Tuesday, 22 September 2020

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, problems with substances, 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, ableism, transphobia, transmisogyny, 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





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

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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

In the spirit of uncovering the hidden truths of this land, its people, and their collective histories, we acknowledge that we currently occupy the ancestral grounds of Indigenous People. We offer our respect to their elders, past, present, and emerging, and ask for their guidance in being humble guests in their homelands. In our attempt to build community upon these lands, we offer the principles below, which seek to undo the harms of the past and build towards a future that does not continue them. These guidelines for relationships and environments apply to all people in the community, whether paid or unpaid, in workshops, trainings, classes, groups, supports, and individual interactions that occur under our umbrella.


¨ We aim to offer respect, kindness, and compassion toward others and their belongings. This may require putting ourselves in others’ shoes, understanding how they would like to be treated, and learning to be sensitive to experiences and traumas we do not know first-hand.

¨ We focus on inclusive and respectful language. Our goal is to use open language that honors our differences, and avoids reinforcing the negative ways that systems have labeled us. This means staying open to learning from one another how words can empower or hold us back. It also means respecting the names, pronouns, and other words people ask us to use for them.

¨ Shows of gratitude and appreciation for one another are encouraged. Going out of our way to recognize other people’s presence and contributions, even when we are not getting along, helps strengthen the foundation of our community and maintain connections.

¨ It is important to respect differences of opinion, beliefs, culture, appearances and ways of life. This means treating everyone with dignity, respect and as a valued person even in the face of disagreement. It also means encouraging learning, openness and conversations about different beliefs and cultures, provided that does not include hate speech, stereotypes, cultural appropriation (taking rituals, styles, or other practices from a group with less power, without full respect or recognition given).

¨ We are committed to interrupting words and actions that are rooted in racism and other injustices when we see them happening. This requires learning to recognize and interrupt instances of white supremacy (for example, centering the needs, wants, and perspective of white cultural norms), and microaggressions (unintended yet harmful words or interactions that signal to certain people they don’t belong) rooted in ableism, sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, transmisogyny, sizeism, psychiatric oppression, and other forces that dehumanize people.


¨ People get to make meaning out of their own experiences and choose their own paths through life. We offer information and learning opportunities on many perspectives, particularly those not often heard, but regard people as able to identify their own priorities, hopes, and dreams, as well as the tools they want to use. We avoid doing too many things for others, and instead walk alongside them as they take action.

¨  People are the experts of their own experience. To support freedom and choice, we will aim to listen and be curious about one another’s journeys, and honor our differences as much as we honor our similarities.

¨  Rule-setting is avoided as much as possible. Everyone is expected to make their own decisions and be responsible for their own actions. Unnecessary rule-setting gets in the way of creativity and progress, especially when it comes from managing our own fears about what could go wrong.


¨ Each person has tremendous potential for growth and healing. We believe this in spite of the racism, abuse, injustices, and other harms people have experienced and/or to which they may have contributed in some way. We all have value, and the ability to overcome great hardships if given the chance.

¨  Everyone deserves compassion when they are struggling. We all have ups and downs. Hard times may sometimes lead to disconnections, but we do our best to create opportunities to work through old conflicts and hurts, and to leave space for reconnections whenever possible.


¨ We prioritize real and meaningful connections. Everyone is free to form connections with each other as they develop naturally, and in ways that strengthen their own support networks.

¨  Respecting each other's physical, sexual and personal limits is important. Everyone has the right to determine when and how they are available to one another, including physical touch (like hugs, patting someone’s arm, touching their hair, etc.), and what sorts of conversations they take part in. Consent is key.

¨  Imperfection is an expectation. These values do not mean that all interactions will be perfect.  Imperfection is expected and, when problems happen, we will work to see it as an opportunity for growth, not a failure.

¨ Our relationships are impacted by biases that we need to actively work to become aware of and unlearn. These biases were learned from living in a world where there are systems of oppression that effect how we see and respond to race, gender, sexuality, class, religion, education, ability, and many other factors. It is important to recognize that we all have room for growth, teaching, learning, and unlearning.


¨ Mutuality means a focus on the connections between us. We all have the potential to give and receive support, and to learn from, and be impacted by one another. We aim to build relationships and community that considers each person’s needs and our collective ability to create together.

¨ There are no ‘fixers’ and people being ‘fixed’ within our community. We will not act as therapists, case workers, or healers.It is assumed that all people who become a part of the Western Mass RLC for support or learning will also pass that benefit along to others in some way.

¨ Each of us has the potential to move, question, change, act, teach, lead, and share. In doing so, we also have the potential to inspire others to do the same.

¨ We seek out opportunities to raise up marginalized voices. We recognize the unique value of leadership from non-white people and people belonging to other marginalized groups that are presently underrepresented in leadership positions in our society and within the Western Mass RLC.


¨ Privacy is respected. We can share the lessons we learn from one another, but should leave behind any personal information. It is always someone’s personal choice when and how they share parts of their own story, even if they’ve shared something publicly in the past.  

¨ We strive to make spaces as accessible as possible. This includes using wheelchair accessible spaces, scheduling interpreters and groups in other languages, awareness of different sensory needs, and avoiding the use of scented products, as well as being open and responsive to other requests whenever possible.

¨ The impact of trauma on our lives is real. In creating trauma-sensitive environments, it is important that we be mindful of how our choices affect others. This includes paying attention to how we say things (such as tone, volume, assumptions), and creating shared agreements to address community needs as they arise.

¨ Conflicts are addressed directly whenever possible, and are valued for the learning opportunities they can often provide. When conflict arises people are asked to address it directly, and without physical or verbal aggression, or spreading information with the intent to harm or isolate someone. When power imbalances (for instance, based on race, gender, or role in the organization) make addressing conflict directly unfair or impossible, support will be available to find the best way forward.  

¨ We are committed to creating environments that acknowledge and work to undo all types of systemic oppression. We strive to achieve this through a mix of setting limits, creating learning opportunities that include asking us to examine our own privilege and power, and supporting one another to understand how we’ve come to believe what we believe.

¨ We all have responsibility for caring for the spaces we hold within our community. This means sharing responsibility for upkeep, cleaning, accessibility, being gentle with community belongings, keeping illegal activity and violence out, and not attracting attention in ways that put the community or space at risk.


© Western Mass RLC, 2019, (413) 539-5941

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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 psychiatric 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 typically 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

Marsha Morris

Margo McMahon


Hampden County

Douglas Arnold

Gail Hornstein

Marcu "DJ Marco" Andre


Berkshire County

Jennifer Gorson


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 typically 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. Allies are also welcome, though GCOW aims to maintain a majority of individuals who identify as having first-hand experience. 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 considered throughout the year based on vacancies and will be asked to commit to however much of the year is remaining up to August.) They also must be able to check e-mail on a semi-regular basis (at least a couple of times per month) in order to read/respond to GCOW e-mails in between meetings.

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.









Helpful Links

The links below are intended as a guide in your pursuit to connect with other people and websites that may offer helpful information or resources.
Please note:  This page is not intended as a recommendation of any of the websites or services listed.  It is for informational purposes only. Although we include some traditionally-oriented resources and web pages, listings intentionally focus more on alternatives to medical model approaches and ways of thinking.  This is not because we are against more familiar and medical perspectives and approaches.  It is because we are aware that many people are never given the opportunity to explore alternatives and information on less standard approaches can be very difficult to find.  Ultimately, we support people in their efforts to be fully informed and to choose the path that works best for them. 
Massachusetts Recovery Learning Communities (RLCs):
In addition to the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community, there are five other Recovery Learning Communities funded in the state of Massachusetts. Each RLC is unique, and available supports and approaches vary from one to another. They include:
  • The Central Mass RLC: http://www.centralmassrlc.org/  - Offers a variety of community supports in the Central Mass area, with their hub based in Worcester
  • The Southeast RLC:  www.southeastrlc.org - Offers a variety of community supports in the Southeast area, with hubs in Taunton and elsewhere in the region.
  • The Northeast RLC: www.nilp.org/rlc.html- Offers a variety of community supports in the Northeast area, with their hub based in Lawrence
  • The Metro Suburban RLC:  www.metrosubrlc.org- Offers a variety of community supports in the Metro Suburban area, with hubs in Quincy and Framingham.
  • The Metro Boston RLC:  www.metrobostonrlc.org - Offers a variety of community supports in the Metro Boston area, with their hub based in Boston
Peer Worker Resources:
These organizations offer training, support and networking opportunities to individuals working as (or interested in working as) peer workers.
  • Focus on Recovery - United: www.focusonrecovery.org/- A peer organization offering a variety of trainings in neighboring Connecticut 
  • Mary Ellen Copeland Center: www.mentalhealthrecovery.com/ - Offering information and training in Wellness Recovery Action Planning (WRAP)
  • Intentional Peer Support:  www.intentionalpeersupport.org - Offering training in Shery Mead's Intentional Peer Support model
  • International Association of Peer Supporters:  www.naops.org/ - Private, non-profit dedicate to peer support in mental health systems
  • The Transformation Center:  www.transformation-center.org - Operating the Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) training program in Massachusetts
Peer-to-Peer Organizations:
The organizaztions listed below are run by people who have 'been there' and with the intent of supporting others who are struggling and/or changing the world.  They offer a variety of resources, supports and information.  The list includes a mix of national or international organizations and regionally based groups that are within range of Western Massachusetts.
  • Advocacy Unlimited:  www.mindlink.org - Dedicated to advocacy, human rights and peer-to-peer support
  • Depression Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA): www.dbsalliance.org - Peer-run support groups for individuals labelled with depression and bipolar disorder
  • Freedom Center:  www.freedom-center.org- Advocacy, supports and information in the Northampton, MA are
  • The Icarus Project:  www.theicarusproject.net/- An international community offering resources and support
  • Hearing Voices USA: www.hearingvoicesusa.org - An organization supporting the spread of the Hearing Voices approach across the United States and building understanding about hearing voices
  • Intervoice:  www.intervoiceonline.org/- An international community for individuals who hear voices and information on Hearing Voices group
  • Mindfreedom, International:  www.mindfreedom.org - An international community offering resources, information and activism
  • M-POWER:  www.m-power.org - Advocacy and activism on issues pertaining to recovery and mental health  
  • The National Empowerment Centerwww.power2u.org/ - Offering technical assistance, advocacy and empowerment related to mental health recover
  • The National Mental Health Consumers' Self-Help Clearinghouse:  http://www.mhselfhelp.org/ - Website offering resources, training curricula and information
  • The RECOVER Project:  www.recoverproject.org/ - Providing peer-to-peer support to individuals who have been impacted by substance abuse and addictions (based in Greenfield, MA)
  • World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (WNUSP):  www.wnusp.net - A network of individuals and groups challenging discrimination, human rights violations and other issues pertaining to our movement across the world

Local Community Organizations:
The organizations listed below are community-based in the Western Mass area and offer a variety of resources and supports.
  • After Incarceration Support Systems Program (AISS): www.hcsdmass.org/aiss.htm - Funded through the Hampden County Sherriff's office, this program provides a variety of supports to individuals in Hampden County who have been incarcerated and are attempting to re-integrate into the community
  • Amherst Survival Center:  www.amherstsurvival.org/ - Providing free meals, food and other supports to individuals in need in the Amherst area
  • Center for Self Reliance: www.communityaction.us/index.php?id=363- Storefront food pantries based in Greenfield and Shelburne Falls
  • Community Crisis Response Team (CCRT): http://www.communityaction.us/index.php?id=366 - Providing supports to individuals who have experienced violence or a tragedy in their lives (focus on Hampshire and Franklin Counties)
  • Everywoman's Center: www.umass.edu/ewc/ - Information and referral to a variety of resources as well as rape crisis services, educational opportunities, leadership networks and alternative counseling supports
  • First Call for Help: www.communityaction.us/index.php?id=368 - Providing referrals to a number of community resources and supports in the Franklin, Hampshire, North Quabbin and Hampden County areas
  • Franklin Area Survival Center:  www.survivalcenter.blogspot.com/ - Offering a food pantry and other supports to individuals in the Franklin County area (based in Turners Falls)
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness of Western Masswww.namiwm.org/ - Providing support and resources to individuals diagnosed with a mental illness, their families and the community in Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties 
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness of Berkshire Countywww.namibc.org/ - Providing support and resources to individuals diagnosed with a mental illness, their families and the community in Berkshire County 
  • New England Learning Center for Women in Transition (NELCWIT): www.nelcwit.org/ - Serving individuals who have experience domestic or sexual violence in the Franklin County/North Quabbin area. This website is still under construction.
  • Northampton Survival Center: www.thensc.org/ - Providing food, clothing, household supplies and referrals to individuals in need in the Northampton area 
  • Safe Passage: www.safepass.org/ - Providing women and children with support needed to move forward after domestic violence (based in Northampton, MA)
  • Western Mass Training Consortium (The Consortium):  http://www.wmtcinfo.org/typolight/- A longstanding leader in peer community development and peer participatory process, the Consortium is the Western Mss RLC's umbrella organization
  • Womanshelter/Compañeras: www.womanshelter.org/ - Dedicated to supporting and empowering individuals whose lives have been impacted by domestic violence and abuse (based in Holyoke, MA)

Local Providers:

The organizations listed below offer traditional adult mental health and crisis services throughout Western Massachusetts.  Many of the organizations listed also provide other services including children's mental health services, sheltering, substance abuse treatment, employment supports and more.
  • The Behavioral Health Network:  www.bhninc.org - Mental health and crisis services in the Holyoke and Springfield areas
  • The Brien Center:  www.briencenter.org - Mental health and crisis services in Berkshire County
  • The Carson Center: www.carsoncenter.org - Mental health and crisis services in the Westfield area
  • The Center for Human Development:  www.chd.org - Mental health services in the Holyoke and Springfield areas
  • Community Enterprises:  www.communityenterprises.com - Mental health and employment supports, including for individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing
  • Clinical & Support Options:  www.csoinc.org - Mental health and crisis services in Hampshire and Franklin County
  • The Department of Mental Health:  www.mass.gov/dmh - The state government's Department of Mental Health website providing information on how to apply for state funded services and available resources
  • The Gandara Center:  www.gandaracenter.org - Mental health services with a focus on the latino/hispanic communities throughout Hampden county as well as neighboring communities
  • Gould Farm: www.gouldfarm.org - Mental health services in Monterey, MA
  • Hawthorne Serviceswww.hawthornservices.org/ - Mental health services and day programs in parts of Hampden County 
  • Human Resources Unlimited:  www.hru.org - Clubhouse/employment supports in Hampshire and Hampden counties
  • The Mental Health Association:  www.mhainc.org - Mental health services in Hampden County
  • River Valley Counseling Services: RVCC-INC.org. - Mental health services and day treatment in the Holyoke area 
  • ServiceNet, Inc.: www.servicenet.org - Mental health services primarily in Franklin and Hampshire counties
  • Valley Human Services: www.carsoncenter.org/programs/thecarsoncenterfor2/ - Mental health services in the Ware/Palmer area
  • Walden Behavioral Care: www.waldenbehavioralcare.com/ - Mental health services with a specialty in treatment of individuals diagnosed with eating disorders (based in Northampton and Waltham, MA)
  • Windhorse Integrative Mental Healthwww.windhorseimh.org - Menth health services in the Northampton area offering a whole person integrated approach to wellness 
Hospitals W/Psychiatric Services:
The hospitals listed below offer inpatient mental health services, as well as, in some cases, partial hospitalization programs in Western Massachusetts.

 Medication Information & Resources Online:

This listing contains links to a variety of resources on learning about particular psychiatric medications, as well as the process of withdrawing from medication

  • Alternative to Meds Center:  www.alternativetomeds.com - Offers alternative, holistic approaches to treatment for drugs, substance abuse and mental health issues.  Based in Sedona, Arizona.
  • Anti Dep Aware:  http://antidepaware.co.uk/ - A website dedicated to raising awareness of some of the potential dangers of antidepressant use
  • Benzodiazepines Co-operation Not Confrontation (BCNC):  www.bcnc.org.uk/ - A group dedicated to supporting people who are reducing or withdrawing from benzodiazepines
  • Coming Off Psychiatric Medication: www.comingoff.com- Resources, research, stories and more related to coming off of psychiatric medication
  • Drug Industry Document Archive:  dida.library.ucsf.edu/ - A searchable archive of internal documents from pharmaceutical companies
  • Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP): www.ismp.org/ - A site for professionals and individuals in the community providing information and resources toward the safe use of medications
  • Critical Think Rx: www.criticalthinkrx.org/ - An free on-line training curriculum encouraging critical thought and deeper understanding of the use of psychotropic medications.  May be taken by anyone, but offers continuing education credits for many mental health practitioners and attorneys
  • Med Free or Working On It:  www.medfree.socialgo.com/ - A group dedicated to supporting people who wish to withdraw from medications
  • Medline Plus: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/mentalhealth.html - The National Institutes of Health-sponsored website offering information on various medications and other related topics 
  • Paxil Progress:  www.paxilprogress.org/forums/ - A forum dedicated to people in the process of withdrawing from Paxil
  • Recovery Road:  www.recovery-road.org- Dedicated to mutual support around benzo and antidepressant withdrawal
  • Rxisk:  www.rxisk.org - Dedicated to tracking and sharing information about side-effects from all kinds of medications
  • Rxlist:  www.rxlist.com - Resources here include listing of medications with some side effect, a pill identifier and more
  • Surviving Antidepressants:  survivingantidepressants.org/ - An on-line peer-to-peer support community for people withdrawing from antidepressant medications
  • WebMD:  www.webmd.com - Offers information on various emotional and physical health issues from a traditional perspective

National & International Organizations:

This listing contains links to a variety of national and international organizations that have missions relating to mental health.

  • American Psychiatric Association (APA): www.psych.org/ - Offers a variety of information and resources on psychiatry and mental health
  • American Psychological Association (APA): www.apa.org/ - Offers a variety of information and resources on psychology and mental health 
  • National Council  for Community Behavioral Healthcare: www.thenationalcouncil.org/- Offers a unifying voice of America's behavioral health organizations
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml - Dedicated to transformationg the understanding and treatment of mental health issues 
  • International Critical Psychiatry Network (ICPN):  www.criticalpsychiatry.net/ - Created by medical doctors as a forum in which to discuss, critique and explore psychiatry and alternative approaches
  • International Network of Integrative Mental Health (INIMH): www.inimh.org/ - A global organization created to advance holistic approaches to healing
  • International Network Toward Alternatives and Recovery (INTAR): www.intar.org/ - A network of individuals all over the world working together to promote alternatives and recovery 
  • International Society for Ethical Psychology & Psychiatry (ISEPP):  www.psychintegrity.org/ - A group dedicated to bringing together people who work to find, develop, promote and use human approaches to supporting people in extreme emotional distress
  • International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis (ISPS):  www.isps.org - Dedicated to advancing and promoting treatment options for people who experience 'psychosis'
  • Recovery International:  http://www.lowselfhelpsystems.org - Dedicated to the development of cognitive-behavioral, peer-to-peer self-help groups across the nation
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): www.samhsa.gov/ - Governmental agency dedicated to offering research, resources and grants related to recovery

Food & Body Image Issues:

These sites provide a variety of resources and information on body image issues and eating disorder diagnoses.

  • Academy for Eating Disorders (AED): www.aedweb.org/ - A global professional organization dedicated to training and advancement of treatment
  • Body Positivewww.bodypositive.com/ - Dedicated to 'Boosting body image at any weight' 
  • The Dressing Room Project: www.thedressingroomproject.org/ - A project to free girls and women from media-imposed standards of beauty
  • Eating Disorders Anonymous: www.eatingdisordersanonymous.org/ - Devoted to the idea that recovery means living without obsessing on food, weight and body image
  • Eating Disorder Referral and Information Centerwww.edreferral.com/ - On-line resource information and referral
  • Food Addicts Anonymous: www.foodaddictsanonymous.org/ - On-line resources, support and information
  • The Elisa Project: www.theelisaproject.org/ - Striving to provide resources and act as a change agent in healthcare policy and body image issues
  • Multiservice Eating Disorder Association (MEDA): www.medainc.org/ - Information, supports and resources
  • National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA): www.naafaonline.com - Providing resources, supports and advocacy toward acceptance of different body sizes
  • National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD):  http://www.anad.org/ - Support, advocacy and resource information
  • National Association for Males with Eating Disorders (NAMED): www.namedinc.org/ - Information and resources for men diagnosed with eating disorders
  • National Center for Overcoming Overeating www.overcomingovereating.com/ - Dedicated to ending dieting and body hatred
  • National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA): www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/ - Advocacy, information and resources related to individuals diagnosed with eating disorders
  • Overeaters Anonymous: www.oa.org/ - Twelve-step support for individuals struggling with overeating and food addiction issues
  • Something Fishy Website on Eating Disorders: www.something-fishy.org/ - A site dedicated to recovery for individuals labeled with eating disorders and/or struggling with body image issues (this might be not so great; review)

Substance & Addiction Issues

These sites offer a variety of supports and information related to substance and alcohol abuse and addiction issues.

  • The 12 Step Cafe: www.12steps.org/ - Forums, chat rooms and other supports and resources for individuals working a 12-step program 
  • Addicted.com: http://local.addicted.com - Resources, information and supports for individuals impacted by addiction issues 
  • Alcoholics Anonymous:  www.aa.org - Twelve-step recovery information and resources related to alcohol abuse 
  • Dual Diagnosis Website: users.erols.com/ksciacca/ - Information, resources and bulletin board pertaining to psychiatric diagnoses, drug and alcohol addiction 
  • Dual Recovery Anonymous:  www.draonline.org/ - Twelve-step recovery information and resources for individuals experiencing mental health and substance/alochol abuse issues 
  • Narcotics Anonymous:  http://www.na.org/- Twelve-step recovery information and resources related to substance abuse 
  • Treatment 4 Addictionwww.treatment4addiction.com/ - On-line resource database for addiction services, sober houses and more! 
  • Women for Sobriety: www.womenforsobriety.org/ - Information, supports and resources for women in substance abuse recovery


These sites offer resources and information pertaining to self-injury.

Autism & Neruodiversity

This list offers a variety of sites relating to Autism, Aspergers and neurodiversity.

  • Asperger's Assocation of New England: www.aane.org/ - Resources and information relating to Aspergers
  • Auties.org: www.auties.org/ - Networking and resources for individuals identifying as Autistic
  • Autism National Committee: www.autcom.org/ - Dedicated to 'Social Justiced for All Citizens with Autism'
  • The Autistic Self Advocacy Network: www.autisticadvocacy.org/ - Promoting equal access for individuals diagnosed with Autism and related disorders
  • Autreach Network: https://autreach.backpackit.com/pub/2906865 - A coalition of groups working to support inclusion and rights for individuals diagnosed with Autism
  • Neurodiversity:  www.neurodiversity.com/main.html - A site honoring the 'variety of human wiring'
  • Online Aspergers Syndrome Information and Support Centerwww.aspergersyndrome.org/ - On-line resources and information relating to Aspergers
Employment Resources:
This listing contains a variety of employment-related supports available in our area.
  • Berkshireworks: www.berkshireworks.org/ - A variety of employment resources are offered by this One Stop Career Center based in Pittsfield and Northa Adams
  • Careerpoint:    www.careerpointma.org/ - A variety of employment resources are offered by this One Stop Career Center based in Holyoke
  • Futureworks:   www.futureworks-now.com/ - A variety of employment resources are offered by this One Stop Career Center based in Springfiel
  • Franklin Hampshire Career Center:  www.fhcc-onestop.com/  - A variety of employment resources are offered by this One Stop Career Center based in Northampton, Greenfield and Orange 
  • Massachusetts Clubhouse Coalition:  www.massclubs.org/ - A website offering clubhouse information and local clubhouse locations and resources
  • Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission: http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/mrc/ - The website for this state-funded employment support offers information and local resources
Housing-Related Websites:
This listing contains websites offering housing-related resources, including shelters and other listings.
SSI/SSDI & Other Benefit Resources:
This listing contains a variety of websites offering resources on Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Food Stamps and other benefits available in Massachusetts.
  • Beneplan:  www.beneplan.org/ - A website dedicated to the Beneplan program, offering assessment and support services for SSI/SSDI beneficiaries
  • Department of Transitional Assistance: http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dta/ - Providing cash and food assistance to individuals and families in need
  •  Energy Programs:  www.communityaction.us/index.php?id=392 - Offering fuel assistance and other energy-related supports and information in Franklin and Hampshire Counties
  •  Getting Food Stamps:  www.gettingsnap.org/ - A website dedicated to helping you get Food Stamps in Massachusetts
  • Mass Resources on-line:  www.massresources.org - A website offering information about a variety of benefits in the state, including childcare, food and more
  • National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives (NOSSCR):  http://www.nosscr.org/- Providing information, support and referrals for individuals claiming Social Security benefits and those representing them 
  • Social Security Administration:  www.ssa.gov/ - The government's Social Security site providing information and applications for SSI and Disability benefits
  • Social Security Disability Resource Center  (SSDRC)www.ssdrc.com/ - Information and resources on SSI and SSDI

Legal Services & Info:

This listing contains a variety of websites offering legal resources and information.

  • Americans with Disabilities Act Home Page: www.ada.gov/ - Offering information and technical assistance on ADA issues
  • Center for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry: www.chrusp.org/ - Advocacy organization for human rights of individuals who have received psychiatric labels
  • Center for Public Representation www.centerforpublicrep.org/ - A national law firm dedicated to serving individuals labeled with disabilities and to pursuing system change and enforcement of rights
  • CORI Reader:  http://www.masslegalservices.org/cori - A service of Mass Legal Services, this site is dedicated to helping advocates and individuals understand and/or correct their Criminal Offender Record report
  • Disability Law Center: www.dlc-ma.org/ - Private, non-profit legal advocacy organization responsible for providing legal advocacy on disability issues that promote the fundamental rights of all people to participate fully and equally in the social and economic life of Massachusetts 
  • Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF): www.dredf.org - Dedicated to advancing the civil and human rights of people with disabilities through legal advocacy, training, education, and public policy and legislative development 
  • Find Law:  www.findlaw.com/ - On-line resource on laws and a variety of legally-related topics 
  • Five Fundamental Rights Document www.m-power.org/5_fundamental_rights - List of the 'Five Fundamental Rights' held by any individual receiving services through any Department of Mental Health-licensed service in Massachusetts 
  • National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA): www.narpa.org/ - Promoting policies and strategies that support individuals with psychiatric diagnoses to self-determine treatment 
  • National Disability Rights Network (NDRN): www.ndrn.org/ - Protection and advocacy for individuals who have been labeled as having a disability 
  • Psychrights: www.psychrights.org/ - Providing information and advocacy on issues and rights impacting individuals diagnosed with mental illnesses 
  • Rogers Order Rulingwww.freedom-center.org/pdf/rogersruling.pdf - The legal document detailing the court's ruling around Rogers Orders 
  • Western Mass Legal Serviceshttp://www.masslegalservices.org/showprogramoffices/1485  - Providing legal advice, education and representation on non-criminal issues to individuals who qualify as low-income
Miscellaneous Related Links:
This listing contains a variety of websites including those with diagnosis-specific information as well as ones that just didn't quite fit into any of the other categories above.
  • Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation: www.bu.edu/cpr/about/index.html - Offers a variety of trainings and direct supports based out of Boston University, as well as on-line information and resource
  • The Community Consortiumwww.community-consortium.org/ - Providing technical assistance and support for building inclusive communities for individuals labelled with psychiatric disabilities 
  • Discover and Recover: discoverandrecover.wordpress.com/ - A website maintained by Duane Sherry offering resources and information on a number of topics
  • Healthlinewww.healthline.com - Website offering information and videos on a number of phsyical and mental-health related topics and diagnoses 
  • Mad Student Society:  www.madstudentsociety.com/ - A website for individuals who are both students and who are or have experienced the psychiatric system 
  • Philadelphia Association: www.philadelphia-association.org.uk/about-us.html - Founded by RD Laing, this group aims to challenge accepted ways of understanding and treating mental and emotional suffering.
  • PsychCentral.com: psychcentral.com/ - Information and resources on a variety of mental-health related issues 
  • Psychfacts.org:  www.psychfacts.org - A website designed to create access to easy-to-understand information from research and other sources to help people advocate for change, human rights and more
  • Robert Whitaker: www.robertwhitaker.org/robertwhitaker.org/ - Website for journalist, Robert Whitaker, author of Mad in America and Anatomy of an Epidemic
  • Safe Harbor: www.alternativementalhealth.com/ - Resource information and referral for alternative mental health services 
  • Soteria: www.moshersoteria.com/ - Website focusing on Dr. Loren Mosher and the Soteria model of treatment for individuals diagnosed with Schizophrenia 
  • Successful Schizophrenia:  www.successfulschizophrenia.org - Website focusing on rethinking and offering an alternative to understanding what is commonly labeled as 'schizophrenia'
  • Thomas Szaz Center for Liberty and Responsibility:  www.szasz.com/ - A website dedicated to the life and work of Thomas Szaz and a different view into the extreme emotional states so often diagnosed in our culture

On-line Magazines and Radio Shows

This listing includes on-line magazines and radio shows which often address issues related to mental health and recovery.

  • Asylum Online - www.asylumonline.net -An on-line magazine dedicated to open debate and discussion of psychiatry, mental health care and alternatives
  • Channeling the Muse:  Radio show with Opeyemi Parham, often touching on subjects related to mental health and healing.  Listen to the live streaming show at www.wmcb.net on Fridays at 6pm or find old shows at www.archive.org by searching for 'audiofiles' (subject) and 'channeling the muse.' 
  • Mad in America:  www.madinamerica.com - An on-line source for articles, op-eds, blogs and more from national and international sources
  • Madness Radio:  www.madnessradio.net/ - Listen to streaming interviews with a variety of individuals to mental health and the recovery movement
  • Mindfreedom Radio:  www.blogtalkradio.com/davidwoaks - Find archived radio shows on a variety of topics including recovery stories, perspectives on mental health and more
  • Ragged Edge:www.ragged-edge-mag.com/ - An on-line magazine on disability issues

Healing & Recovery-Related Blogs (Written and Video)

These sites offer personal accounts of recovery from mental health and substance abuse struggles.

Spiritual Emergency Perspective

This listing offers links to information on spirituality, mental health and the spiritual emergency perspective.

Trauma Perspective

These links relate to trauma, trauma sensitivity and the trauma perspective.

  • The ACE Study: www.acestudy.org/ - The Adverise Childhood Experiences (ACE) website offering research-based information on the relationship between trauma and a number of other life experiences
  • The Anna Instituate:  http://www.theannainstitute.org/ - A site dedicated to educating people about the impact of childhood trauma 
  • Gift from Within:  www.giftfromwithin.org/ - A site dedicated to supporting individuals who identify as trauma survivors and their loved ones and supporters
  • Interational Society for the Study of Stress and Disassociation (ISST-D): www.isst-d.org/ - eeks to advance clinical, scientific, and societal understanding about the prevalence and consequences of chronic trauma and dissociation 
  • International Society for Traumatic Stress Studdies (ISTSS):  www.istss.org/Home.htm - A site geared toward professionals about the impact of trauma
  • Many Voices:  http://www.manyvoicespress.org/- Words of hope for people recovering from trauma & Dissociation (including a monthly on-line publication) 
  • The National Center for Trauma-Informed Care: http://www.samhsa.gov/nctic/about - A technical assistance website dedicated to building awareness and supporting implementation of trauma-informed care practices.
  • The National Trauma Consortium:  nationaltraumaconsortium.org/ - Dedicated to raising awareness about the prevalence and impact of trauma
  • The Sidran Foundation:  www.sidran.org/ - Providing a great deal of information and resources on trauma and related supports   
  • The Trauma Centerwww.traumacenter.org/ - Training, consultation and supports for individuals who have experienced trauma and those supporting them
  • Witness Justice:  www.witnessjustice.org/ - Help and healing for victims of violence

Gender & Sexuality

These links relate to experiences around gender roles, transgender and gender expression, sexuality and sexual orientation and so on.

  • The Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN):  www.asexuality.org - Offering an on-line community and resources
  • Black Transmen, Inc:  www.blacktransmen.org - A website dedicated to support and resources for black trans men
  • The Brown Boi Project: www.brownboiproject.org  - A community that describies itself as being made up of "masculine of center womyn, men, two-spirit people, transmen, and our allies committed to transforming our privilege of masculinity, gender, and race into tools for achieving Racial and Gender Justice"
  • Bodies Like Ours:  www.bodieslikeours.org - A community of peer support and resources for people who are born intersexed and/or with atypical genitals
  • The Center for Gender Sanity:  http://www.gendersanity.com/ - An organization that supports all issues surrounding transition in the workplace
  • Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders: www.glad.org - Providing legal advocacy and information on GLTBQ-related issues (Boston-based)
  • Gay and Lesbian Arab Society:  www.glas.org - An international community for people who are of Arab descent and identify on the GLBTQ spectrum
  • Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA): www.glma.org - Health professional dedicated to advancing GLBT equality
  • Gender Education and Advocacy (GEA):  www.gender.org - An organization focused on the needs, issues and concerns of people who identify as "gender variant"
  • Ambiente Joven (Latino/Latina LGBT Youth):  www.ambientejoven.org - A website dedicated to young Latino/Latina people who identify on the LGBTQ spectrum (IN SPANISH)
  • Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition:  www.masstpc.org - Dedicated to ending discrimination on gender identity and expression
  • Invisible No More:  www.invisible-no-more.weebly.com  - A peer-run group representing the Trans community in the Pioneer Valley
  • Keshet: www.keshetonline.org - A Jewish faith community for people who identify on the GLBTQ spectrum
  • The Network / La Red:  www.tnlr.org - A survivor-led organization for social justice and working toward ending LGBTQ partner violence (Boston area)
  • Original Plumbing:  www.originalplumbing.com - A zine and support dedicated to (Female to Male) Trans male lifestyles
  • OutNow:  www.outnowyouth.org - OutNow offers safe spaces, meetings, advocacy and more geared toward young people who identify on the LGBTQ spectrum (Springfield based)
  • Queer Asian Pacific-Islander Alliance (QAPA):  www.qapa.org - A group dedicated to people of Asian Pacific-Islander descent who identify on the GLTBQ spectrum
  • Queer Attitude:  http://queerattitude.wikispaces.com/ - A world-wide network of young people who identify on the LGBTQ spectrum or are questioning or uncertain
  • Rainbow Alliance of the Deaf:  http://www.deafrad.org/ - A website dedicated to deaf people who identify on the LGBTQ spectrum
  • Sent(a)Mental Studios:  www.sentamentalstudios.weebly.com - A website dedicated to a number of issues, writing, art and more related gender identity and expression, sexuality and mental health
  • Stonewall Center:  www.umass.edu/stonewall/ - Support, education and advocacy on 'LGBTQ'-related issues for UMASS students, faculty and the broader Pioneer Valley
  • The Trevor Project:  www.thetrevorproject.org - Providing support to young people who identify on the LGBTQ spectrum who are struggling with thoughts of suicide
  • Trans Bodies:  www.transbodies.com - A resource guide for the transgender community
  • Trans People of Color Coalition (TPOCC):  www.transpoc.org - A site dedicated to the intersection of race, gender, sexuality, class and making sure all voices are heard
  • xQsi Magazine: www.xqsimagazine.com - A multimedia publication for the Latin LGBTQ community
  • Youth Resource:  www.youthresource.com - A website created by and for young people who identify on the LGBTQ spectrum

Healing & The Arts

  • Anchorhouse Artists:  anchorhouseartists.org/ - Offering support to individuals diagnosed with mental illness who are seeking to make or expand creative arts careers
  • The Glassbook Project: http://glassbookproject.com/- A website about surviving and understanding the impact of trauma through art (creation of glass books). Their website requires the latest Flash update.
  • The Painted Brain:  http://paintedbrain.org/- A group of artists diagnosed with mental illness based in California who have created an on-line magazine
  • The Survivors Art Foundationwww.survivorsartfoundation.org/ - A website dedicated to encouraging healing through art
  • Tunefoolery:  www.tunefoolery.org/ - A boston-based group of individuals with psychiatric disabilities who are also musicians and offer solo and group performances

Young Adults

  • Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council:  www.presidentialyouthcouncil.org – A national campaign led by people age 16 through 24 to form a council to advise the president on issues affecting young people across the country.
  • Community Alliance for Ethical Treatment of Youth (CAFETY):  www.cafety.org– a national organization led and drive by those with direct experience in residential care and works to promote and secure the human rights of young people in or at risk of residential placement.
  • National Youth Rights Organization (NYRA):  www.nyra.org– NYRA is dedicated to providing information and resources about and advocacy for the civil rights of young people.
  • Young People in Recovery (YPR)www.youngpeopleinrecovery.org – A national organization and advisory council led by young people offering training and leadership on issues relating to recovery from substance use and addiction.
  • Youth Move Nationalwww.youthmovenational.org– youth led national organization devoted to improving services and systems that support positive growth and development by uniting the voices of individuals who have lived experience in various systems including mental health, juvenile justice, education, and child welfare.

Social Connections

  • The Berkshires: www.berkshires.org/events - A website dedicated to the Berkshires, including local events
  • Flywheel Arts Collective:  www.flywheelarts.org - An arts collective in Easthampton, MA that offers ongoing low-cost concerts and other opportunities to gather in a sober environment
  • Food for Thought Books:  www.foodforthoughtbooks.com - A workers' collective bookstore based in Amherst, MA that also offers  a variety of events including book readings and film screenings
  • Franklin County Chamber of Commerce:  www.franklincc.org - This website offers a selection of events in Franklin County
  • Hilltown Families:  www.hilltownfamilies.org - A website dedicated to information sharing and events in the hilltowns of Western Mass
  • Lavender Country and Folk Dancers:  www.lcfd.org - A community of gender free dance clubs
  • Masslive:  www.masslive.com/events - Offering information on events in Hampden County
  • Men of Northampton:  www.monoho.com - A social and recreational group for gay men in Northampton
  • No Longer Lonely:  www.nolongerlonely.com/ - On line dating service and community for people who have been psychiatrically diagnosed
  • Meetup.com:  www.meetup.com - An on-line community to make connections and arrangements to meet up with groups who are interested in any number of topics and activities (Just enter an interest or hobby and your geographical area, and see what's already out there!)
  • Paper City Performance Space:  www.facebook.com/PaperCityPerformanceSpace - A new space based in Holyoke, MA that will offer concerts, art shows and other opportunities to gather in a sober environment
  • Western Mass Intergroup:  www.westernmassaa.org - This Western Mass chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous offers listings of a variety of AA-sponsored local events, as well as sober events sponsored by others in the area (from family picnics to dances and more)

Just for Fun Links:

These links are just for fun.  Some of them have absolutely nothing to do with mental health issues whatsoever, while others may take a satirical approach to otherwise serious issues.

  • Bonkers Institute for Nearly Genuine Research: www.bonkersinstitute.org/ - A satirical look at psychiatric treatment and related topics
  • Google Translate:   translate.google.com/ -  Translates from one language to another almost instantaneously, with dozens of languages available to choose from
  • The Onion News:  www.theonion.com/ - Sick of the real news?  Take a break fromt reality with this version of the news...

Be sure to check our resources section for additional information


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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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