By: Craig Bayer
I joined Fountain House in July of 2015. Fountain House is a mental health recovery program utilizing work and socialization to rebuild its members’ sense of confidence and purpose. The Fountain House Colleague Training Program changed my life. The Colleague Training Program is the process through which representatives from two or more clubhouses share knowledge, experiences, information and ideas about the clubhouse model. Though I enjoy aspects of the ordinary work-ordered day, such as contributing to the newspaper and literary magazine or answering phones, it was the Colleague Training Program that changed my relationship with Fountain House.
There, I was able to work, learn and shine intellectually, as I was trained to interpret the 37 clubhouse standards—the principles and guidelines on which every clubhouse is based-- and clubhouse tradition and history. Through internal colleague training utilizing the WebEx system (the video conferencing technology used to communicate with other clubhouses) for the Learning Exchange (the program through which clubhouses share ideas about the standards and other clubhouse-related topics) and traveling to the United Kingdom to see how a European clubhouse operates, I learned a great deal about Fountain House, other clubhouses, myself and the world. I also forged fruitful relationships here and overseas with clubhouse members and staff.
I was especially grateful for the opportunity to “WebEx” with, and later visit, the Mosaic Clubhouse in London. I learned how that clubhouse (and clubhouses from Norway, Sweden and Finland) handle various aspects of the work-ordered day and interface with the private sector, government and the rest of society. I learned that sometimes these interactions challenge the clubhouse standards, yet reinvigorate the clubhouse and help it adjust to changing and sometimes difficult times. In Britain, for instance, government requirements put on clubhouses pushed the Mosaic clubhouse to run a mental health information service for the larger community. Fortunately, this resulted in new relationships and opportunities for clubhouse members around education and employment. Rather than being a remote island of mentally ill people, or a “cult,” as one British clubhouse administrator half-jokingly put it, the British clubhouse now formed a connection to the larger society.
I couldn’t have seen or accomplished any of the above without the assistance of the Colleague Training Program, which in my opinion, should be generously funded. I recommend colleague training for all curious clubhouse members, because it is very educational.