(l-r) Alan Doyle, Fang-Pei Chen, and John Rivera
On Wednesday April 23 Alan Doyle, Director of the Fountain House Institute, Fang-Pei Chen, Assistant Professor at Columbia University School of Social Work (who is currently concluding her research at Fountain House on the role of staff), and John Rivera, a member of Fountain House, gave a presentation entitled "Fountain House: A working community that brings hope to mind" as part of the Advanced General Policy and Practice Grand Rounds Series hosted by the Columbia University School of Social Work.
Alan opened the discussion introducing the Fountain House model in language familiar within a social work context—employing such concepts as empowerment, task-group methodology, modeling, community-based—and creating in effect a vital bridge of understanding between traditional social work professionals and Fountain House practice. He described the historical understanding of Fountain House from a social club, to a family, to today's working community concept, as an organic process that established the legitimacy of the model within the academic traditions of psychiatry and social work. A model that fosters growth and healing to member and staff alike can be quite challenging. However this task was an essential component of its acceptance as a model and replication around the world.
John Rivera shared his views on recovery within the context of his experience as a Fountain House member. He noted that, unlike traditional social welfare centers, at Fountain House there are no psychologists or therapists evaluating one’s thoughts or actions. In fact, there exist no clearly defined expectations or standards defining recovery at Fountain House. When a member walks in the front door, they come as they are. They are welcomed and accepted as vitally needed—unlike society outside the clubhouse walls. John felt that this relationship dynamic creates a powerful elixir in the reeducation of the hearts of members which may have experienced deep betrayals and traumas in the past and enables them to move on with their lives.
Feng-Pei Chen insightfully described the non-traditional therapeutic staff role in our working community, emphasizing the authentic nature of the relationships that are formed and the depths of growth experienced by both members and staff alike. For example, staff is required to revaluate their own behavior, reactions, and concepts rather than the members'.
In response to the presentation, one faculty member in attendance admitted: "I haven't felt as good as a social worker as I do now…This is the way we practice and see social work."
Alan Doyle and John Rivera