The Western Mass Recovery Learning Community (RLC) creates conditions that support healing and growth for individuals and the community as a whole through learning opportunities, advocacy, peer-to-peer support and the development of regional and national networks. We believe that human relationships are often at the center of what heal people who have experienced extreme emotional distress, trauma, psychiatric diagnoses, addiction and a variety of other challenges in life. We also believe that we are a part of a civil and human rights movement and that real change does not happen on a sustainable level unless everyone is involved in the process and issues like discrimination, poverty, imbalances of power and acceptance of natural diversity are addressed.
The Western Mass Recovery Learning Community (RLC) is made up of PEOPLE (not places) and is wherever and however YOU and others from the community may choose to connect. Together, we offer a variety of events, workshops, trainings, advocacy and leadership councils, as well as a peer support line, four resource centers (Springfield, Greenfield, Holyoke and Pittsfield) and a Peer Respite in Northampton. Above all else, we create space for anyone who has a genuine interest in taking part in our community and holding its values to share and find connection, information, ideas and opportunities to make change in their own lives and/or the community around them. Our shared experiences and ‘humanness’ are what unite us. Our stories, collective wisdom and strength are what guide us and our community forward.
The Recovery Learning Community (RLC) is a peer-run project providing supports to individuals with lived experience.One of the founding concepts behind the RLC is that human relationships with people are healing, particularly when those people have similar experiences.And so, above all else, the RLC strives to create forums through which human relationships, community and a regional network of supports can develop.On a day-to-day basis, that effort may take the form of a community meeting, a support group, a computer workshop and/or simply offering a safe space where people can communicate with others or simply be.The RLC also acts a clearing house for information about other resources in the community.
We're happy to announce an upcoming training for those
interested in becoming facilitators for Hearing Voices Groups.
Monday, August 5th through Thursday, August 8th
10 am - 4 pm
@ Holyoke Community College,
Kittredge Center, 303 Homestead Ave, Holyoke, MA
The Hearing Voices approach offers a non-pathologizing, open way of understanding and supporting people through the experience of hearing voices. It assumes that hearing voices (as well as seeing visions and other sensory experiences) can be a normal part of human experience with a variety of meanings for people. Hearing Voices groups are widely available throughout the United Kingdom and many other countries and are just taking hold in the United States. The purpose of this training is to help create more groups across the country.
Facilitators for this training include:
Lisa Forestell, Marty Hadge, Sera Davidow
Rachel Waddingham (by Skype) & Gail Hornstein
Application required & due by Friday, June 14thnow Friday, June 21!
The original deadline got extended so that everybody who wants to get an application in has a bit more time to do it!
A Workshop for Clinicians, Peer Supporters & Community
Facilitated by David Cohen, PhD
This three-hour workshop will cover a number of topics related to supporting people who are choosing to withdraw from psychiatric medication. It will include discussion of relative lack of information available on the process of withdrawal, common experiences for people who are stopping their medications, and steps for supporting someone through this process.
Friday, June 21st
1 to 4pm
@ Holyoke Community College,
303 Homestead Ave,
Thursday, June 20th
12 to 2pm*
@ Advocates, Inc.
1881 Worcester Road
*The Framingham workshop is an abbreviated (2 hr)
version of the 6/21 workshop
co-sponsored with Advocates, Inc.
ASL Interpreters are scheduled for the Framingham workshop and have been requested for the Holyoke workshop.
These workshops are open to everybody, including clinicians, peer supporters, and the general community.
We have applied for Continuing Education Credits for LCSWs,
LMHCs and LMFTs!
Registration is preferred (though not required).
To register (or make requests for accommodations)
contact us at (413) 539-5941 x 303 or e-mail
For more about David Cohen, click 'read more' below:
There has been a relative explosion of ‘peer’ roles in the last five years in Massachusetts.
In many organizations, peer roles came to be developed largely because contracts began to require them (though many of these same organizations were already contemplating how to make that move of their own volition, and some had already begun to do so).
While most people see this shift as positive, it comes with many inevitable ‘bumps,’ learning curves, and tensions.
One of the most present and ongoing tensions connected to the integration of peer roles has been figuring out how to make space for a role that operates in a substantively different way, while still needing to meet the basic requirements and needs of the organization within which the position is held. Issues of this sort that have arisen include those around:
involvement in representative payeeships
We'll be focusing on the last part, the taking of notes.
In its purest form, the ‘peer’ role is intended to be based in mutuality, partnership and the concept of ‘in but not of’ the system. But what does each of these mean? In brief:
Mutuality: Mutuality does NOT necessarily mean exactly equal or identical roles, and still leaves room for some responsibilities for each person to be different. However, it does require that no one be seen as THE expert, and it assumes that the focus is on the relationship rather than one person.
Partnership: This principle assumes that no one is taking on the ‘doing for’ or ‘fixing’ role, and that there is a sense of shared responsibility and participation that is practiced intentionally throughout the relationship. Power balance is critical.
'In But Not of': This is the trickiest but perhaps the most important of these concepts. The peer role has been developed around the concept that the job is to work in the system, but NOT be responsible to all the system’s systems. Instead, the main priority and focus is to make sure that the individual with whom they are working is supported to develop their voice and be heard. Above all else, the person in the peer role helps to create the conditions (by the language they use, the opportunities they point out, the resources they share, the questions they ask, etc.) to make that possible.
Plainly put, note taking interferes with all of these most basic values.
It takes away from mutuality by requiring one person to write about another.
It enhances power differentials that can damage the trust that is so critical to peer-to-peer support.
It moves away from partnership and shared responsibility by creating a ‘reporting back’ requirement.
Even attempts to ‘share’ writing notes WITH the person about whom the note is being written have most recently been foiled by new, computerized note keeping systems that are not accessible where meetings are actually taking place.
Finally, it clearly interferes with the ‘in but not of’ principle. Notes are most typically attached to treatment plans, and while it is within the scope of a peer-to-peer relationship to support someone to develop their voice and vision around what they’d like their treatment plan to say, it is NOT within the scope of that relationship to have the person in a peer role be responsible for writing that plan, writing corresponding notes in that plan, to be written into that plan as responsible for some element or intervention and so on.
click read more to continue reading this article here,
Asking People to Leave Their Residences During the Day:
A Human Rights Violation?
It can be deceptively easy to fall into patterns,
and do as we have done, without always taking
the time to wonder why.
However, in an era of mental health services where ‘person centered’ and ‘recovery-oriented’ approaches make up some of the most prominent initiatives, it’s vital to examine our day-to-day practices on a regular basis. Comparing practices against values can be challenging, as it often calls upon us to change habits, and sometimes fairly embedded organizational cultures, and invest dollars and time that might not particularly exist to be invested. One relevant issue that has arisen repeatedly over time is that of people being asked to leave their program residence during particular hours of the day.
The question: Is it okay to ask people who are paying rent to live in a program residence to routinely leave between set times every (or any) day of the week? Is it a human rights violation?
The short answer: No, it is not okay. Yes, it is a violation of
someone’s basic rights to live and be in their own home.
But the full conversation is more complicated than that. To fully understand the question, it’s important to make an effort to understand why this practice may have come into being.
When asked why residences are sometimes shut down during the day, the three most common answers seem to be:
Because there is concern that people will retreat to their bedrooms and/or just sit around the house all day
Because, although the residence is someone’s home, it is also a program, and each person signs a contract agreeing to participate in their treatment while there
Because the provider does not have money to staff the residence all day long
please click "read more" to read the rest of this article,
A new peer-run support group is starting at the RLC's Holyoke Center, aimed at creating a safe, non-judgmental space to find support and talk with others about extreme states, gender and sexuality. People who identify with the LGBTQQA spectrum, and those whose gender and sexual identity is otherwise defined, are all welcome. For those who live with extreme states or have ever been given a psychiatric label and are looking for support in not being “normal”, or wanting to be, you can find a place here!
Why the Sylvia Rivera Peer Support Group?: While the LGBTQQA… acronym includes many words that people may identify with, and also “flags” a safe space for folks whose gender and sexual identities differ from the “norm”, it can never be inclusive—without running on indefinitely. This group takes on Sylvia Rivera’s name to avoid this game of naming and to honor a transgender woman whose life was dedicated to the rights and dignity of people left out in the cold—so to speak—racially, economically and through gender identity.
Thursdays, 4:30pm to 6:00pm @ the RLC’s Holyoke Center, 187 High Street, Suite 303
click 'read more' to learn more about Sylvia Rivera
Join Icarus Project co-founders Jacks McNamara and Sascha Altman DuBrul
for an interactive workshop based on the classic Icarus Project book,
Navigating the Space Between Brilliance and Madness
which is being re-released in its revised 10th printing!
We'll talk about what it means to be "crazy" in a crazy world, and find language for our own experiences of mental health and emotional/spiritual ditress. Through facilitated discussion, writing, partnered exercises, sharing stories, and working on our own wellness maps, we'll develop our visions of self-care and community healing.
These workshops are free and open to the public. To request any accommodations or for more info,
please contact us at (413) 539-5941 x203, or