via a trickle-down approach, which compromises patient individuality by concentrating patient needs/feedback/opinions into “Patient Representatives” or into their providers of care. However, establishing an unstructured group setting not only empowers our user-base to maintain their individuality and flexibility but also encourages them to generate sustained discussion, to talk to one another and form opinions and ideas. Moreover, having our user-base collected into a single space (or into multiple spaces when our numbers expand) gives us a venue to inform, propose and announce workshops, discuss policies etc.
- Unplanned, Uncatalogued (Informal): As mentioned above, a key element in empowering a patient’s voice is to create a balance between flexibility and provocation. Asking someone a vague question provides them with no motivation to answer it (for example, the ever-neglected “Other” section in surveys). Asking someone a rigid question limits the feedback they can provide. The unstructured nature of the proposed programming allows patients to settle at the level of structure which is most conducive to the matter of discussion. For example, talking about quality improvement requires a certain amount of structure, whereas talking about anxiety requires a different one. Similarly, at the level of the Peer-Mentor, there are certain types of information that can only be understood in an informal, group context. No amount of recorded Needs Assessment or Individual Peer Mentor-Peer relationships is going to give a Peer-Mentor an understanding of the program’s demographic, and often the most important demographical information is information which would not be recorded. For example, five minutes of participation in a group discussion would inform Peer Mentors that their current demographic of the program, containing a large proportion of agitated, hyperactive or restless individuals, may not appreciate a slow, relaxing art workshop. This is not information that our current set up can provide us.
- Diversity and Involvement (Discussion): Lastly, the group’s heavy focus on discussion as its only element of programming would make it a unique and valuable element in our program for many reasons:
- Social Interaction: Although the current ideas for programming create a few situations for social interaction, it is a largely overlooked service. One of the most difficult challenges in joining or returning to the social world is generating and managing your own and others’ interest. Most of our current suggestions for programming which encourage social interaction provide a medium, environment or common activity in which peers may engage. However, an informal discussion in which peers themselves are jointly responsible for sustaining social interaction addresses this issue much more directly. Similarly, very often a defining factor in brokering the culture of recovery is observing a peer in a later stage of their recovery being more comfortable in a social environment. Although Peer Mentors have ample opportunity to demonstrate their recovery by example in an individual setting, being the facilitator of a workshop is not true social interaction: it is a separate role than a peer to peer interaction.
- Connection to the Program: Although certainly, the objective of our program is to reduce Peers’ dependency on mental health-related services, Peers who may not be interested in or able to attend regular workshops and would only be meeting on an as-need basis with their Peer Mentors would have no sustained connection to the program.
- Peer-Peer Mentor Equality: The proposed group discussion takes place in an otherwise non-existent environment in which peers and peer mentors are equal partners, which is as valuable a component of the Peer-Peer Mentor relationship as the Peer Mentor’s training and personal experience of recovery and transition.
- To provide a flexible source of information for peer mentors to generate/vet programming and policy whether by advertent peer suggestion or by incidental observation/assessment.
- To provide a sustained (bi-monthly or monthly) setting in which peers may physically gather, creating a sense of community and involvement, and a venue for peers to be informed of developments in the program/programming.
- To organize our peers into a user-base while maintaining the individuality of their experience and the flexibility of their interest/opinion, and allowing this individuality and flexibility be shared, and discussed.
- To create a venue for a unique social interaction which does not revolve around a shared activity, and display to Peers how Peer Mentors adapt to the situation as an example of recovery with respect to social skills.
- For Peer Mentors to develop a personal, unrecorded and informal understanding of the program’s demographic.
- An accommodating physical location, available bi-monthly or monthly.
- A static facilitator external to the Peer and Peer-Mentor populations, allowing Peers and Peer Mentors to interact as equals, while still maintaining the discussion. A notable example of this is the role Ronna plays in the Youth Post-Psychosis Group, and my suggestion for a candidate would be the Peer Mentor Coordinator, Patricia.