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Reshaping how people with mental health challenges see themselves

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Reshape how people with mental health challenges see themselves

It really is about empowerment. It’s not just helping people get their needs met—it’s helping them learn how to get their own needs met, and helping them build that sense of self-confidence and self-efficacy. A lot of times, people are faced with well-meaning people telling them what their limitations are. We’ve had people whose families have told them, “You’re never going to be able to work.” Or even their doctors sometimes have said, “You’re not going to be able to do that—you can’t have a family, you can’t hold down a job, you can’t do these things.” It’s really about helping people rebuild their sense of self, and helping them create a new identity that is beyond that of patients, beyond that of clients, beyond that of sick person. It is creating an identity based on what they can do, what they want to do, what they want out of life, and really reshaping how they see themselves.

Reshaping how people with mental health challenges see themselves

Q&A with Summer Berman: Nonprofit Journal Project


Summer Berman is executive director of Fresh Start Clubhouse in Ann Arbor, a community that provides resources for people with mental illness and supports them in their recovery through meaningful work and relationships. Fresh Start is the first independent mental health Clubhouse in Michigan.

The Fresh Start Clubhouse has been operating since 2000, but it recently reopened as an independent organization. What will that change?

It is going to allow us to serve more people. We have always existed as a program of another agency that is part of the statewide public mental health system—which we are big, big fans of. We love public mental health. But becoming an independent organization will allow us to branch out. We’re working to be able to serve more people than have traditionally been eligible for public community mental health services.

What are the services that people go to the Clubhouse to receive?

The sort of long, fancy term is psychosocial rehabilitation or psychiatric rehabilitation. That is basically helping people live the life that they want to live. We are a non-clinical program, so we don’t do medication management or traditional therapy, but we help people go back to school and get jobs and live independently. I sort of think of it like, if you break your hip or you need a hip replacement, you’re going to get the intensive clinical treatment you need, that hip replacement or surgery or whatever, but then you’re going to have physical therapy after that, to help you be able to actually use that limb or that joint. We are kind of akin to that rehabilitative therapy. We’re not doing the intensive clinical treatment for someone’s mental illness, but we are helping them get back into the world and live.

Read the full nonprofit journal project article here.

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