Clubhouse International training with Anita and Dave.

On the 14th of March Cairdeas clubhouse and the other six clubhouses in Ireland, in all more than 50 people, attended a training day in Saol Clubhouse in Cabra.  This was led by Anita from Denmark, the European coordinator for Clubhouse International and Dave from Norway, a Faculty board member for CI, and a member of Fontenehuset i Oslo. They were visiting Ireland to do the accreditation for Platinum Clubhouse, who we wish the best of luck to, for their assessment. As they are also trainers, they kindly stayed for an extra day to deliver the requested training around relationships and the work order day.

Early in the morning a group of members congregated near the busy Bray Main Street where we were collected by people carrier to attend in Saols’ spacious main auditorium. The members that went were Joe, Marion, Tad, David and Mary Ann alongside all four members of staff, Ronan, Mary, Laura and Martina. It started at approximately 9:30am.

The attendees were arrayed in a semi-circle, where Dave started by explaining his journey through the clubhouse, which gave him the tools to help untie the knots in his head resulting from his mental illness.

He then covered the “Islands of stability/wellness”, a phrase from the manager of the first clubhouse in the USA, to describe the core approach used in clubhouses, which views the island as the still functioning part of the mind, surrounded by a sea of troubles; the member focuses on these good parts by doing productive work for the clubhouse, expanding the person’s sense of confidence and accomplishment. In addition a person builds relationships with the fellow members doing these tasks as a community in a psychosocial way. In doing so the member expands these islands, pushing back the mental fog that can over take the member, expanding their sense of a coherent self.

He then went on to contrast teamwork over hierarchy in the Clubhouse, and how that brings empowerment to members, some that had been written off by mental health professionals, by becoming themselves again, allowing them to re-enter society. Importantly this is without any particular timeframe in mind, and can take from months to years. An important aspect is choice over compliance, which gives the member the power to say ‘No’ and allowing them to make positive choices for themselves.  With traditional therapy, interaction with professionals happens for an maybe an hour every week, whereas, in the clubhouse, social practice during the working week, allows them a more consistent interaction with people that fills in the gaps of isolation that would normally follow the traditional model.

Anita began her part of the training by going over the difference between the clubhouse and the approach and effectiveness of traditional mental health providers. Comparing the stated claims to have friendly respectful and dignified relationships, while still running meetings about the patients, without their input, to the clubhouse model where the member and staff relationships collaborate in the work ordered day in way that one can’t exist without the other. In fact any activity in the clubhouse where a member is not involved is a potentially wasted moment for learning and a wasted possibility for friendship between staff and members.

She then covered the expansion of Clubhouses in less economically well off countries where the importance of mental health is not publically acknowledged in the way it is in more developed economies. As well as the overarching structural boards that are in place to both have guidance from outside professionals and where members and staff clubhouses both go for further training and bring and share new ideas.

One of the issues which had been raised is activities in the work order day that would not normally happen in a company. This is emphasised because it’s only by making the work meaningful will the members get that sense of structure and accomplishment from doing these tasks, which wouldn’t survive if activities were being done for the sake of it. All clubhouses face the problem of structuring the work order day, so it is a good idea to look at the documentation of other clubhouses to take good ideas from them. For example they she was impressed by the Irish Clubhouses that had allotments to grow food for the canteen as a practical work activity.

Since the economic crash in 2008, the Irish civil service, which the clubhouses operate under, have stopped International travel, meaning Irish clubhouses haven’t been able to attend faculty training run by Clubhouse International. At the end of the training session Anita emphasised that Irish Clubhouses are a member of the International organisation and they welcome our feedback and encouraged us to contribute back to the overall community.

This training was extremely valuable for Cairdeas as the newest Clubhouse in Ireland to get training that will help us refine how we run the space overall, structure the work order day and the value of meaningful work in the Clubhouse model. We hope to be accredited next year and we now have a better understanding in how we can use the rest of the year to be ready for the assessment.

Tad, Marion, Joe

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