WRAP: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow Part II

Wednesday, October 26, 2016 - 9:57am

Mary Ellen quickly realized she was not going to be able to spread this by herself, thus the Facilitator Training was born. I was in the first Vermont facilitator training and co-facilitated the second one in Vermont with Mary Ellen. These were similar to and yet different from the trainings of today. Many people who took those early trainings had never done anything like facilitating, and for many this was their first job in a long time. People like me who had done educational trainings had never self-disclosed and saw trainings through a system’s lens even though we were peers. It was not a simple or smooth beginning, but we believed so strongly in WRAP’s ability to change people’s lives that we struggled on.

Many of us took the Facilitator Training yet felt we needed more so Mary Ellen started mentoring people and held regular Refresher Trainings in those early years. The Refresher Trainings were the place where we came together as facilitators to talk about and problem solve issues we were facing. This was when the Values and Ethics of WRAP became a critical part of WRAP and the facilitator training.

The Values and Ethics helped us from both sides of the fence and gave us a way to talk about differences in a respectful way and maintain our integrity as facilitators. These discussions were also where it became obvious how important it is to have a co-facilitator. As a facilitator I have to be willing to talk about all those things that I kept secret in a way that is helpful and limited. It takes a tremendous amount of courage and trust to do that and my co-facilitator partners with and supports me in that process. If one of us is struggling the other can fill in and the work proceeds. As we shared the experiences we also realized how important it was to have standards we could point to so that we could maintain the voluntary nature, integrity and accessibility of WRAP for everyone as we went out into the world.

People graduating from WRAP Workshops asked over and over - “What now”? They wanted and needed a way to continue coming together as a community to support each.  Once more I sat down with a small group of people and we began to develop a structure for support groups that incorporated many of the WRAP principles.

The end result is called Steps to Wellness: A Manual for Developing Community Supports. I strongly believe in this because I believe we need to build places where we can share leadership and responsibility for the success or failure of the support group.

I have been lucky enough to see another huge culture shift in Mental Health because of the tremendous advocacy and pioneering work that has been done nationally. We now have many states with a well-developed peer workforce, which means we can address other problems people talked to me about on my travels around our state.  “I cannot figure out how to put a plan together” or “it didn’t work for me, I tried but I still got sick and ended up in the hospital” or “no one knows how to help me or what I am talking about, they just keep doing what didn’t work before”.

In Vermont we suddenly had people working in Peer positions, many trained in WRAP, IPS, non- violent communication, Trauma Informed and many other modalities. As they were working in the field they talked about wanting ways to work with people outside of traditional workshops / educational settings. “How do I start where the person is at? Why do things fall apart when I try to take someone through WRAP one on one as if it were a workshop”. I talked with Mary Ellen Copeland and Nick Nichols from our Dept. of Mental Health about these issues. We were in agreement that something needed to be done to help people who so often leave a workshop and struggle to put together a plan. While this has been addressed in literature, it can be difficult to translate into work in the field.

Matthew Federici and I started working on this together and the Wellness Engagement Training was born to help address these issues. It has been piloted here in VT and the feedback has been resoundingly positive.

In many ways the future is here in pockets all over the country and world. In the US, Health Care Reform has offered us unique opportunities.  We have to change from treating problems to preventing problems and WRAP is one of the best prevention strategies I have ever known. Once you understand the underlying concepts you can apply it to anything that challenges you. Anything!

WRAP Facilitation is not easy. It requires that one be willing to grow right along with the participants and yet be able to keep things moving and on track. It requires that you be able to use your life experiences to make this simple structure come to life. It requires the ancient skill of storytelling to illustrate the point. Mentoring is a way to avoid many if not all of the problems new facilitators run into and it makes the workshop a wonderful experience for everyone. There will be ongoing opportunities to use skills learned and the standards developed to make sure we uphold the fidelity of the practice.

My WRAP has carried me through the death of my sisters, thyroid disease, high blood pressure and divorce. I know from experience that I have the strength to meet these challenges because I have a WRAP but even more importantly because I have hope and the support of so many people who I have met on this journey. I learned that we can change our world. I learned about the power of coalitions and I learned about the invincibility of dreams.

I have gone from being alone in my struggles to having a community who believes in me as much as I believe in them. Just knowing you that you are on the journey with me gives me courage and hope. I can fully embrace all of myself because I am much larger than my mental health challenges. I think of a prediction I made to Mary Ellen that WRAP would go all over the world and a dream that things could be very different from what they were then. It is amazing that in this short time both have come true.