Consultation Services

Developing meaningful service user involvement
Many mental health organizations involve people with psychiatric histories on advisory and governance bodies. Often, this process is frustrating for professionals who are used to working mainly with other professionals, and also for service users, who may not be familiar with the workings of boards and committees. While itís important for people with psychiatric disabilities to learn how to navigate these opportunities, itís equally as important that professionals understand how best to encourage meaningful participation. Our consultants are people with psychiatric histories whoíve mastered the art of serving on boards and committees, as well as former public mental health officials who have psychiatric histories.

Designing and implementing self-help and peer support programs
In recent years, many states and localities have provided funding for self-help and peer support initiatives. The process of implanting these programs is sometimes hampered by a lack of understanding by both mental health agencies and self-help advocates. If mental health officials are not familiar with the well-established principles of self-help and peer support programs, they place unworkable parameters on these initiatives. If those starting self-help and peer support programs are not familiar with organizational issues or with the administrative requirements that come with government funds, their projects may fail. Our consultants have years of experience as public mental health officials helping to support the growth of self-help and peer support. They know the barriers that can exist on both partiesí parts, and have developed strategies for overcoming these issues.

Developing Peer Specialist Services
Peer Specialists are people who bring their experiential knowledge of the mental health system into practice by working within mental health programs. They teach self-advocacy and peer support skills, promote the rights of people using services, and work to make the environment one in which clients can heal and grow. By working in traditional mental health agencies, their responsibilities differ from those of independent self-help and peer support programs.

Our consulting team of peers and clinicians created the first Peer Specialist civil service title in the nation, based on a Peer Specialist pilot project funded by the National Institute of Mental Health in the late 1980s. They have successfully trained dozens of Peer Specialists, as well as hundreds of line staff who work with them.

Creating Peer Advocacy Programs
Independent Peer Advocacy Programs can be instrumental in helping people using mental health services resolve problems, safeguard their rights, and get what they want and need from the system. These programs differ from in-house ombudsman, because they are autonomous and not beholden to mental health facilities. Our consultants are former public mental health officials who are people with psychiatric histories; they developed policy and programs standards for independent peer advocacy programs, and have helped establish and support these programs.