Leadership in a Working Community

Social Practitioners, particularly those who aspire to leadership and a career in the world of intentionally created working communities need to understand the historical and theoretical basis of the model. The subjects listed below are designed to stimulate thought and discussion in topics crucial to this understanding. Articles relating to the topics can be found on my website.

Read Fountain House: Creating Community in Mental Health Practice
Columbia University Press

Topic 1

1) The Working Community as a treatment for the negative symptoms of Schizophrenia.
Social Practitioners must be able to communicate the community treatment approach to Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals. Understanding and utilizing Psychiatric jargon will prepare leaders to more effectively explain the fundamental tenants of the treatment and help dispel the erroneous notion that the model is adjunctive to the major thrust of treatment.

Topic 2

The history of strength based treatment, starting with Aristotle’s “Ethics” and the humanist philosophy of John Locke and ending with the humanist psychologists of the 20th century and John Beard and Arthur Pierce’s AGT.

To familiarize the social practitioner with the evolution of the strength based theories and notions that led to and underly all Working Community programs.

Topic 3

Fountain House a Working Community model. The evolution of its Family model to its Community model to its currant Working Community model.

To give the social practitioner an appreciation of the subtle changes in practice that led to the currant model as presented in the book about Fountain House (see above)

Topic 4

The contemporary ideas of Deci and Ryan, Etizioni, Positive Psychology and Positive Psychiatry which harmonize with our prevailing strength based approach.

To provide the social practitioner with information about other current strength based theories that confirm the effective potential and mainstream relevance of the Working Community model.

Topic 5

The Fountain House Intentional Community and the Recovery Movement : An Analysis Explanation and Discussion

The recovery model represents a major competitive approach to helping people with serious mental illness adjust to community life. The purpose of this topic is to familiarize the social practitioner with Dartmouth research and IPS, ACT and Pros as aspects of the Recovery movement as described by Rapp and Goscha in their book “The Strengths Based Model: Case management with people with psychiatric disabilities.” The recovery program design utilizes specialists instead of our generalist perspective. They utilize Pros day programs supposedly staffed with people who have themselves experienced mental illness. The fundamental disagreement with the working community model centers on their belief that the general community is a welcoming place which already offers most clients what they need to reintegrate and their characterization of the working community model as an anachronistic attempt at creating a new kind of institution in the general community.

Topic 6

Schizophrenia: From First Break to Chronicity

From reaching out to help clients avoid isolation, to a Transitional Employment program that helps reverse the defeatist attitudes, to belonging and be needed which counteracts the loss of a natural support system, every aspect of the working community model has been designed to interfere with the progression of serious mental illness. The purpose of this topic is to educate the Social Practitioner about the causal theories and the likely evolution of Schizophrenia in relation to what The working community sets in motion to neutralize its negative effects.

Topic 7

The Generalist at Fountain House

To delineate the staff generalist role with the intent of demonstrating its efficiency in promoting significant and influential relationships with members

Topic 8

Transitional Employment a Therapeutic Tool and a Form of Supported Employment

To distinguish TE from other forms of supported employment and to demonstrate its use as a continuation of the purposes that underly all side by side work. Purposes that include a decrease in defeatist attitudes, the feeling of being needed and an improving sense of efficacy.

Topic 9

The need to participate, belong and be needed concepts developed at Fountain House applied to soldiers with PTSD, Single Seniors, School Children and Gang Members.

By demonstrating the universality and revolutionary nature of these practices, the social practitioner will gain an appreciation for the empowerment they produce and ways their application can enhance any helping mission

Topic 10

The Process of Establishing a Unit or Program

To educate the social practitioner in the steps necessary in establishing a new unit or program. A purpose that must include a determination of relevance, how staff and members working together can accomplish goals and the importance of consistency with idea of normalization embedded in the work ordered day. After relevance has been demonstrated the discussion must focus on the 4Ws: when will it be done, where will it be done, who will do it and what equipment will they require which must be considered along with marketing, regularity of performance and utilization tracking.

Topic 11

Why the Working Community Model is Not Taught in Professional Schools

The Working Community model as currently represented by Fountain House represents “out of the box” thinking and in some ways is inconsistent with traditional professional mental health training. This discussion will provide the social practitioner with a sense of adventure and exploration about its practices and an awareness that they are joining a humanistic mission and crusade.