Monday, 30 November 2020

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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