Friday, 14 December 2018

Welcome to the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community



The Western Mass Recovery Learning Community (RLC) supports healing and empowerment for our broader communities and people who have been impacted by psychiatric diagnosis, trauma, extreme states, homelessness, addiction and other life-interrupting challenges through:

  • Peer-to-peer support & genuine human relationships
  • Alternative Healing Practices
  • Learning Opportunities
  • Advocacy

Essential to our work is recognizing and undoing systemic injustices such as racism, sexism, transphobia and psychiatric oppression.


The 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, three resource centers (Springfield, Greenfield, and Holyoke) 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.   

 The Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community is funded, in part, by the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, the United Way of Franklin County, and a variety of private foundations and donations.liveunited logo





Glossary of Terms

Unsure what everyone means when they throw around words like 'warmline,' 'mutuality,' and 'trauma-informed'?  Feeling lost when acronyms (DMH, RLC, RCC, IAP, ASL, etc) get tossed around like they're actual words?  This list of terms is designed to help you stay up-to-date!   It is a list that will continue to grow, so be sure to let us know if you have input or words you'd like to see added!

Please note:  It should be understood that these words are being defined from the perspective of the RLC, the local mental health system and the broader 'recovery' movement.  Some words and abbreviations may carry alternate meanings in other environments.  It is also important to note that while words may be included in this glossary for informational purpposes, the RLC does not necessarily support the use of all words listed.  The RLC holds the value of using open, respectful, strengths-based language that is person-first.


A   /     /   C   /   D   /   E    /   F   /   G   /   H   /   I   /     /   K   /   L   /   M   /    N   /    O   /    P   /   Q   /   R   /   S   /   T   /   U   /   V   /   W   /     /   Y   /   Z 



AA:  AA stands for Alcoholics Anonymous.  From the AA website:  Alcoholics Anonymous® is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.  For more info on AA (including how to find on-line and in-person meetings), visist the AA website.  For information about AA meetings for individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing visit the 'Deaf and Hard of Hearing AA 12 Step Meetings' page.

ACE Study:  The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, conducted through a collaboration with Kaiser Permanente and the Center for Disease Control, was the largest scientific research stufy of its kind (17,000+ persons over the course of 15 years) and served to clearly link the affect of traumatic childhood events with individuals well being over the long term.  Ultimately, it was able to demonstrate a correlation between traumatic childhood experiences and heightened incidences of substance abuse, mental health issues, incarceration, medical complications and early death.  More can be learned about the ACE study at www.acestudy.org

Afiya:  Afiya (A-FEE-yah) is one of about 13 peer respites in the United States and the only peer respite in Massachusetts.  Afiya is a Swahili word that stands for spiritual, physical and emotional health and wholeness.  To learn more about Afiya visit here.
Al-Anon:  Al-Anon was founded by the wife of the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and offers support to individuals (including teens) who are friends and family members of those struggling with alcoholism.  From their website:  For over 55 years, Al-Anon (which includes Alateen for younger members) has been offering strength and hope for friends and families of problem drinkers.  For more information, visit the Al-Anon website.
All-Recovery:  Some recovery communities identify themselves as being specifically designed for individuals who are working on a particular type of recovery such as mental health recovery, substance abuse recovery, etc.  However, in communities that identify as 'all-recovery,' individuals are welcome to take part regardless of what 'type' of recovery they are working on.  Although the RLC has its roots in mental health recovery, individuals working on any aspect of wellness and healing are welcome to take part.

AMA:  AMA can refer to the American Medical Association (www.ama-assn.org/ama).  However, it can be used as an abbreviation for 'Against Medical Advice.'  For example, when someone has not been officially committed to a hospital, but they choose to leave even if the doctor's recommendation is that they stay, it may be documented that they are leaving against the doctor's advice or 'Against Medical Advice.'

AOT:  AOT stands for 'Assisted Outpatient Treatment.'  This is a more pleasant-sounding way of saying 'forced outpatient treatment' or 'forced outpatient commitment.'  When someone is under an AOT order, it means that they may be required to participate in any number of court-ordered treatments (medication, therapy, day program, etc.) because the court has decided that to not do so would put them at an increased risk of needing to be hospitalized.  Currently, 44 states in America have AOT laws.  (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, New Mexico, Nevada and Tennessee do not.)  For more information on AOT click here.

APA:  APA most commonly stands for the American Psychological Association (a professional association for psychologists and psychological research and articles - www.apa.org/) or the American Psychiatric Association (www.psych.org/), the professional organization for psychiatrists.

ASL:  ASL stands for American Sign Language, the first language of many individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.  It is important to remember that many individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing do not use English as their first language.  Because ASL is a totally separate language, it is not directly based on English and so writing or communicating with English may be challenging for those who primarily communicate using ASL.  It is also important to note that not all individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing use American Sign Language.  Sign language varies from country to country (just like the spoken word does), and some individuals in America use a more general form of gestural communicatin that is different than ASL.  In cases where individuals are not comfortable with ASL, an ASL interpreter will not be sufficient and a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) should also be requested.

ATRIUM: ATRIUM stands for 'Addictions and Trauma Recovery Integration Model.'  Developed by Dusty Miller for individual survivors of trauma and their allies, ATRIUM is a practical approach to healing intended to intervene at the three levels impacted by trauma:  Body, mind and spirit.  ATRIUM classes are periodically offered through the Women's Centers of Western Mass, the RLC and other local organizations.  



Berkshire RCC / Berkshire Resource Center / RLC's Pittsfield Center: The Berkshire RCC is what the Western Mass RLC originally called the resource center located in Pittsfield.  It is now most commonly called the RLC's Pittsfield Center.  RCC is no longer used on a regular basis as it became too often confused with RLC.  It is currently located at 152 North Street, Suite 230 in Pittsfield.  It offers 1:1 peer support, workshops and activities as well as access to resource information, a computer lab, library and more.

Bicultural:  In Massachusetts, its most common to hear the word 'bicultural' used to refer to individuals who not only are bilingual in English and Spanish, but have also grown up living as a part of both American and Hispanic or Latino culture.  For example, an individual may have grown up with a family who is from Puerto Rico and follows the culture and language of their heritage at home, while at the same time, that individual is also being exposed to English and American culture at school or in the general community.  However, more generally speaking, 'bicultural' can also refer to individuals who have grown up as a part of both hearing and deaf cultures or any other two cultures in a substantive way and who may or may not also be bilingual.

Bilingual:  Although the term bilingual is most commonly used in Massachusetts to mean individuals who can speak both English and Spanish, bilingual can also refer to individuals who speak both English and American Sign Language or any two of a variety of other languages.

Bowen Resource Center:  The Bowen Resource Center is the RLC's Springfield Center.  Named after founding GCOW member, Shelley Bowen, this center opened in May of 2009 and offers peer support by phone and in person, access to computer and a lending library and a variety of other workshops and activities as well as a gym with cardio and weight lifting equipment (and exercise videos!).  It is located at 340 Main Street in Springfield. 




CART:  CART stands for Communication Access Realtime Translation.  CART Service provides instantaneous translation of what is being said into visual print display so that it can be read (instead of heard).  For more information on CART, visit the Commission's page on CART information

CDC:  CDC stands for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov/).  The CDC offers information and research on any number of health-related topics and was instrumental in the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.  

Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI):  Certified Deaf Interpreters (CDI) are individuals who are deaf and who are experienced not only with American Sign Language (ASL) but with other gestural forms of communication that may be used by deaf individuals not familiar with ASL.  When an individual who is deaf or hard-of-hearing requests an interpreter, it is important to understand whether they speak ASL or would also need a CDI in order to fully understand an participate in a particular event or conversation.  

Certified Peer Specialist (CPS): This is the certification program offered to individuals in Massachusetts who are interested in becoming Peer Specialists. The training includes a multi-day program followed by a written and oral test. The training is organized and facilitaed by the Transformation Center.  Check the Transformation Center's website for more info on upcoming CPS trainings.

Civil Movement:  Historically, a Civil Rights Movement began in America around issues of race, dsicrimination and fighting for equal rights and representation in the 1950's.  Many see the recovery movement as a Civil Rights Movement that mirrors and stands on the shoulders of this and other movements (e.g., movements related to gender equality, sexuality, etc.). 

Client: 'Client' is a label generally used within the mental health system for individuals who are using mental health services. It was a very popular label several years back, but has now been replaced by 'consumer' in many cases.

Clinical Supports:  Clinical supports are generally those provided by licensed health professionals or in environments overseen by licensed health professionals that strive to treat a particular disease, illness or related health issue.  Clinical supports include therapy, psychiatric services, hospitalization, partial hospitalization, residential services, community-based flexible supports and so on. 

Clubhouse:  Fountain House, the first “Clubhouse,” opened in New York City in 1948. Fountain House was established as an intentional community for men and women who had histories of mental health issues. It was unique in the world of mental health in many important ways including the belief that “members” could work productively and have satisfying lives in spite of the challenges they were facing.  There are now over 300 clubhouses throughout the world, offering community, social activities and work-ordered days that build skills and develop valued roles in the community.  For a listing of Clubhouses in your area checkout the International Clubhouse Directory.

CODA:  CODA stands for 'Child of a Deaf Adult.'  (KODA is also sometimes used to refer to individuals under 18 who are 'kids of deaf adults.')  Children raised by deaf parents often identify both with deaf and hearing cultures.  Learn more about CODA at the Wikipedia page on 'Children of Deaf Adults.'

Comfort Agreement:  It is common within many parts of the recovery community to develop 'comfort agreements' at the start of meetings, trainings and support groups.  These agreements are intended to reflect the needs and values of the individuals participating in a particular activity and to help facilitate a sense of safety and ability to participate freely and effectively for all involved.  Comfort agreements are generally considered to be working documents that may be used across several meetings or groups, but that can always be changed or edited based on the group's needs.  At the Western Mass RLC, the Defining Principles are generally used as the base for any comfort agreements.

Commission for the Deaf and Heard-of-Hearing:  The Comission for the Deaef and Hard-of-Hearing is a state organization that provides training, information and resources to individuals who are deaf/hard-of-hearing and the services that are attempting to support them.  This is also the place to go to request ASL, CDI and CART interpreters. Visit the Commission's website for more information.

Community Based Flexible Supports (CBFS): This newer DMH model of services replaces what was often previously referred to as residential services.  As described by DMH,  "CBFS contractors will be responsible for providing treatment, rehabilitation, support and supervision to a defined set of DMH clients in the Area. CBFS services are designed to increase client’s capacity for independent living and their recovery from mental illness."

Competent:  This is primarily a legal term referring to whether or not someone is able to reasonably evaluate the pros and cons of a particular treatment, decision, etc. and/or to reasonably take care of their own basic needs.  If someone is deemed to not be 'competent,' they may be assigned a guardian or the principle of 'substituted judgement' may be used.  (I.E., The court, etc. may become responsible for assessing what the person would choose to do IF they were competent based on evidence available to the court at that time such as family testimony, religious beliefs, past behavior and so on.)  In some instances, people who have developed Advanced Directives or Wellness Recovery Action Plans have been able to have those be used to make decisions about treatment when substituted judgement becomes necessary according to the court.  (I.E., A plan written by the person now judged to be 'incompetent' during a time when they were competent that expresses their needs and preferences may be able to be used to help make decisions.)

Co-opted: Co-opting something refers to the act of taking over an idea, word or project in such a way that it loses its core meaning or purpose. For example, there is a great deal of concern within the recovery community that peer supports could be co-opted if peer workers based in traditional mental health settings are required to manage duties that are not in line with the values and 'heart' of peer work.

Consumer: 'Consumer' is the most frequently used label within the mental health system for individuals who are receiving mental health services.

CORI: CORI stands for Criminal Offender Record Information.  The CORI check is generally required for people who will be working with children, elderly or those labeled as disabled and in many other employment situations.  Some housing and other situations may also required a CORI check.  The laws around the CORI process (including when your CORI can be required, who can view your CORI, how to get something off of your CORI, what they are allowed to do with the information and how it is to be interpreted) is very complex and often changing.  Some additional information about the CORI in Massachusetts can be found here:  www.mass.gov/eopss/crime-prev-personal-sfty/bkgd-check/cori/

C/S/X Movement: The 'C/S/X Movement' stands for the Consumer/Survivor/Ex-Patient Movement.  This movement is made up of individuals who identify as consumers, survivors and ex-patients of the mental health system who are working together to promote recovery and change within that system.

Cultural Competence:  According to Wikipedia, "Cultural competence refers to an ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures. Cultural competence comprises four components: (a) Awareness of one's own cultural worldview, (b) Attitude towards cultural differences, (c) Knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews, and (d) cross-cultural skills. Developing cultural competence results in an ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures."  Cultural competence is a priority of both the Western Mass RLC and its umbrella agency, the Western Mass Training Consortium.



DBSA:  DBSA stands for the Depression Bipolar Support Alliance.  DBSA offers peer-to-peer support groups for individuals who identify as experiencing depression or bipolar disorder throughout the country.  More information can be found at the DBSA website.

DBT:  DBT stands for Dialectical Behavior Therapy.  DBT is an approach originated by Marsha Linnehan that was first used to treat individuals labeled with Borderline Personality Disorder.  However, over the years, it has grown in popularity and been modified for use in a number of different settings and for individuals experiencing a variety of issues.  DBT incorporates a variety of skills (mindfulness, self-soothing, distracting, communication, etc.) with the acceptance of 'dialectics' (apparent opposites) like both needing to change and being ok as one is.  Although this is traditionally a very clinical approach, some have worked to incorporate sharing and teaching of DBT skills into peer-to-peer support groups, as well.

Deaf Culture:  In addition to having a separate language, individuals who are deaf also have grown up with a deaf culture.  Deaf culture refers to the traditions and expectations for interpersonal interactions, ways of living and so on for individuals who are deaf.  Some examples of deaf culture include the importance of maintaining eye contact while speaking and the directness of conversation between individuals who are deaf.  Learn more at the Wikipedia page on deaf culture

Defining Principles:  In this context, the defining principles (sometimes also referred to as the RLC's 'guiding principles') refers to the RLC's 'code of ethics' or values statement.  The Western Mass RLC is not a rules-based community.  Instead, they operate based on a set of values that were set by the Guiding Council of Western Mass before the RLC even opened its doors.  In both good times and those that are more challenging, the RLC refers back to these values to guide them.  The Defining Principles can be viewed here.

Department of Mental Health (DMH): (a.k.a. 'the Department.') DMH is the state agency responsible for overseeing mental health services in Massachusetts. It is also the primary funding source for the RLCs.

Disability:  Individuals may be referred to (or refer to themselves) as having a 'disability' if they have a physical, medical or emotional issue that impairs or "substantially limits one or more major life acivities" as defined as, "caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working."

DMH Eligibility: In the past, DMH eligibility was the term used to refer to whether or not a particular individual meets a set of criteria that makes them eligible for DMH services.    This is now called the DMH Service Authorization Process.  See the DMH Service Authorization Process for more info! 

DMH Service Authorization Process:  This refers to the process by which a person is determined to meet a set of criteria (clinical criteria, need for service, availability of service) and is authorized to receive the needed services. This process is necessary to access most DMH services with the exception of RLC and clubhouses.  To learn more about this process, check out DMH's webpage on 'Applying for Mental Health Services.'

DRA:  DRA stands for Dual Recovery Anonymous.  From the DRA website:  "Dual Recovery Anonymous is a 12 Step self-help program that is based on the principals of the Twelve Steps and the experiences of men and women in recovery with a dual diagnosis. The DRA program helps us recover from both our chemical dependency and our emotional or psychiatric illness by focusing on relapse prevention and actively improving the quality of our lives. In a community of mutual support, we learn to avoid the risks that lead back to alcohol and drug use as well as reducing the symptoms of our emotional or psychiatric illness."  For more information - including where to find meetings - visit the DRA Website.

DSM-IV:  The DSM-IV stands for the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) .  From the wikipedia page on the DSM: The DSM is published by the American Psychiatric Association and provides a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders. It is used in the United States and in varying degrees around the world, by clinicians, researchers, psychiatric drug regulation agencies, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and policy makers.  The manual evolved from systems for collecting census and psychiatric hospital statistics, and from a manual developed by the US Army, and was dramatically revised in 1980. The last major revision was the fourth edition ("DSM-IV"), published in 1994, although a "text revision" was produced in 2000. The fifth edition ("DSM-5") is currently in consultation, planning and preparation, due for publication in May 2013."  There is also a great deal of criticism of the DSM and its process for labelling.  For more information on the DSM (including some criticisms), check out Wikipedia's DSM page.

Dual Diagnosis:  Individuals are sometimes referred to as having a 'dual diagnosis,' particularly when they have been diagnosed with both psychiatric and substasnce abuse disorders.   However, as 'dual' ultimately just means more than one purpose or issue at the same time, 'dual diagnosis,' is sometimes also used to refer to individuals who have medical or developmental issues occurring alongside mental health disorders, etc. 

Dual Eligibility:  As healthcare reform moves along, a new term has risen that is used to refer to people who receive both Medicaid and Medicare benefits.  This term is 'Dual Eligibles' or 'Dual eligibility.'  Several states (including Massachusetts) have been selected to conduct a 'Dual Elegibles Demonstration' project.  You can find more out about that here


Elasticity:  In this context, elasticity refers to an individual's ability to re-learn or learn new pathways for coping and experiencing the world.  Trauma research has increasingly suggested, while traumatic experiences may in fact cause changes in the brain, that the brain maintains 'elasticity' and retains its ability to create new pathways based on new experiences. 

Ex-Patients:  Some individuals who have been previously hospitalized or received other mental health services prefer to refer to themselves as ex-patients, as opposed to consumers, survivors and so on. 

Extreme States: A term that individuals use to refer to extreme emotional experiences (such as a period when someone is hearing voices or having hallucinations, or experiencing a time of deep sadness and hopelessness)without giving them a psychiatric label.  Variations on this term include 'extreme emotional states,' and 'extreme psychiatric states.'



First Break:  'First Break' is a term often used to refer to people who are having their first experience with extreme emotional states (often involving what is commonly referred to as 'psychosis').  Many now believe that the supports and services that are offered at this point are critical and have the potential to create a path that allows space for moving through and beyond the experience *or* to push them more deeply into the mental health system on a long-term basis.  In other words, many believe that if properly supported, many people can move through this time and onto the rest of their lives.  But, if they are treated as if their experience is permanent or long-term, that may make a permanent or long-term disability outcome much more likely.

Five Fundamental Rights:  On February 25, 1998, after much advocacy by allies to and members of the recovery movement, important amendments to the Massachusetts laws regarding treatment of individuals for mental health issues took place. The new law, commonly referred to as the 'five fundamental rights' or 'bill of rights' guarantees certain fundamental rights to individuals receiving services from programs or facilities operated by, licensed by, or contracted with the Department of Mental Health (DMH). These rights include The right to 'reasonable access' to a telephone to make and receive confidential calls; The right to send and receive 'sealed, unopened, uncensored mail;' The right to receive visitors of your 'own choosing daily and in private, at reasonable times;' The right to a humane environment including living space which ensures 'privacy and security in resting, sleeping, dressing, bathing and personal hygiene, reading and writing and in tolieting;' the right to access legal representation.  Check out the Five Fundamental Rights Flyer for more info.

Full-time Equivalency (FTE): One FTE is equal to one full-time worker or (usually) 40 hours. More than one worker can be used to make up 1 full FTE. For example, two part-time workers, each working 20 hours per week would also equal 1 FTE and so on. Hence, 4.5 FTEs is the equivalent of 180 worker hours per week, regardless of how many workers are employed to make up those hours. The Western Mass RLC currently operates with 162 hours of regular workers (4.05 FTEs) split between 8 regular workers.

Franklin RCC / RLC's Greenfield Center:  The Franklin Resource Connection Center was the original name of the RLC's Greenfield Center.  RCC has since been dropped as a term as it was too often confused with 'RLC.'  Originally, the RLC's Greenfield Center shared space with the RECOVER Project at 68 Federal Street in Greenfield.  However, in 2011, it moved to an independent space at 74 Federal Street.  This location offers peer supports, access to computers, a lending library and a variety of workshops and groups.



Guiding Council of Western Mass (GCOW): The Guiding Council is a group of individuals from the recovery community in Western Mass and who act as the advisory board to the Western Mass RLC  They existed before the RLC, and were also the group that was instrumental in developing the vision of what the Western Mass RLC would become. Want to know more or learn how to join GCOW? Visit the Guiding Council's page for details and history!

Greenfield Center:  The RLC's Greenfield Center was first called the Franklin RCC or Resource Connection Center.  RCC has since been dropped as a term as it was too often confused with 'RLC.'  Originally, the RLC's Greenfield Center shared space with the RECOVER Project at 68 Federal Street in Greenfield.  However, in 2011, it moved to an independent space at 74 Federal Street.  This location offers peer supports, access to computers, a lending library and a variety of workshops and groups.



Harm Reduction:  Some recovery programs advocate for abstinence.  However, others support a harm-reduction approach that looks to reduce use of an approach or substance that is seen as potentially harmful, and/or exploring ways to reduce the risks involved in how that approach or substance is used.  Harm-reduction is a term most commonly heard around substance use.  (For example, one might take a harm reduction approach by reducing use of a substance or by making sure to use clean needles rather than aiming for no drug use at all.)  However, harm reduction approaches can also be relevant to reducing self-harming (cutting, burning, etc.), the use of psychiatric medications and so on.  Visit the National Harm Reduction Coalition's webpage for more information.

Hearing Voices Movement:  The Hearing Voices movement is an approach that operates strongly from the idea that the experience of hearing voices (or other unusual experiences) need not be pathologized and that the meaning that people develop for themselves is important and valid.  The movement's philosophy suggests that getting rid of voices doesn't necessarily need to be one's goal and that the opportunity to talk about one's voices and share with others who have had similar experiences can be very important to healing.  You can learn more about the international hearing voices movement by visiting www.intervoiceonline.org or about the Hearing Voices movement in the United States by visiting www.hearingvoicesusa.org

Hearing Voices Network:  The Hearing Voices Network refers to the network that exists in each country or area that supports the development of Hearing Voices groups and shares information on hearing voices resources overall.  For more about Hearing Voices USA, visit www.hearingvoicesusa.org

Hispanic:  Hispanic is generally used to refer to an individual or culture from Spain or other primarily Spanish-speaking countries.  Although this is sometimes used interchangably with 'Latino' or 'Latina,' many individuals have a preference for one word or the other based on their heritage and/or personal choice.

Holyoke RCC / RLC's Holyoke Center: The Holyoke Resource Connection Center (RCC) was historically the name of Western Mass RLC's first center which opened in Holyoke in 2007.  It is now most commonly referred to as the RLC's Holyoke Center.   It offers 1:1 peer supports, a computer lab, lending library and a variety of workshops and groups.

Human Experience Language:  Human Experience Language is a phrase used by the Certified Peer Specialist program and others to mean descriptive language that refers to day-to-day life and experiences, rather than language that is geared toward labelling or diagnosing.  Human experience language is generally person-first and non-clinical.

Human Rights:  In general terms, 'human rights' are those rights to which all humans are entitled.  (For more information on human rights in general, check out this Wikipedia article on the United Nation's Universal Declaration on Human Rights.)  In Massachusetts, 'human rights' is also often used to refer to those rights and responsibilities held by individuals receiving mental health services.  Those rights can be viewed in the DMH Human Rights Handbook (available in English and Spanish). 



IAP:  IAP stands for Individualized Action Plan.  IAPs are generally developed with an individual receiving services on an annual basis and are then reviewed and/or revised quarterly.  IAPs may include multiple goals that are being supported by one or more program or service.  (IAPs replaced PSTPs which have now been eliminated.)

iNAPS:  iNAPS stands for the International Association for Peer Supporters (formerly known as the National Association for Peer Specialists).  You can learn more at their website:  www.naops.org

Informed Consent:  In Massachusetts, there is an 'Informed Consent' policy that applies to any facility or provider run or funded by the Department of Mental Health and all individuals served by them.  The Informed Consent policy requires that consent to treatment should be "fully informed, voluntary (free of cercion), knowing and competently given."  It requires that individuals be given the right to "forego treatment... or even cure, if it entails what, for them, are unacceptable consequences or risks, however unwise their decision may be in the eyes of the medical profession or others."  It also requires that alternatives (including lack of treatment) be discussed.  For more information, view the DMH policy of Informed Consent.

IPS:  IPS stands for Intentional Peer Support, an approach originated by Shery Mead.  You can learn more about IPS at www.intentionalpeersupport.com.  IPS also stands for 'Individual Placement and Support' a supported employment approach utilized by many mental health providers.  You can learn more about IPS in the employment context here:  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPS_Supported_Employment

ISP:  ISP stands for 'Individual Service Plan.'  An ISP is generally developed on an annual basis by individuals who work with DMH Case Managers.  It is intended to look at an individual's overall needs and goals as they may or may not be being met through a variety of programs and services.

Involuntary Commitment:  Involuntary Commitment occurs when someone has been forced to go to the hospital against their will.  While someone can be held for up to 72 hours at a hospital against their will without a formal commitment process, there must be a legal process involved for a commitment.  A commitment can be for varying lengths of time.  For example, a court may approve a commitment for 'up to six months,' which means that the hospital can keep them hospitalized until either the six months is up OR the hospital deems them safe to leave.  If, at the end of the approved commitment period, the hospital still sees them as unsafe for release, they would need to return to court for a new commitment hearing.  (Actual length of commitment can be shorter or longer than six months, depending on the decision of the court.  Six months is just an example being used here.)  







Latino/Latina:  These are the masculine and feminine forms of the word used to refer to an individual or culture generally from Latin America.  Although this is sometimes used interchangably with 'hispanic,' many individuals have a preference for one or the other based on heritage and/or personal preference.

LEAD:  LEAD stands for Learning, Employment, Advocacy and Development and is a 'sister' to the RLC.  LEAD offers a variety of programs including Career Initiatives (small grants for individuals starting small businesses and/or independent projects), Career Explorers (supporting young adults to explore potential career paths) and the Western Mass Youth Council (supporting young adults to have a voice in services and other important issues).  LEAD collaborated with the RLC to found the Bowen Resource Center and they work closely together on many projects.  Check out LEAD's webpage for more info.

Lived Experience: A term used to describe individuals who have lived through the experience of being given a mental health diagnosis, extreme states, trauma, being a 'client' or 'consumer' within the mental health system, and so on. It is meant to be an open term that includes a variety of experiences and allows individuals to self-identify the labels and language they do or don't want to use for themselves.



Medical Model:  Medical models (e.g., the medical model of mental illness) provide a framework that is based on understanding 'what is wrong' with someone as a product of their mind and physiology.  In medical models, related problems are then regarded as symptoms of a disease or illness.

Medical Model of Mental Illness:  In an effort to give shape and names to some of the different perspectives people hold regarding what is traditionally thought of as 'mental illness,' the Western Mass RLC often refers to the 'Medical Model of Mental Illness,' the 'Social Model of Trauma,' and the 'Social Model of Extreme States.'  These three models help frame conversations and provide a way to talk about some of the different experiences and perspectives many of us hold.  Although the names of the models - in some cases - come out of the Western Mass RLC, all of the perspectives to which they refer are evidence-based and drawn from worldwide research and experiences.  Ultimately, the RLC recommends an 'eclectic approach,' through which individuals are well informed about the different perspectives and are able to then take what works for them from each or all. In the Medical Model of Mental Illness, specifically, individuals are typically given a specific diagnosis based on the DSM-IV (see also 'DSM-IV') and are provided with access to a variety of clinical treatments.  Though views on recovery even within the medical model are shifting, hisotrically, 'recovery' is often defined more around stabilization of symptoms that may be interfering with one's ability to live a full life.


Medication Optimization:  This is a term that refers to an effort to reduce medication cocktails (use of multiple medications) and tendencies toward over medication, to find the lowest possible does of medication (or help someone get off medication).  

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU): MOUs may be formed between two separate organizations who wish to have a formal agreement to work together on a particular project or in general.   MOUs may include agreements to make referrals to one another, to offer trainings to one another, to share funds or space or any other of a variety of aspects of collaboration. 

Mental Illness:  Mental illness is one way to look at and understand extreme emotional states and experiences like deep feelings of sadness, hearing voices, and so on.  The perspective of mental illness suggests that these experiences are biologically based and the result of a disease and/or problem in one's brain (e.g., a chemical imbalance).  There are several diagnoses that fall under the broader category of 'mental illness,' including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and so on.  These diagnoses are detailed within the DSM-IV.

MORS:  MORS stands for Milestones of Recovery Scale.  It is an outcome measure used in Massachusetts and other states that requires that an individual's level of recovery be rated on a scale of 1 to 8 based on a number of criteria.  You can learn more about the MORS process at www.milestonesofrecovery.com.  

Motivational Interviewing (MI):  MI is used both as an abbreviation for 'Mental Illness' and for 'Motivational Interviewing.'  Motivational Interviewing is an approach that was developed in the 1980's but has recently regained popularity.  According to the Motivational Interviewing website, this approach is defined as follows:  "Motivational interviewing is a directive, client-centered counseling style for eliciting behavior change by helping clients to explore and resolve ambivalence. Compared with nondirective counselling, it is more focused and goal-directed. The examination and resolution of ambivalence is its central purpose, and the counselor is intentionally directive in pursuing this goal."  Find out more information at the Motivational Interviewing website.

Multicultural:  Individuals or events may be considered 'multicultural' if they fundamentally incorporate more than two cultures into who/what they are about and the values and heritage they represent. 

Mutuality:  Above all else, 'mutuality' refers to the focus on the RELATIONSHIP between two people, regardless of who is the 'giver' and who is the 'receiver' of support at a given time.  Whether or not there is a clear give and take between both people, it is understood that both individuals are affected by and can grow and heal from their connection with one another.  Mutuality does NOT necessarily mean there is equal responsibility or roles. 



NA:  NA stands for Narcotics Anonymous and grew out of the AA movement of the 1940's.  From the NA website: "NA is a nonprofit fellowship or society of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem. We … meet regularly to help each other stay clean. … We are not interested in what or how much you used ... but only in what you want to do about your problem and how we can help"  To learn more, visit the NA website.

NAMI:  NAMI stands for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  NAMI is a national group with many local chapters.  Although initially formed by family members of individuals diagnosed with psychiatric disorders, NAMI now also offers many peer and educational resources.  From their website:  NAMI's support and public education efforts are focused on educating America about mental illness, offering resources to those in need, and insisting that mental illness become a high national priority. Mental illness is a serious medical illness that affects one in four families. No one is to blame. Treatment works, but only half of people living with mental illness receive treatment. NAMI has engaged in a variety of activities to create awareness about mental illness and promote the promise of recovery.  Check out the NAMI website for more info.

NAPS:  NAPS stands for the National Association for Peer Specialists which has now become the International Association for Peer Supporters in order to expand their reach to other countries and to those who are not Certified Peer Specialists.  You can learn more at their website:  www.naops.org

Neurodiversity:  From Wikipedia:  "Neurodiversity is an idea which asserts that atypical (neurodivergent) neurological development is a normal human difference that is to be recognized and respected as any other human variation.  Differences may arise in ways of processing information, including language, sound, images, light, texture, taste, or movement."  The concept of neurodiversity is particularly embraced by many individuals who identify as having Aspergers or other Autism Spectrum Disorders.  For individuals who identify in this way, the concept of 'recovery,' can be offensive in that it implies that there is something wrong with the individual that needs to be 'fixed,' rather than the problem lying within the larger community and their tolerance of differences.  For more information on neurodiversity, visit the neurodiversity.com website.

NIMH:  NIMH stands for the National Instituted of Mental Health.  NIMH sees itself as the "largest scientific organization in the world" dedicated to research and understanding of psychiatric diagnoses and related experiences.  NIMH recently made news when their director, Thomas Insel, wrote an article distancing NIMH from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.  You can read more about that here.

Non-Compliant:  'Non-compliant' is a term sometimes used by clinicians to refer to individuals who are refusing to follow the recommended treatment(s).  This term is not recovery-oriented or based in person-center care as it implies that clinicians/providers are the individuals who are in the position to be determining what the right treatments are without the input of the individual.



OA:  OA stands for Overeaters Anonymous.  From their website: Overeaters Anonymous offers a program of recovery from compulsive eating using the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of OA. Worldwide meetings and other tools provide a fellowship of experience, strength and hope where members respect one another’s anonymity. OA charges no dues or fees; it is self-supporting through member contributions.  OA is not just about weight loss, gain or maintenance; or obesity or diets. It addresses physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.  Visit the OA website for more information.

Open Dialogue:  Open Dialogue is an approach that was developed by Jaakko Seikkula and others and implemented in the Northern Laplands of Finland.  It is finding the best documented recovery outcomes in the world.  It is a clinical approach, but is quite different than traditional clinical approaches in the United States and other nations (including other parts of Finland).  Some of the components of Open Dialogue include low or no medication use, quick and consistent response time, an assumption that problems lie 'in the space between people' rather than just in the one person who appears to be the one struggling the most, and approach that incorporates multiple clinicians and people from the individual's family/friend support system in the community.  For more on the Open Dialogue approach, visit here.

Oppression:  Oppression is defined as the act of exercising unjust or excessive use of power to restrict the rights, choices and access of an individual or group.  Many individuals in the recovery movement believe - based on stigma and a number of other issues - that individuals diagnosed with psychiatric labels have experienced oppression within the mental health system and in the community in general.



Partial Hospitalization:  When an individual is hospitalized, that generally means they are staying at the hospital during the day and sleeping there at night.  However, in partial hospitalization, an individual attends a structured day program based in a clinical setting and then returns home at night.  Partial hospital programs can extend over the course of days or weeks and typically includes therapy, psychiatric and group supports. 

Peer: In this context, peer is intended to refer to individuals who identify as having lived experience and a personal recovery story.  However, this use is seen as highly problematic by many people who do not wish to see 'peer' become an identity or one-word label like consumer, client and so on.  Many argue that 'peer' simply means another person or group with whom you relate based on some shared experience(s).  

Peer Bridger:  'Peer Bridger' is one title within the realm of peer roles.  It can be used to indicate a variety of responsibilities, but is most often used to refer to a peer worker whose primary duties center around supporting individuals to transition from one environment or service to another (e.g., from being in the hospital to returning to the community).  'Peer Bridger' roles should also be built around the ideas listed under 'Peer Roles.'

Peer Community Coordinator:  'Peer Community Coordinator' is one title within the realm of peer roles.  At the Western Mass RLC, it has historically been used to refer to peer workers who are in the role of helping to facilitate the growth and ease of community development in a particular area or at a particular center.  'Peer Community Coordinator' roles at the RLC have also historically been built around the ideas listed under 'Peer Roles.'

Person-Centered Care:  Person-centered care (or treatment) is care or treatment that is based on the goals of the individual being supported, as opposed to the goals of the system or as defined by a doctor or other professional.  For example, in person-centered environments:

*  Individuals are always present at any meetings about their treatment (Nothing about us, without us!)

*  They have the first and last say about who else is involved in meetings regarding their care

*  Words like compliance (implying going along with someone else's judgement, decision or goal) are not used

All options are fully discussed, information about alternatives is provided and personal choices are respected

Peer-Driven or Peer-led:  In this context, a program that is peer-driven is one where individuals with lived experience are involved in decision making and community development, but there are paid employees in place who may not identify as or act as 'peers' and who help facilitate the decisions and preferences of the peer community.

Peer Facilitator:  'Peer Facilitator' is one title within the realm of peer roles.  It is most frequently used to describe someone in a peer role who has been trained to and is responsible for facilitating one or more types of peer-lead groups.  In Massachusetts, Peer Facilitator trainings are offered across the state by the Transformation Center and various RLCs.  'Peer Facilitator' roles should also be built around the ideas listed under 'Peer Roles.'

Peer Mentor:  'Peer Mentor' is one title within the realm of peer roles.  It can be used to indicate several responsibilities, but most frequently is used to refer to an individual who is working one-on-one with someone who is less far along in their recovery to help support them and inspire hope.  'Peer Mentor' roles should also be built around the ideas listed under 'Peer Roles.'

Peer Participatory Process:  In communities and organizations where a 'peer participatory process' is in place, individuals with from the community who use (past and current) and are most affected by the services and/or supports being provided have a primary role in making decisions about how the program or community is developed.  A true peer participatory process includes participation at every level (not just an advisory board, but also in day-to-day activities, implementation, etc.) in a substantial way (e.g., there are multiple individuals representing the peer voice and a process for taking peer input seriously, etc.).

Peer Respite (or Peer-run Respite):  A peer respite is a space that can serve as an alternative to hospitalization (sometimes called a hospital diversion program) or other traditional services.  Team members working at the peer respite are generally largely or all people who identify as having had their own experiences with psychiatric diagnosis, crisis, hospitalization and other life challenges.  Peer respites do not offer any clinical services, and focus on creating a healing space and peer support.  Generally, peer respites provide space for people to remain connected to clinical services in the community if they so choose, though clinical services are not required at all and everything is based on personal choice and preferences.  To learn more about peer respite, visit our page on Afiya, the only peer respite in Massachusetts.

Peer-run: In this context, 'peer-run' is intended to refer to a project or organization that is overseen and directed by individuals who clearly identify as having lived experience. In the case of the Western Mass RLC, all employees (including all leadership roles) amd all members of the advisory board identify as having lived experience. Thus, although their umbrella organization is not peer-run, the RLC is considered to be peer-run.  (For an organization to be considered 'peer-run,' it is generally a prerequsite that at least 51% of the Board of Directors identifies as having lived experience.  The Transformation Center and MPOWER are examples of fully peer-run organizations.)

Peer Roles:  There are many types of 'peer roles.'  However, central to all peer roles are the following ideas:

*  One's personal experience and recovery story is the most valuable tool they have in their work

*  Being 'in but not of' the system is central to their role (i.e., all individuals in peer roles should be present to support and advocate for the individual's goals and should not be responsible for goals or processes of the system within which that person exists)

Peer Services or Peer Supports: These are service and support offerings (1:1 and in groups) provided by individuals who have lived experience and who are willing and able to use their own recovery stories as a primary tool to support others.

Typically, a separation is made between services that are considered 'clinical' and those that are considered to be 'peer' supports. While there are some overlaps, there are also primary differences in training, focus and approach.

Both individuals working in the 'clinical' and 'peer' worlds may have various levels of training, licensure and/or certification. However, there is greater emphasis on schooling in the clinical world, and greater emphasis on life experience in the other. Along those same lines, in clinical services, although therapists or staff may sometimes disclose their own experiences, the approach is generally objective, detached and based on learned theory. Whereas, in peer supports, the core approach is generally based on mutuality and the wisdom gained from having lived through particular experiences. Similarly, though listening and other skills may be used in both the peer and clinical worlds, clinical supports are primarily focused on the service provided while peer supports are primarily focused on the relationship and the human connection provided. 

With peer supports, it's also critical to note that the primary goals generally include supporting an individual to find and use their own voice.  Thus, there are many tasks that peer supporters must not engage in in order to preserve the integrity of their role and prioritize self-determination and being there to represent the individual.  These include medication administration and rep-payeeship among others.

Peer Worker:  There are many titles used for peer work including (but not limited to) 'peer mentor,' 'peer bridger,' 'peer specialist,' and so on.  'Peer worker,' is generally the most generic of those terms and can be used to refer to an individual working in any peer role (volunteer or paid).  'Peer role' is then defined as any role filled by an individual with lived experience who uses their lived experience as one of their primary tools to support others and whose duties are built around supporting the individual's goals rather than supporting the processes of the system.

Pittsfield Center:  The Berkshire RCC is what the Western Mass RLC originally called the resource center located in Pittsfield.  It is now most commonly called the RLC's Pittsfield Center.  RCC is no longer used on a regular basis as it became too often confused with RLC.  It is currently located at 152 North Street, Suite 230 in Pittsfield.  It offers 1:1 peer support, workshops and activities as well as access to resource information, a computer lab, library and more.

PSB:  This acronym has become a popular way to refer to 'Problematic Sexual Behaviors.'  Often, it is used to refer to someone who has been convicted of a sex-related crime and has been placed on the Sex Offenders Registry or someone who has been clinically assessed and believed to be engaged in sexually-related actions that could lead to legal problems.

PSTP:  PSTP stands for 'Program Specific Treatment Plan.' PSTPs are no longer used and have been replacd by IAPs.  When they existed, PSTPs were plans developed by individuals receiving residential services alongside the provider of those services.  PSTPs generally focused on a variety of goals relevant to that individuals recovery and independence that are developed annually and reviewed on a regular basis.

Peer Support Whole Health and Resiliency Training (PSWHR):  This training was developed by the Appalachian Consulting group in Georgia and focuses on the idea of finding wellness by setting goals in areas relevant to the individual that may include spirituality, exercise and so on.  You can learn more here.





R-Day:  R-Day stands for 'Rehab Day.'  When soemone is enrolled in a Department of Mental Health (DMH) service like Community Based Flexible Supports (CBFS), it is assumed that at least some days will be 'R-Days' because CBFS is seen as a service that is geared toward rehabilitation (rather than just maintenance).  To qualify as an R-Day, a given individual must have worked on a goal that was documented in their Individual Action Plan (IAP) and it must be properly documented in service notes.  Although DMH pays a service provider for all enrolled days, even if they do not qualify as an 'R-Day,' when a day qualifies as an R-Day DMH is able to be reimbursed 50% of that expense by Medicaid.  There is an average of about 25% R-Days across the state of Massachusetts.

Recovery: There are many definitions for the term 'recovery,' and some feel that it has become a 'buzz word' that has lost much of its meaning and power. Ultimately, most use it to refer to each individual's path and process to personal wellness.  However, there are those who choose to avoid this word because of its implications that one is nececssarily must have been broken or 'off' in some way in order to need to 'recover.'  This is particularly true in communities where the concept of neurodiversity is embraced.  (See also 'neurodiversity.')  It also holds true for many whose beliefs relate to the Social Model of Extreme States and a number of other perspectives.  (See also 'Social Model of Extreme States.')

Recovery Annex:  The Recovery Annex is a space co-developed by the Western Mass RLC and the RECOVER Project and is located at 74 Federal Street in Greenfield.  This space - formerly an old comic book store in poor condition - was re-worked entirely by the RLC and RECOVER communities into a beautiful, art-filled space that is now used for yoga, support groups and a variety of other events.

Recovery Community: 'Recovery community' generally refers to a community made up of individuals who have experienced significant challenges in their lives from which they have had to 'recover' so that they may continue down their desire life's path.  In terms of the RLC community, many who make up our recovery community identify as having been or being a 'consumer' of mental health services, having been diagnosed with and/or treated for a serious mental illness, having experienced extreme states or trauma, and/or having sought to manage their experiences with traditional or non-traditional methods.

Recovery Learning Community (RLC): In 2007, three RLCs were funded to begin start up in Massachusetts including the Western Mass RLC, the Central Mass RLC, and the Metro Suburban RLC. The main purpose of the RLCs is to provide peer supports to individuals who are working on their recovery, as well as to help provide a network of supports throughout each area by tying existing services together. How these peer supports are organized and offered may vary from region to region. It should be noted that 'RLC' refers to a whole project that is intended to be interwoven into a whole community and does not refer to a particular physical site. See Resource Connection Centers or RCCs for more information on the physical sites of the RLCs.

Recovery Movement:  Sometimes used interchangably with phrases like the 'c/s/x movement,' the recovery movement refers to a group made up of individuals who have received mental health services and been given psychiatric diagnoses and/or experienced extreme states who are working together to promote the belief in recovery and change within the mental health system.  Allies who identify with the core values and mission of the recovery movement are also seen as having an important role.

RECOVER Project:  The RECOVER Project is a peer support community built by individuals in recovery from addiction and substance abuse issues.  The RLC shares space with the RECOVER Project in Greenfield.  Learn more about the RECOVER Project at their webpage.

Recovery Story:  A recovery story is a story that focuses on an individual's challenges and how they have learned, moved forward and grown in the face of those experiences.  Recovery stories generally focus on hope, inspiration, wellness and healing as opposed to graphic details of what things were like at their worst.  Individuals rarely tell their WHOLE recovery story in one sitting, but rather pick and choose the piece of their story that makes the most sense for the given audience, purpose and time available.  For example, an individual may focus only about the part of their story where they successfully found housing when speaking with someone who is struggling to find a home.  However, the same person might tell a longer and broader version of their story when speaking to a group of students about what helped them recover, and so on.

Rehab Option:  In order to achieve Rehab Option Certification (and thus be able to participate in the R-Day process), a provider must go through periodic review and meet a number of standards that include the presence and proper development and maintenance of the following items:

  • Medical Records
  • Assessments (Adult Comprehensive Assessment and Adult Comprehensive Assessment Update)
  • Determination of Medical Necessity (Clinical Formulation-Interpretive Summary)
  • Treatment Plans (Individualized Action Plan and Individual Service Plan as applicable)
  • Service Notes
  • Quarterly Reviews
  • Discharge Summaries

For more information on Rehab Option certification and standards, visit here.

Relapse:  Relapse can refer to a recurrence of an activity, symptom or emotional state that an individual has worked to move past.  For example, an individual who identifies as an alcoholic might 'relapse' and have a drink.  An individual who has experienced feelings of depression and had difficulty leaving home in the past may again experience a period of deepened sadness and again experience isolation.  In the past, 'relapse' has sometimes been seen as a failure in the process of recovery.  However, most say that relapse is a part of recovery and an opportunity to learn and move forward.

Rep-Payee:  'Rep-Payee' stands for Representative Payee.  A Representative Payee is assigned when it has been determined that someone is not able to manage their Social Security funds (Social Security Disability Income and/or Supplemental Security Income) in a way that sufficiently meets their basic needs.  Usually, this determination is made by filling out paperwork through Social Security and with the support of a doctor.  A 'Rep-Payee' may be a family member, friend, service provider, lawyer or other person or group in the community.  Generally, that person or group then becomes responsible for making sure that Social Security funds are budgeted in such a way as to meet the person's basic needs for each month and that bills are paid.  There are many restrictions on how a rep-payee handles an individual's money.  For example, the Rep-Payee may not use the individual's money to bribe or reward them for doing a particular chore or complying with treatment.  In order to change who your Rep-Payee is or to get Social Security to send you your money directly without a Rep-Payee, more paperwork must be filed and generally documentation from a doctor is required when a rep-payee will no longer be used.  More information can be found here.

Request for Response (RFR): A document used by DMH and other departments and organizations to provide notification of a particular project that they wish to fund, and request that qualified parties submit a bid stating how they would meet the requirements of the proposed project and why they are the best candidates to do so. It is essentially a request for a grant proposal on a particular initiative. RFR is often used interchangeably with RFP (Request for Proposal).  Current and past RFRs can be viewed at www.comm-pass.com.

Resiliency:  Resiliency refers to one's ability to recover from illness, challenges and adversity.  In the recovery community, people are generally believed to be inherently resilient and able to recovery. 

Resiliency Bank:  A resiliency bank refers to a store of positive energy that can aid individuals in bouncing back from difficult situations and adversity.  Many believe that taking good care of one's self can build one's 'resliency bank,' so that when they experience challenges it is easier to maintain wellness and heal than it would have been if their energy were depleted.

Resource Connection Center (RCC) or Resource Center: Each RLC has at least one center that acts as a physical site for that RLC community. For example, in Western Mass,  centers are located in Holyoke, Greenfield, Pittsfield and Springfield.  Each offers call-in and walk-in access to peer support, resource information, a computer lab, a library and space for workshops and trainings.  The Western Mass RLC used to call these 'RCC's, but when that became to confusing (RLC was often confused with RCC), we moved to calling the centers 'Resource Centers.'

Rogers Order:  A Rogers Order is a court judgement that indicates that the courts - through due process - have found that an individual is not competent to assess and accept or deny psychiatric medications and related treatments.  The Rogers Order process is based on the principle of substituted judgement and, in cases, where individuals are believed not to be competent to assess the risks of following or not following a particular course of treatment, the court is expected to make an effort to determine whether or not an individual WOULD accept that treatment IF they were competent to do so prior to issuing a judgement.  As more a a judgement of competence, it is not intended as an authorization to force treatment or require hospitalization when individuals in the community refuse medication.  It is actually based on the case of Rubie Rogers who fought against forced treatment.  The Rogers Order was, at the time it was first ruled, considered to be a victory for Ms. Rogers and a judgement against forced treatment.  For more information, view the actual Rogers ruling.



Section 12:

Section 16:

Section 35:

Self-harm / Self-inflicted Violence (SIV): Some individuals use self-harm (also known as self-inflicted violence or SIV and can include cutting, burning, hair pulling, etc.) as a way to cope with emotional pain or other distressing experiences.  Although, in the past, people have sometimes interpreted this type of self-harming as meaning that someone is suicidal, most people now understand that self-harming is a coping mechanism and is not connected to an intend to suicide.  In fact, some research shows that attempting to take away a person's ability to self-harm may increase the risk of suicide because you have taken away one of their ways of coping.  Check out the 'Healing Self-Injury' website for more information.

SMI (or SPMI):  In this context, SMI refers to 'serious mental illness' (or 'Serious and Persistent Mental Illness').  It is a label sometimes used by providers of clinical services.  According to the National Institute of Mental health, 'SMI' refers toindividuals who have "a diagnosisof non-organic psychosis or personality disorder; durationcharacterised as involving "prolonged illness and long-termtreatment" and operationalised as a two-year or longer historyof mental illness or treatment; and disability, which wasdescribed as including at least three of the eight specifiedcriteria."

Social Model:  In contract to medical models that look inside someone to find answers, social models look at the person in connection with their environment.  (See also the 'Social Model of Trauma' and the 'Social Model of Extreme States.')

Social Model of Extreme States: In an effort to give shape and names to some of the different perspectives people hold regarding what is traditionally thought of as 'mental illness,' the Western Mass RLC often refers to the 'Medical Model of Mental Illness,' the 'Social Model of Trauma,' and the 'Social Model of Extreme States.'  These three models help frame conversations and provide a way to talk about some of the different experiences and perspectives many of us hold.  Although the names of the models - in some cases - come out of the Western Mass RLC, all of the perspectives to which they refer are evidence-based and drawn from worldwide research and experiences.  Ultimately, the RLC recommends an 'eclectic approach,' through which individuals are well informed about the different perspectives and are able to then take what works for them from each or all.  The Social Model of Extreme States, specifically, refers to the belief that experiences commonly labeled as 'mental illnesses' may actually be a necessary process connected to spiritual emergency, environment and/or a number of other factors.  In this model, it is assumed that most individuals are able to move through their extreme states if supported and given the space and time to do so.  This model is also the least likely to define extreme experiences (hearing voices, periods of heightened sensitivity, etc.) as necessarily 'bad' or as experiences to necessarily 'get rid of,' and may focus more on finding balance and ways to manage those experiences and sensitivities. 

Social Model of Trauma:  In an effort to give shape and names to some of the different perspectives people hold regarding what is traditionally thought of as 'mental illness,' the Western Mass RLC often refers to the 'Medical Model of Mental Illness,' the 'Social Model of Trauma,' and the 'Social Model of Extreme States.'  These three models help frame conversations and provide a way to talk about some of the different experiences and perspectives many of us hold.  Although the names of the models - in some cases - come out of the Western Mass RLC, all of the perspectives to which they refer are evidence-based and drawn from worldwide research and experiences.  Ultimately, the RLC recommends an 'eclectic approach,' through which individuals are well informed about the different perspectives and are able to then take what works for them from each or all.  The Social Model of Trauma, specifically, refers to the belief that experiences commonly labeled as 'mental illnesses' are actually learned responses to one's environment and trauma and that one has the capacity to re-learn new ways of interacting with their environment as they heal.  (See also 'ACE Study' and 'Trauma-informed.') 

SSDI:  SSDI stands for Social Security Disability Insurance.  SSDI enables workers who are or have been employed in covered employment and who have a medical condition that meets Social Security's definition of disability to collect benefits while they are unable to work.  The amount of SSDI benefits received each month depends on the length of an individual's employment history and the amount earned during that time.  Individuals who receive lower SSDI payments due to a shorter work history may also qualify for SSI.  Unlike SSI, SSDI is NOT based on other assets or savings you may have accumulated.  It IS possible to go back to work or school when you feel ready, even if you are receiving SSDI benefits and there are a number of supports to help you figure out a plan to do so.  Check out the Beneplan website for more info.

SSI:  SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income.  SSI is available to individuals 65 and over or individuals identified as having a disability that prevents them from working and who need income to support their basic needs (housing, food, etc.).  You do not have to have a work history to qualify for SSI payments.  However, individuals who have savings above a certain amount or other assets that could be used to support their basic needs may be disqualified.  It IS possible to go back to work or school when you feel ready, even if you are receiving SSDI benefits and there are a number of supports to help you figure out a plan to do so.  Check out the Beneplan website for more info.

Springfield RCC:  The Springfield Resource Connection Center (RCC) is generally referred to by its name: the Bowen Resource Center.  Named after founding GCOW member, Shelley Bowen, this center opened in May of 2009 and offers peer support by phone and in person, access to computer and a lending library and a variety of other workshops and activities.  It is located at 340 Main Street in Springfield.

Sorenson Video Relay:  Sorenson is one of the primary providers of Video Relay Services.  Video Relay Services are servicecs for individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.  These services allow individuals to use video to communicate with others.  In cases, where two deaf individuals are communicating with one another, the video relay services allow them to call each other directly and see each other visually on a monitor to allow for the use of sign language.  In cases where an individual who is deaf is attempting to call a service or an individual who is not deaf, a video relay operator is available to sign with the deaf individual and interpret into English for the hearing individual.  To find out more about Sorenson Video Relay Services check out their website.  Individuals who are hearing and who wish to call someone who has a video relay system can first call 1-866-926-8877 to connect with a video relay operator.  Check out the Massachusetts Video Relay website for additional information.  Spanish translation is available.

Soteria:  Soteria is a low or no medication approach for the treatment of individuals who are experiencing their 'first break' (first experience with emotional distress often referred to as psychosis).  The first Soteria house was based in California and developed by Loren Mosher.  Soteria houses now exist in Alaska and (in progress of being developed) Vermont.  To learn more about Soteria visit www.moshersoteria.com/.

Sponsor:  In most twelve-step communities, individuals are encoruaged to find sponsors.  Sponsors are individuals who are further along in their recovery process and can provide support and hope to individuals in earlier parts of their process.  (A sponsor is similar to a peer mentor.) 

Springfield Center:  The Bowen Resource Center is the RLC's Springfield Center.  Named after founding GCOW member, Shelley Bowen, this center opened in May of 2009 and offers peer support by phone and in person, access to computer and a lending library and a variety of other workshops and activities as well as a gym with cardio and weight lifting equipment (and exercise videos!).  It is located at 340 Main Street in Springfield.

Substituted Judgement:  The principle of substituted judgement is a court process used in some cases where individuals are judged to be incompetent to understand and assess the risks and benefits of particular treatment.  In cases where substituted judgement is used, courts are supposed to assess what the particular individual would likely choose IF they WERE competent (including consideration of reports from family and others who are familiar with the individual's preferences, statements and written plans made by the individual when they were believed to be competent, religious beliefs, etc.).  Substituted judgement is NOT intended to mean that someone else's judgement is substituted for the idnividual's judgement.



Trauma-informed: 'Trauma-informed' generally refers to operating on the assumption that the majority of people with whom one will come in contact have experienced trauma in their lives.  This perspective encourages individuals to ask 'What happened to you,' rather than 'What is wrong with you,' and to approach understanding an individual's way of interacting with the world as being a reaction to their past trauma and environment rather than solely as an internal process or biology.  In 'trauma-informed' environments, individuals work toward developing environments where physical space, activities and interpersonal interactions are also based on these assumptions.  Examples of goals and values that may be present in trauma-sensitive environments include avoidance of yelling or loud noises, avoidance of asking people to sit with their backs to doors, having at least two facilitators or peer workers present at all times and having clear expectations and transparency in all processes.  A trauma-informed perspective also assumes that the meeting of one's basic needs (food, sleep, safe space) is an essential step to allowing them to see the world as a safe place and beginning to heal.

Examples of trauma can include physical and emotional abuse, poverty, racism and so on.  The Adverse Childhood Events (ACE) study is one of the largest studies ever done to demonstrate the potential affects of trauma and the centrality of trauma in our lives.  More can be learned about the ACE study at www.acestudy.org.

Treatment Resistant:  'Treatment resistant' is a term sometimes used in clinical treatment to refer to an individual that clinicians feel is not improving or having difficulty improving inspite of treatment  provided and/or who is resistant to following treatment recommendations.  'Treatment resistant' is not generally considered to be a term that is recovery-oriented or based on person-centered care.

TTY:  TTY stands for Teletypewriter, a typing device used to communicate with individuals who are deaf.  TTY machines attach directly to phone lines or a phone unit and allow hearing individuals and deaf individuals to communicate through typing.  When a deaf individuals is using a TTY to call a hearing person (or vice versa) who does not have access to a TTY machine, they can use a TTY operator to translate.  Because not all individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing are fluent in English, typing in English can be a challenge and so Video Relay Services are now also available allowing individuals to communicate by phone using sign language.  If you do not have a TTY machine, and want to call someone who uses a TTY,   dial 711 or 800.439.0183.  For information on how to use TTYs and TTY etiquette visit the TTY Overview webpage on the Mass Commission for the Deaf's website or visit the Mass Relay website.  Spanish translation is available.

Twelve-Step Groups:  As described on Answers.com: "Of or being a program designed to assist in the recovery from addiction or compulsive behavior, especially a spiritually-oriented program based on the principles of acknowledging one's personal insufficiency and accepting help from a higher power."  However, it should be noted that most twelve-step groups state that individuals do not need to be spiritually inclined to participate in and benefit from twelve-step programs and that the 'higher power' can be something as simple as a door knob.





Video Relay Services:  Video Relay Services (VRS) are servicecs for individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.  These services act much like a phone for hearing individuals and allow individuals who are deaf to use video to communicate with others through sign language.  In cases, where two deaf individuals are communicating with one another, the video relay services allow them to call each other directly and see each other visually on a monitor to allow for the use of sign language.  In cases where an individual who is deaf is attempting to call a service or an individual who is not deaf, a video relay operator is available to sign with the deaf individual and interpret into English for the hearing individual.  Individuals who are hearing and who wish to call someone who has a video relay system can first call 1-866-926-8877 to connect with a video relay operator.  Check out the Massachusetts Video Relay website for additional information.  Spanish translation is available.

Voluntary Commitment:



Warmline:  Warmlines are phone lines answered by peer workers who are there to offer general support and/or resource information.  Warmlines typically offer hours during the evenings and weekends (when other services are often closed) and are available to individuals who are bored, lonely, isolated, sad, anxious, struggling or just want to talk to someone.  In Massachusetts, there are two warmlines that offer toll-free numbers and are accessible to the Western Mass area.  There is also one outbound warmline based in Western Mass where individuals may sign up to receive check-in calls from a warmline worker on a weekly basis.  (You can sign up for the outbound warmline by calling (413) 539-5941 ext. )  There are also a number of other nationally-based warmlines that offer toll-free access.  For information on warmlines across the country check out the Warmlines website.

Wellness: A term often used in place of 'recovery,' wellness refers simply to your own state of feeling and being well.

Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP): Originally developed by Mary Ellen Copeland, and as described at www.copelandcenter.com, WRAP "is a self-management and recovery system developed by a group of people who had mental health difficulties and who were struggling to incorporate wellness tools and strategies into their lives." It provides a structured approach to developing a personalized wellness plan, including drawing a picture of what you look like when you're well and making specific plans of who can help you (and how) when you are not well.

Wellness Tools: Those approaches, skills and coping mechanisms that you use to stay feeling well. For instance, going for regular walks, reading, eating well and/or getting enough sleep may be a wellness tool that you use for yourself.

About Us

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.

Our community is made up of many individuals including those who:   boot_and_flowers_web

  • Have experienced or are experiencing extreme emotional distress and/or psychiatric diagnoses
  • Are survivors of trauma
  • Are struggling with addictions and/or substance abuse
  • Have experienced discrimination or oppression as a result of psychiatric diagnosis and/or a variety of other reasons
  • Have a desire to find healing and growth for any part of their lives or being
  • Are allies or who have genuine interest in learning and/or adding to the community

We approach our mission by:

  • Offering trauma sensitive peer-to-peer supports
  • Fostering mutuality and connection building
  • Offering opportunities for learning and sharing of ideas
  • Advocating for change at individual and community levels
  • Developing regional and national networks

What we offer:

The Western Mass RLC offers a number of different supports to individuals, providers and the general community.  These include:

  • Peer-to-peer support by phone and in person
  • Three resource centers (Holyoke, Springfield, Greenfield) that provide access to computers, a lending library, resource information and a place for community to grow
  • Wellness supports like yoga, acupuncture and reiki and (at our Springfield Center) free access to gym equipment
  • Access to local arts, including art shows, workshops and writing groups
  • Social opportunities like movie nights, pot lucks, beach trips and beyond
  • Consultation and training on topics such as hearing voices, suicide, hiring peer workers, recovery principles and language
  • Learning opportunities on many relevant topics including wellness planning, advocacy, SSI/SSDI benefits and more
  • Networking opportunities for people working in peer roles and individuals interested in a variety of issues
  • Coordination of events open to the communty including film screenings and presentations with nationally and internationally recognized speakers
  • Support groups like Hearing Voices, Alternatives to Suicide and general support groups in the community and in local hospitals
  • Leadership and career exploration opportunities particularly geared towrd young people in their late teens and 20's
  • A Peer Support Line
  • A peer-run respite house
  • A wide variety of volunteer opportunities and ways to get involved

Our History: 

The vision of the RLC was built upon the work of years upon years of advocacy by individuals both locally and nationally who have experienced psychiatric diagnoses, extreme states, trauma, oppression and a variety of other challenges.  Together, they argued that peer supports should be valued monetarily and funded throughout the state.  In 2005, the Transformation Center supported people in the local area to form the Guiding Council of Western Mass (GCOW).  GCOW was made up entirely of individuals who had 'been there,' who worked and/or lived in Western Mass and who were interestered in shaping the vision of the RLC's (then just a possible project the state was considering funding).  GCOW members worked together for over a year to develop a mission statement, core values and a structure for the RLC in their region.  When the Department of Mental Health released the RLC call for grant proposals in December of 2006, GCOW took leadership in developing a grant proposal and voted to join with the Western Mass Training Consortium as their partner agency. 

GCOW and The Consortium were awarded the RLC grant in May of 2007. They opened the doors of their first Resource Center in Holyoke in July of that same year, followed by Pittsfield (October, 2007), Greenfield (January, 2008), and Springfield (May, 2009). Development of physical spaces has continued with a move by the Pittsfield Center from donated space in a church to independent space in September of 2009, the addition of a Community Wellness Center in Springfield in November 2010, the move of the Greenfield Center from shared space with the Recover Project to independent space in 2011, and the development and opening of the peer-run respite, Afiya, in 2012. However, focus on community supports and development has also continued to grow outside of the spaces, with groups, workshops and events regularly held in a variety of settings and individuals from the RLC community being supported to build connections throughout the region.

The Western Mass RLC is now one of six Recovery Learning Communities funded throughout the state of Massachusetts. Visit the Transformation Center's website to learn more about other RLCs.

Our Funders:

The RLC is largely funded through grants from the Department of Mental Health. However, the RLC continues to seek additional funding opportunities and has also received funds through arts councils, community development block grants, individual donations and local foundations. All funders and donors play a crucial role in supporting the RLC to reach as many people as possible, to offer stipends to individuals in recovery who take on valued roles within the RLC, and to offer a wide variety of free offerings to individuals who would otherwise not have acccess to wellness activities like acupuncture, reiki, yoga, computer classes and more. 

Visit our donations page to make a contribution!

Our Umbrella Organization:

The RLC has found its home with the Western Mass Training Consortium. The Consortium creates conditions in which people with lived experience pursue their dreams and strengthen our communities through full participation.  They have over 20 years of experience in supporting community development, peer work and peer participatory processes.

Other peer-to-peer communities supported by The Consortium include:

The Salasin Project

The RECOVER Project

The Support Network for Families of Western Mass

The Greenbook Project

The Self-Advocacy Project

Visit The Consortium's website to learn more about their offerings!

Frequently Asked Questions


  1. What is the RLC?
  2. Where is the RLC located?
  3. Is the Western Mass RLC for me?
  4. Are RLC centers and events open to me if I’m under 18?
  5. Can I bring my children with me to RLC events and/or RLC centers?
  6. What do I need to do to become a member of the RLC community?
  7. How much does an RLC training, group or workshop cost?
  8. I want to visit a Resource Connection Center. How can I get there?
  9. What do you mean when you say things like ‘Lived Experience’ and ‘Extreme States’?
  10. How is the RLC funded?
  11. What does it mean when you say you’re ‘aspiring to be scent free’?
  12. Can I bring my pet to an RLC center or space?
  13. Are there RLCs in other areas?
  14. What is the Western Mass Training Consortium?
  15. How is the Western Mass RLC different from a Clubhouse?
  16. What does the boot and flowers image represent?
  17. How is the Western Mass RLC connected to the Transformation Center?
  18. How is Afiya connected to the Western Mass RLC?
  19. What does the RLC 'do'?

1. What is the RLC?

The 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. One of the founding concepts behind the RLC is that human relationships are healing, particularly when those people have similar experiences. And so, 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, trainings and learning opportunities, social events, a computer workshop and/or simply offering a safe space where people can communicate with others or simply be. The RLC also acts as a clearing house for information about other resources in the community and as a consultant to other organizations and groups interested in developing peer roles and/or applying recovery principles. 

2. Where is the RLC? 

The Recovery Learning Community (RLC) is PEOPLE and is wherever YOU and others from the community are. However, the RLC also offers Resource Centers within that community.  These resource centers are physical locations where individuals can come or call in to for support, use computers and the Internet, access the RLC library, find resources and attend various groups, workshops and events. The RLC opened the doors of its first center in July of 2007 and has continued to grow consistently since that time.

Holyoke Resource Center:

187 High Street, Suite 303, Holyoke, MA 01040 

(413) 539-5941 or Toll-free (866) 641-2853

Videophone (413) 650-1408

Open hours*: Monday through Thursday 12pm to 4pm

*  Some groups and events are scheduled outside of normal open hours. Open hours are subject to change. Check the monthly calendar for the most up-to-date info!

Springfield Resource Center (Bowen Center):

235 Chestnut Street, Springfield

Our center is located right on the first floor, with a fully accessible entrance, so we’re super easy to find. Our hours are Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 9am to 2pm and Saturday 11am to 3pm.
The center has computers, gym equipment, space to connect with others, chess, and more. Some features are available now, and others, like a food pantry, will be coming in the future. 

 Some groups and events are scheduled outside of normal open hours. Open hours are subject to change. Check the monthly calendar for the most up-to-date info!

Greenfield Resource Center:

Currently our Greenfield space is in flux; due to some water damage, we're holding all open hours and community events at nearby Greenfield locations. Check our monthly calendar by clicking here - we're still meeting and there's lots of stuff happening!

 (413) 772-0715

Open Hours*: Currently Mondays at the Salasin Center (474 Main Street, Greenfield), 2:30pm - 5:30pm. 

 Some groups and events are scheduled outside of normal open hours. Open hours are subject to change. Check the monthly calendar for the most up-to-date info!

Please note:  Each center varies in size and resources available.  Please feel free to stop in or call for more information!


3.     Is the Western Mass RLC for me?

The Western Mass RLC is an open community that is intended to create space for a variety of interests, needs and aims.  Generally, we assume that anyone that comes to one of our centers, groups, meetings, events or trainings is there because they have a genuine interest in taking part.  We don't usually question that interest unless someone shows up with a clipboard and appears to primarily be there to 'study' us. 

Just a few examples of the people who are a part of our community:

  • People who are 18, 35, 60, 81 and every age in between and beyond
  • People who identify as mental health ‘consumers’ or ‘clients’ and people who do not
  • People who identify as having experienced ‘extreme states’ or 'trauma survivors'
  • People who are served by residential programs and people who live on their own
  • People who speak Spanish or American Sign Language as their first language
  • People who are eligible for DMH services and people who are not.
  • People who are trauma survivors
  • People who have been hospitalized as a result of their emotional struggles and people who have never been hospitalized
  • People who consider themselves ‘recovered' or 'in recovery,' and people who don't like the word 'recovery' at all
  • People who are still struggling a lot, people who have lots of ups and downs, and people who are feeling pretty good about where there life is at
  • People who don't really identify as having personal 'lived experience,' but who want to be a part of making change in our community and our world
  • People in provider roles who want to learn from people who have 'been there' and/or share some of their own personal experiences

 4.     Are RLC centers and events open to me if I'm under 18?

Because our centers are community center and do not offer ‘supervision’ of individuals who come in, our spaces are generally intended for individuals 18 and over. However, a number of our offerings are open to people 16 or older, and even younger individuals can be accommodated in some spaces/groups so please call to inquire if you have questions or if you would like help to find resources for younger people! 

5.     Can I bring my children with me to RLC events and/or RLC centers?

Children under 18 are welcome at RLC events and centers when accompanied by a family member or guardian. However, we ask family members and guardians to be aware of the following  community expectations:

  • The adult present with the child(ren) should be a family member, guardian or community provider connected to the child(ren).
  • Children present must also be able to follow the RLC’s defining principles with the guidance of the adult present with them (for example, the adult would be expected to work with the child to avoid yelling and other disruptive behavior).
  • The adult present with the child(ren) will be solely responsible for supervision while they are at an RLC event or center.  There will be no expectation that others will assist with supervision, unless they express a wish to be involved.
  • If a child is not able to be in an RLC space safely (either because he/she is not able to act in a way that is consistent with the defining principles or the adult does not appear to be adequately supervising the child) the adult present with the child will be offered a reminder of these expectations.  If there are repeated concerns, the adult may be asked to leave the space and/or to not bring the child(ren) back to the space for a period of time.

Please also note that young children may be experienced as more disruptive at some events than others. For example, it may be easier for children to be present at social events rather than a small support group. Additionally, please anticipate that some groups and events will cover difficult topics that may be upsetting to or difficult for young children to understand.


6.  What do I need to do to become a member of the RLC community?

Anyone who has a genuine interest is welcome to be a part of the RLC community in a way that works for them. The only exception to this is that we typically do not open our doors to people who are interested simply in studying or observing us for classes or professional development. (That said, there are many public events and opportunities for people to learn in this way, so please watch our newsletter or contact us for these sorts of opportunities.) There is no sign up or intake process. If you'd like, we can take your name, address, phone and/or e-mail for the purpose of receiving our newsletter or other notices, but you can also choose not to provide this information.  (The only exception to this is at our respite house, Afiya, where information taken is still quite limited, but we will have a few more questions for you.) You simply need to visit or call one of our spaces, get on our newsletter list or Facebook page, or attend an RLC event or training in order to be considered part of the community!


7. How much does an RLC training, group or workshop cost?

There is absolutely no cost to visit an RLC center or to attend the vast majority of RLC events, trainings or workshops. In the rare circumstance where there may be a any sort of cost to you to attend a particular event, it will be clearly stated ahead of time and there will always be opportunity for scholarships or reduced rates. Donations are always welcomed.


8. I want to visit an RLC space or attend an event.  How can I get there?

We know that many people don’t have cars or live further away from our spaces.  However, for people interested in coming in to a training or to check it out:

  • All of our spaces are accessible by local bus lines
  • For individuals unfamiliar with taking the bus, we will do our best to connect you with someone who can ride the bus with you the first few times to help you learn the route and get comfortable!
  • On a limited basis, we have individuals available who can meet with you in the community and, if you like, drive you to an RLC event or space.
  • On a limited basis, we may be able to reimburse you for your bus or gas fees to travel here for specific events.
  • As our community expands, we may be able to help you connect with other people in the community who are coming here from your area and are able to give you a ride!


9. What do you mean when you say things like ‘Lived Experience’ and ‘Extreme States’?

At the Western Mass RLC, we try to use open language that is as inclusive as possible. Some people in our community identify with their diagnosis and with the term ‘mental illness,’ while others view their emotional struggles as ‘extreme states’ that have resulted from experiences of trauma or spiritual emergence, etc. Some people prefer to refer to themselves as ‘clients’ or ‘consumers’ while others are uncomfortable with those terms. For that reason, we try to use terms that are open to people's personal interpretations. For example, someone may say "I have lived experience with mental illness," or "I have lived experience with trauma," and so on. There's clearly no one right phrase, but our hope is to create space for people to own their own stories. Many people in our community speak about what it's been like to be told what's 'wrong with them,' and reclaiming their stories has often been a big part of healing and moving forward.

Check out our glossary for more information. 

  10.     How is the RLC funded?

The RLC receives their main funding through a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health.   Other funding sources include private foundation grants, federal block grants and donations.  Additionally, the RLC does some of its work through sub-contracts.  (For example, the Alternatives to Suicide groups are funded through a sub-contract with Tapestry Health.)  The RLC's most recent funding stream includes contract payments for offering trainings in other parts of the country.


 11.     What does it mean when you say you’re ‘aspiring to be scent free’?

There are many people who are very sensitive to the fragrances used in shampoos, lotions, laundry detergents and so on.  Some of these sensitivities are allergies and others are symptoms of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), both of which can cause the individual much discomfort and/or serious health repercussions.  For that reason, we have made many efforts to make our spaces and our meetings safe for individuals who have allergies or MCS, including by asking everyone to avoid wearing scented items.

However, we understand that being entirely fragrance-free can be very difficult, and that sometimes an individual may not even realize that something they are using has a fragrance that is noticeable to someone else.  For that reason, we say that we are ‘aspiring to be’ or doing our best to be fragrance-free, but that we also understand that this is not always possible for every individual for economic and other reasons.  In these cases, we ask that people be sensitive to each other by being open and honest when something in their environment is bothering them, and by seeking alternative accommodations such as the use of air filtering systems and windows where available and maintaining physical distance from one another when necessary.

To learn more about MCS and other types of environmental sensitivities come check out the RLC library or ask for a copy of our MCS info sheet.


 12.     Can I bring my service animal to an RLC center or space?

The RLC values making all of its spaces, groups and events safe and accessible to everyone.  Hence, we welcome individuals who are bringing service or companion animals with them as a support.*  However, because we sometimes run into conflicting needs or issues, we also ask that people limit bringing animals who are NOT service or companion animals to our spaces unless planned ahead.  We also ask that everyone be aware that:

Service and companion animals will be expected to follow the RLC’s Defining Principles, too!:  We are a values driven community with a set of defining principles, including respect of one another, not yelling or making loud noises, not touching one another without permission and so on.  Hence, we ask human companions to make sure their animals do not bark, jump on others or behave in ways that will make the environment feel less safe to other individuals or their animals.

Some individuals do not like to be around dogs, cats or other animals because they are uncomfortable around and/or allergic to them: Although a service or companion animal may be invaluable to the person that it supports, some individuals’ distress and discomfort will be increased by the presence of animals (even those that are well behaved).  For that reason, we ask individuals who bring animals to any RLC spaces or events to follow these general guidelines: 

  • Please keep your animal with you at all times, and do not allow it to wander freely through the space.
  • If you learn that someone else in the space is afraid of or allergic to your pet, please work as a team with them and others present to find the best available option to accommodate everyone’s needs.
  • If you are unsure whether or not your animal will be able to follow the RLC’s Defining Principles around other people and animals when in our space, please call ahead to brainstorm options for your concerns or consider leaving your animal at home for that day.

*  Please note that, in the case of co-sponsored events or activities where other groups are the lead sponsor or in non-RLC leased spaces, we will defer to the guidelines of that space in regards to the presences of animals that are not specifically service animals.


13.   Are there RLCs in other areas?

 There are many versions of peer-to-peer communities and/or peer-to-peer support roles throughout the country and internationally.  However, the Recovery Learning Community model is unique to Massachusetts.  At this time, there are five other RLCs in the state.  They are all very different and do not follow a consistent model or approach.  (The Western Mass RLC follows the Recovery Learning Community Charter.)  More information about the other 5 RLCs can be found at:

The Central Mass RLC*

91 Stafford Street
Worcester, MA 01603
Telephone: (508) 751-9600


The Metro Boston RLC

Solomon Carter Fuller MHC Ground Floor
85 East Newton Street
Boston, MA 02118
Telephone: (617) 305-9976


The Metro-Suburban RLC*

60 Quincy Avenue
Quincy, MA 02169
Telephone: (617) 472-3237
Toll-Free: (888) 752-5510


Southeast RLC

71 Main Street - Suite 1100
Taunton, MA 02780
Telephone: (508) 828-4537


Northeast RLC

Northeast Independent Living Program
20 Ballard Rd
Lawrence, MA 01843
Telephone: (978) 687-4288 (V/TTY)


* The Western Mass, Metro-Suburban and Central Mass RLCs were the first of the six to be funded in 2007 and operate on a somewhat different model than the more recent three. 

 14.  What is 'The Western Mass Training Consortium'?

The Western Mass Training Consortium (often referred to just as 'The Consortium) is the Western Mass RLC's 'umbrella organization.'  The Western Mass RLC chose the Consortium because they had no history of providing traditional mental health services, but had decades of experience in promoting and supporting the development of peer-to-peer communities.   OTher peer-to-peer communities that the Consortium supports include the Western Mass Women's Resource Center (peer-to-peer community for women identifying as trauma survivors), the RECOVER Project (peer-to-peer community for individuals identifying as having addiction or substance abuse issues), Support Network for Families of Western Mass (a peer-to-peer community for parents and children struggling with emotional difficulties) and more, the Consortium has become an expert on supporting peer participatory process and community development. 

15.  How is the Western Mass RLC different than a Clubhouse?

Clubhouses are available throughout the United States and beyond.  They subscribe to a partnered approach where people who identify as having their own personal experiences with psychiatric diagnosis, extreme emotional distress, etc, work side-by-side with people do not identify in that way.  The people working at Clubhouses do NOT generally identify as working in a 'peer' role.  Depending on state regulations, clubhouses may require or prioritize people who are eligible for Department of Mental Health Services, and require intake paperwork with a documented psychiatric diagnosis, as well as a treatment (or 'action') plan that is tracked and kept up-to-date.  Clubhouses also tend to focus more on a 'work-ordered' day.

The Western Mass RLC  is a part of a much newer model.  The vast majority of people in regular employee roles identify as having been hospitalized, psychiatrically diagnosed, experienced extreme states, etc. themselves.  When offering direct support, the focus is on doing so from a peer-to-peer perspective.  There is no intake process (although there is a required conversation and process to access the respite house), and no requirement to disclose any diagnostic history.  There are no treatment plans or notes taken.  (The only exception is at the respite house where people staying there are asking to note for themselves a basic goal or reason for staying there and whether and genearlly if the stay was helpful.)  Although there are some employment supports, there is no overall focus on work, employment or a 'work ordered' day.

Some people may find that the RLC approach works for them.  Others may really appreciate and prefer the structure and approach of a Clubhouse.  Some may choose to take part in aspects of both Clubhouses and the RLC. 

 16.  What is the boot and flowers image intended to represent? 

The boot and flowers is the Western Mass RLC's logo (also adopted by the Central Mass RLC).  The black and white image (created by Janice Sorensen) is the official logo, though there are many versions you will see throughout our website and community.  Although intentionally open to some degree of interpretation, it is generally explained that the boot is always a worn boot and represents the wear and tear we experience as we walk down our life's path, while the flowers represent the beauty and growth that can be generated by our life's experiences.

17.  How is the Western Mass RLC Connected to the Transformation Center?

The Transformation Center partners with Recovery Learning Communities across the state as a historical change agent and supports the advancement and enhancement of people working in peer roles and beyond with training, technical support and opportunities to collaborate.

In addition to parterning with all RLCs across the state, the Transformation Center also operates as the host organization for two of the RLCs:  The Central Mass RLC and the Metro Suburban RLC.

For more about the Transformation Center, please visit their website.

18.  How is Afiya connected to the Western Mass RLC?

Afiya is a part of the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community just as much as the Holyoke Center, Springfield Center and all the other events and trainings that take place within the RLC community.  All people who work at Afiya are considered to be employees of the Western Mass RLC.  Although the nature of a 24/7 evironment means that Afiya has some needs and guidelines that are different than other RLC spaces, the house nonetheless exists under all the same values and principles.

19.  What does the RLC 'do'?

The RLC has many parts and pieces.  We often separate them into four 'arms' that include advocacy, peer-to-peer support, consultation and learning opportunities, and alternative healing practices. Some examples of what this all can look like include:

  • 3 Resource Centers (Holyoke, Springfield, Greenfield)
  • Peer Support Line
  • Afiya (repsite house)
  • Free acupuncture, reiki, yoga, etc.
  • A community bridger team (working with people transitioning from hospitals back to community)
  • Hearing Voices groups, Alternatives to Suicide groups, etc.
  • Hearing Voices Facilitator trainings
  • Public speaker events with national and international figures
  • Public film screenings
  • Participation in rallies and legislative hearings
  • Potlucks
  • Art shows and workshops
  • Consultation to local providers on a number of topics

Again, this is just a sampling of what our community 'is' and can look like.  Much of who we are comes from who our community is, and so our offerings change and grow and our community does.

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Our Defining Principles

To view, save or print as a PDF file, please click here.

These principles apply to all workshops, trainings, classes, groups and individual interactions that occur under the RLC umbrella or in RLC spaces.


Western Mass Recovery Learning Community

Defining Principles


Our Core Values:  Genuine Human Relationships, Self-Determination & Personal Strength, Mutuality, Optimism, Healing Environments and Respect.



  • The RLC is founded on our ‘humanness’ and the importance of forming genuine connections with other human beings. This means that individuals in our community will be encouraged to form connections with each other as they develop naturally, and to use these connections as an opportunity to build or strengthen their natural support systems.

  • We will respect each other's physical, sexual and personal boundaries. This means that everyone has the right to determine when he or she is going to be available to our community, when he or she does or does not want to be hugged or touched in any way, and what sorts of relationships he or she wishes to engage in with others in the community.
  • Imperfection in relationships is an expectation. The presence of these values does not mean that all interactions will be perfect, or fully embody all values at all times. Rather, imperfection will be expected and  - when bumps occur - we will work to see it as an opportunity for growth rather than a failure of the community.



  • The RLC will not preach any one way of healing and will make space for people to define their own paths to 'recovery'. This means that the RLC will offer education and information on a variety of perspectives, options and resources, but that people will always hold the power to determine their own goals, and to define for themselves the meaning of the word ‘recovery’ as it applies to their own lives.
  • Each individual will be treated as capable of setting guidelines for him or herself. Hence, the RLC will avoid setting too many ‘rules’ and micromanaging situations and relationships because we believe in each individual’s strength and wisdom to make his or her own choices, express his or her own likes and dislikes and identify his or her own needs without the overuse of rules and guidelines to dictate that process.



  • There are no ‘service providers’ and ‘service recipients’ in the RLC. It is assumed that all individuals who become a part of the RLC for support will also give support to another at some point, and that each individual will not only approach the RLC with the attitude of what he or she can get but also what he or she can give.
  • We are not, nor do we strive to be, ‘clinical’ workers. The RLC is a community of people supporting people who have been through similar struggles, all on equal ground. We will not attempt to act as therapists or clinicians. We will be ‘professionals’ in peer support, and above all else, in regards to the expertise that we have about ourselves.
  • We are all leaders in the RLC. This does not mean that each person must necessarily take turns at facilitating meetings, organizing campaigns or being the point person for a given activity. What it means is that as each of us empowers ourselves to move, question, change, act and be hopeful we thereby (intentionally or not) inspire others in our community to do the same – and then we are leaders.



  • The RLC believes that recovery is probable for all individuals. This means that all individuals will be welcomed to be a part of the RLC and treated with the belief that they have the power and ability to achieve their hopes and dreams.
  • The RLC will show compassion to those who are struggling. This means that our community recognizes that all individuals have ups and downs, and moments when they may ‘relapse’ or need to step away from the community, but that the community will reach out to them in times of need and always welcome them back with open arms and without judgment.



  • Individuals within the RLC will respect each other’s privacy. This includes holding confidentiality around information shared within RLC spaces and supporting one another to define how and when information can be shared in a respectful manner and in a way that builds community.
  • The RLC strives to make all spaces accessible to all. This includes (but is not limited to) avoiding the use of scented products as much as possible, using wheelchair accessible spaces, and scheduling interpreters and groups in other languages.
  • The RLC is trauma-sensitive and strives to create safe spaces and opportunities for connection. This means avoiding smelling of alcohol or drugs or being visibly intoxicated or high, or bringing alcohol, drugs or drug paraphernalia into RLC spaces or activities. This also may mean walking someone to their car when it’s dark out, being conscious of tone, body language and actions, and creating shared agreements and expectations to address community needs as they arise.
  • The RLC uses non-violent conflict resolution. It is anticipated that when conflict arises, people will address the conflict directly with one another whenever possible. It’s also anticipated that this will occur without the use of yelling, gossiping or physical aggression, and that individuals in general will be open to talking through conflicts with one another.



  • Above all else, the RLC expects each individual to treat others as he or she would wish to be treated. This means treating ourselves, each other and each other’s belongings with respect, compassion and kindness at all times.
  • The RLC aspires to use the most inclusive and respectful language at all times. Everyone will be encouraged to use open, person-first, strengths-based language and to avoid using one-word labels when referring to others in the recovery community.
  • The RLC encourages shows of gratitude and appreciation for all other members of the community. Individuals are encouraged to go out of their way whenever possible to thank others for their contributions, including those with whom they might not always get along.
  • The RLC will respect all differences of opinion, beliefs, culture, appearances and ways of life. This means treating everyone with dignity, respect and as a valued individual, as well as encouraging learning, openness and conversations about different beliefs and cultures. We will not ostracize or put down any individual based on ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, size or other aspect of appearance, religious beliefs and so on.

© Western Mass RLC, 2013            (413) 539-5941

To view, save or print as a PDF file, please click here.

Guiding Council of Western Mass

Our Present, Our Past, Our Future



Our Present:

The Guiding Council of Western Massachusetts (GCOW) serves as the advisory board to the Western Mass RLC. It is made up primarily of individuals who have lived experience with mental health diagnoses, extreme states and/or trauma who live and/or work in our region. GCOW members gather every month to represent each county of Western Mass and hold the 'big picture' of the RLC's development, helping to shape its direction and growth.




All GCOW meetings are open to anyone from the community who themselves has personally experienced those sorts of life-interrupting challenges described in our mission statement (trauma, psychiatric diagnosis, homelessness, problems with substance use, etc.), or who is a friend, family member or ally to the RLC and our work, although only Council Delegates are able to participate in any formal votes. Meetings generally take place at the RLC's Holyoke Center on the first Monday of each month from 12:30pm to 2pm. (The meeting automatically moves to the 2nd Monday of the month in the event of a holiday or snow day on the first.) Confirmed dates for each GCOW meeting are listed in the monthly calendar.

American Sign Language interpreters can be scheduled upon request by e-mailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Current Council Delegates:

Hampshire County

Bill Sorel

Kali Baba McConnell


Hampden County

Jimmy Sanchez


Berkshire County

Franklin County

Carol Star


Our Past:

GCOW formed in the summer of 2005 as an independent body made up exclusively of individuals with first-hand experience within the mental health system. At that time - based on years of advocacy from individuals with psychiatric histories - the Department of Mental Health (DMH) was giving serious consideration to funding the  formation of peer-run communities. The Transformation Center encouraged and supported GCOW to form in Western Mass to ensure that the recovery community would have a strong voice in how those peer-run communities came together.

GCOW gained momentum quickly, often having as many as 30 or 40 individuals in attendance at their meetings. They took time to develop vision, create what are now the Western Mass RLC's Defining Principles and interview organizations with whom to partner when DMH was ready to accept proposals.

In the fall of 2006, after interviewing four candidates, GCOW selected The Western Mass Training Consortium as their partnering agency.  Together, they responded to DMH's request for proposals for the creation of the first Recovery Learning Communities that same winter, with GCOW always in the lead of the visioning process.

When the RLC grant for Western Mass was officially awarded to The Consortium in May of 2007, GCOW transitioned into its current role as the advisory board to the RLC.

This grassroots process involved in the formation of GCOW and its impact on the development of the Western Mass RLC is unique and core to the roots the RLC's mission and true purpose.

We would like to thank our founding members of GCOW for all their work and for helping us make history!  Founding GCOW members included:

Cheryl Stevens, Shelly Bowen (in whose honor the Bowen Resource Center is now named), Patrick Austin, Linda Rost, Margo McMahon, Gayle Kushner, Karran Larson, John Paul Whiting, Deborah Duncan, Karen Lowe, Marcia Webster, Mary Rives, Margaret Osei, June Kaz, Carol Ritter, Bonnie Jones, Chaya Grossberg, Janice Sorensen, Oryx Cohen and many others who took part in all the hard work and joys of building the foundation upon which the RLC has grown. 

Founding members of GCOW also included current RLC Director, Sera Davidow.


Our Future:

GCOW is in need of new Council Delegates

It is GCOW's goal to have a minimum of two and up to four Council Delegates representing each county of Western Mass. Council Delegates are individuals who identify as having first-hand experience (with psychiatric diagnosis, trauma, homelessness, problems with substances, etc.) and who are able to commit to attending GCOW meetings on a monthly basis to represent their county and have a voice in how the RLC moves forward. When a formal vote is needed to solidify GCOW's recommendations to the RLC, Council Delegates are also the only ones able to vote.

Council Delegates generally make a commitment of one year beginning in September and ending in August. (New members are accepted throughout the year based on vacancies and will be asked to commit to however much of the year is remaining up to August.)

If you are interested in applying to be a Council Delegate, please complete the application below or send an inquiry to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (413) 539-5941 ext. 203.










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  • The Murphy Bills and Beyond

    In June of 2015, Representative Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania re-introduced the "Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act" (HR 2646), better known as the Murphy Bill.  A month later, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut introduced a very similar bill in the Senate called the "Mental Health Reform Act of 2015" (S2680).  Both pieces of legislation threatened to dramatically increase the use of force and dismantle many of the more progressive and healing alternatives that have been developed in recent years. As of November 2016 the fate of both bills remained uncertain.

    Meanwhile, another piece of legislation called 21st Century Cures was in development and garnering increasing bipartisan support. A sweeping and expansive healthcare bill, 21st Century Cures was, initially, minimally focused on mental health provisions. Having been stalled in part due to resistance from Senate Democrats' concerns that the bill was dangerously empowering for the pharmaceutical industry, 21st Century Cures also faced an uncertain fate in November. However, the election of President Trump and consequent fears for the bill’s fate prompted a reworking of the bill that also included the absorption of many aspects of HR 2646, “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis.”

    21st Century Cures was passed by the House and Senate on November 30th and December 7th of last year, respectively. On December 13, 21st Century Cures (now including substantial portions drawn directly from HR 2646, "Helping Familties in Mental Health Crisis") was signed into law by President Obama. 



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