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What does recovery look like? When you fracture a bone, you get a cast to help it heal. Once the cast is off and you are able to return to normal activities, it is assumed that you are recovered from the fracture. For those living with mental illness, though, recovery is not as simple to define because each person’s journey is unique. The children and adolescents who visit our Southwest Family Resource Center are illustrating their individual stories of recovery in a colorful and visible way by creating recovery posters.
Each young person receiving services works with a rehab clinician to determine a list of achievable goals based on the child or adolescent’s unique situation. This is known as a recovery plan.
Monica McDermott is a rehab clinician at the Southwest Family Resource Center. She believes that this treatment component is empowering to her clients.
"Creating a recovery plan with them allows them the opportunity to think about what they want to work towards, and then we provide them the tools to help them do that," McDermott said.
When the client has made progress on specific goals, they are presented with the opportunity to a create a poster to illustrate their progress and recognize their accomplishment.
"I think it's really important to celebrate recovery because it definitely instills hope in the kids and also the parents. Many of the kids that we work with have a lot of stress, external stressors and internal stressors, and they have to deal with focusing on where they can improve," McDermott said.
"For the kids, they get really excited about it. They're really happy and proud especially since the majority of time they might hear a lot of criticism, so this allows them to have something to be proud of and to look forward to. Once we do one, they want to do it again for another goal, and so it motivates them to work towards another goal. "
The poster is created in two to three sessions with the rehab clinician. The client chooses the theme and their own words to describe their improvement.
"They break down exactly what made them successful. With that, they see a lot of the work that they were able to do," McDermott said. "It's not like just completing homework. It's empowering for them. It's a colorful, fun project."
The posters are displayed throughout the clinic. Clients receive two certificates of completion, one to take home with them and one to display at the clinic.
The walls of the clinic are now decorated with multiple client posters that paint a hopeful picture of recovery for all to see. After all, this is what recovery looks like.
Recovery: one word with countless possibilities. Because there is not one definition of recovery, everyone has their own meaning and their own story.
“The Agency slogan is Transforming Lives, and so, when we think of that and we think of recovery, it means to help someone progress in finding meaning in their life. They are not merely progressing towards eliminating symptoms, but to be able to live a meaningful life past the mental health challenges that they face,” said Ana Oyarvide, Recovery Manager for the Mental Health Outpatient Services Division of The Harris Center.
While the recovery journey is unique for each individual, it is a tie that binds. Those who have lived experience in recovery from mental illness, commonly referred to as peers, offer an insight that is invaluable to those who are either just starting their process or those who find it beneficial to talk to others who understand what it is like to live with a mental illness.
The blue skies and shiny green leaves dancing to the rhythm of the friendly summer breeze were the perfect background for the many smiling faces at Bayland Park.
Kim Tope is a licensed master social worker and a certified anger resolution therapist. More pertinent to her current role at The Harris Center, Kim is also a certified peer specialist who uses her own lived experience in recovery from mental illness to help those who find themselves in need of support and treatment through a one-of-a-kind program in Texas known as The P.E.E.R.S. for Hope House.
It is early morning, and stepping out of the Metro bus is Sh’Clara Smith. She makes her way to the front doors of The Harris Center’s Gessner Day Program where she signs in and greets her friends ready to take on the day. As she sits, other participants gather around and they begin sharing what they did over the weekend.
When D. Danielle Hale, Ph.D., arrived as a new employee at The Harris Center, her first assignment was facilitating a group with male inmates at The Harris County Jail that was part of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Program. Nine years later, Dr. Hale’s list of responsibilities as the now-Lead Psychologist for the Adult Services Program of The Harris Center’s Mental Health Forensic Services Division has grown to include overseeing additional programs in the Jail and the supervision of a dozen employees. However, she continues to facilitate the same group she was first assigned in 2007. According to Dr. Hale, “That’s where my joy is, where my passion is.”
The CBT Program focuses on helping those who participate learn how to better handle everyday situations and choices, something many of these inmates may not get the chance to do otherwise. Housed together in one unit within the Jail, about twenty men are part of the CBT Program at any given time. They are referred to the program by The Harris Center staff providing mental health services in the Jail, Jail staff or they may self-refer. Participants may remain in the program for up to five months while in the Jail, and the ages of those in the program have ranged from 18 to over 60.
Anyone who has lived in Houston for a little over a week has come across people who speak a language other than English. As one of the most diverse cities of the world, Houston is home to people from all the continents, and a substantial portion of them are not fluent in English. These individuals make up a significant amount of Harris Center clientele.
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The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD strives to provide high quality, efficient, and cost effective services so that persons with mental disabilities may live with dignity as fully functioning, participating, and contributing members of our community, regardless of their ability to pay based on a sliding scale rate schedule.
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