Basic Steps to Recovery

Here is an an article by Mark Ragins, from Mental Health America’s Los Angeles clinic, The Villiage, where the do outreach to people on the street.

Road to Recovery

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SAMHSA: Anti-Psychiatry Movement and Recovery Movement Reach Agreement

Immediately below is my understanding of the new SAMHSA approach to medications for people with serious mental illness.

What they proposing is using the “Eastern Finnish Dialogue “ treatment protocol, outlined by Roger Whiticker in his book, Anatomy of an Epidemic. The anti-psychiatry movement appears to be accepting this as a compromise, and the polarization of the recovery and civil rights movements is largely a thing of the past.

Treating people with the Eastern Finnish Dialogue method is just that, a dialogue. When a person arrives psychotic or suicidal, the first question is “What Happened” . Then the person is left alone in a natural setting and offered tea etc. If they want to talk, the idea is to obtain their  story. By no later than the next day, if  they remain so agitated  or depressed that they are not safe, they are calmed down with a benzodiazepine. If they are suffering depression leading to suicidal thoughts, they might receive something else, besides a benzodiazepine. Hopefully they will sleep..  Once they awake, they may be alright, but, if not, a course of antipsychotics or whatever is appropriate is tried until it has a chance to work. If the person returns to a normal range of emotions and feelings, it is not assumed that they need continued medication to retain this, but instead the medications are slowly drawn down. If the person continues to be OK, then they continue in treatment without medication until the need for it might become clear. If after the first trial of medications has been tried and failed, the sequence is repeated at least 3 times as necessary. After that, if the person needs the meds, they are resumed as a continued but temporary remedy. Indeed, some people will need them for their  lifetime.

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Tips for getting a good night’s sleep

  • Go to bed at the same time each night even on weekends. This helps your body clock get used to these times.
  • Sleep in a comfortable bed.
  • Create a calm bedroom environment. Sleep in a dark room and avoid turning your bedroom into an entertainment centre with televisions, computers and stereos.
  • Regular exercise is a great way to improve your sleep. Just be careful not to do it close too bed time as exercise produces stimulants that stop the brain from relaxing quickly.
  • A healthy diet will also help but eating a large heavy meal too close to bedtime will interfere with your sleep.
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Fruits, vegetables and a handful of walnuts — The Mediterranean Diet is better than a low fat one

Tuesday Feb 26, 2013

The Mediterranean diet has long been touted as healthy. Now a study released Monday of the effects of a diet rich in olive oil, nuts, vegetables, fruits and fish confirms that…[the Mediterranean diet is the best one--better than a low fat diet].

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that the diet can reduce the risk of stroke and other cardiovascular diseases by 30 percent.

[T]he Mediterranean diet …was [better than an…] assigned a low-fat diet.


[O]ne of the diet’s main benefits is that it’s not only heart-healthy, but it also promotes a way of eating that people can follow for a lifetime rather than just a few months.

“You just have two fists of cooked vegetables per day; one fist – or the size of a tennis ball – serving of fruit each day,” he said. He advised people to make olive oil their primary choice of dietary oil and have about 12 nuts daily - preferably walnuts, because they are a source of the healthful omega-3 fatty acid.

Read more:

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Therapy Turned Into Laughing Yoga

Physical Therapy (Or Just Exercise) Turned Into Individualized Tai Chi Ending in Laughing Yoga—Therapy Turned Into Laughing Yoga

Every statistic about therapy (and a lot of other things) tells us about how many people it helps—but only if you actually do it. Therapy Turned Into Laughing Yoga is a way to interest more people who “won’t” do something about their chronic physical problems while also interesting them in doing it by helping them feel their own story about ___________ recovery (every person can fill in the “blank” of recovery). And Therapy Turned Into Laughing Yoga provides not just gentle stretching but provides a light aerobic workout through laughing. (It’s hard to hurt yourself laughing whatever the bad reputation it has for doing). Laughing Yoga is a wonderful way to feel better about yourself and bond with other yoga laughers. Follow each daily group session (or do it on your own) and walk to the store and buy  some healthy things to eat. You should try to make new friends, people who will listen without judging you or offering advise (but nobody’s perfect).

How many of us are diligent about doing our physical therapy (or sport’s rehab) work? And whatever our age, we all feel better getting regular exercise—even if it only a tiny bit.  And how many of us eat as right as we could?  Shopping with friends makes it easier to pick out the healthier things. Include a small treat, maybe a candy bar broken into little pieces and shared with the group!

We’ve all had experiences that makes us feel happy or proud. Or you can try this with what you have overcome or are overcoming in life, but if it’s very emotional for you, please do it only while talking with a therapist or at least a good friend.

Physical therapists, sport trainers or make diagrams of the exercises for us to do. they want us to do.  These show us moves which will help heal our bodies. Or approach it this way: where in your body does it hurt? If it hurts it might very well benefit from slow, gentle movement. Talk with your physical M.D. or clinic about what is OK and what is too much of a strain for you. Remember, only do a few moves at first, and if you aren’t too sore the next day, add a few more movements. Don’t overdo it the first day and end up in bed for a week rubbing the parts you hurt!

To start out, pin your diagrams on the wall (or you can in addition or all on your own make you own diagrams)  Rearrange the diagrams in a circle to fit  the actions into actions which become symbols of parts of your recovery story or visualizing your goal or dreams.  This is a narrative but may involve only feelings etc. You are going to choreograph (a fancy word for create a dance) your own recovery story. It can be recovery from anything, many things, it doesn’t  have to be the biggest thing in your life, or you could just choreography your hopes for the future. Do not choreograph yourself being victimized or abused. This is a happy dance and reliving terrible times can harm you further. This is a “recovery” story not an” illness” story—don’t wallow in troubles you found yourself earlier in life. Your story can be real, imaginative or a fantasy.  You can share your story but you don’t have to share it with anyone except your friends.

After everyone has met each day (or week) and all simultaneously, at the same time, acted out or danced their stories, finish with Laughing Yoga and then walk to the store and shop together.

This is a pathway to recovery, finding laughter, making friends and eating good food. . Share the positive things that happen to you with your group and with others in your life.

They story of the history of this therapy is found at the website, where the protagonist , Carlos the Flying Bed Bug Hero, volunteers in his spare time to help other bugs encounter this Tai Chi of yoga.

Or if you want me to help you with your own story of transformation, please email me at

Copyrighted with release if includes attribution to SMH With Special thanks to Sandy who went down all these paths before me  Feb 19, 2013. Brian Youngberg

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The National Empowerment Center’s links to Top Web Sites Like Itself

I sit on local National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) board of directors with family members and professionals, and I am impressed with the very different view that people sometimes have of mental illness compared to my own peers, who have had what people are calling the “lived experience.” Of course, most of the family people of (literally) live with family members who are in early recovery, while my peers have often become what is termed (not politically correctly) “high-functioning. I guess I’m a little bit of both, because my politically connected friends, running peer-run services, can barely stand me at times. I wish I could claim I have Asperger’s Syndrome, but I have to admit that I just have personality problems from growing up in an alcoholic family. I have managed to become a peer specialist providing services to the people who come to our clinic, so I have those experiences to reflect on too.

How does this all relate to the National Empowerment Center’s website and its links?

We have all grown a little bit closer to each other, because we’re seeing the commonality of our experiences. So the National Empowerment Center embodies ideas which are not really so different than those of, say, NAMI

Ultimately we need to offer people things they want to do, even if society won’t always let people do everything they want.



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Understanding Mental Health Recovery

Recovery means being able to have a sense of meaning and belonging, as well as security, despite the fact that some of the symptoms of mental illness don’t go away or don’t always stay away.

 Recovery starts by making the choice to discover what helps you feel better, think clearly and relate to others.It often includes taking medication, talking about your problems, sleeping regularly, eating moderately and exercising. We all face challenges at different times, and any of  these problems can be our most immediate concern. It might be medical coverage,  housing, food, employment, incarceration…or anything else. Whatever it is; a problem is a problem.

According to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), recovery is a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.

William Anthony has defined it as, “…develop(ing)…new meaning and purpose in…life as one grows beyond the catastrophic effects of mental illness.”

Recovery is not about the lack of symptoms, but instead recovery is about finding ways to live a meaningful life despite having symptoms.

Recovery, according to Mary Ellen Copeland, in her Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP)—has five elements:


            Personal Responsibility


            Self Advocacy


A WRAP includes a plan for each of the following:

Wellness Tools. Things I can do or might do to feel better.

Daily Maintenance Plan. Things I need to do to stay well (including weekly, monthly or one time).

Triggers. Events or circumstances that may make me feel uncomfortable.

Early Warning Signs. Changes in my thoughts, attitudes or behaviors.

When Things are Breaking Down: I’m still able to manage my daily activities but need extra support.

Crisis. I’m unable to handle daily activities and need others to take responsibility for my care.

A WRAP includes making a list of the people you can call if you need to talk or would like more support.

There are at least 14 paths to recovery, and no doubt, many more. Dr. Mark Ragins’ Paths to Recovery include:

Talk to other people instead of isolating.

Actually feel feelings and emotions instead of deadening, medicating or avoiding them, or getting high.

Learn some emotional coping skills.

Learn to “use” medications instead of just “taking” medications.

Engage (or re-engage) in activities that make you more fun and interesting.

Take responsibility for your own life and make some changes in yourself.

Go to work even when you’re not feeling well.

Do things outside of being a mental patient and outside the mental health system.

Improve physical health and wellness.

Love other people—family, partners, kids.

Work on acceptance and forgiveness instead of blaming and vengeance.

Give back by helping others

Find meaning and blessings in suffering and reconnect with God and spirituality.

Once you start traveling down your road to recovery, you might want to write your recovery story. It can help you and others stay on course. These stories often begin with a description of the way it was, what happened to bring you to the point of making a decision to change, and what it is like now.

“It is the greatest secret of our modern world that inside the people we label as psychiatric cases live ordinary people with the same feelings, hopes and dreams as everyone else. It can take a great deal of patience and care to discover who we really are and help us connect to society, so that we can live decent lives. The history of civilization has always been to bring the “others” who we treat unfairly or unjustly into our sense of community, so we are all one community of equals with rights and meaningful roles to play. The last frontier of our evolution as a society may be to understand and find a place for people laboring under psychiatric difficulties. Some of these difficulties can be avoided if we protect people from trauma. And what can’t be avoided, we need to learn to accept and love, despite the differences we present to the world.”

Brian Youngberg / Seattle 02/17/12 permission to use with attribution.

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