Managing Stress In The Clubhouse Through Standards and Occupational Therapy

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O.T. Intern, Josh Routhier, Plays Key Role In Stress Reduction

(Seacoast Pathways, a program of Granite Pathways, is a mental health recovery peer community in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.)

Managing Stress— a Continuation of our Series on "What is A Clubhouse?"

We all deal with stress in our daily lives. In today's world it is prevalent, and many adapt. For anyone with a mental health issue, handling stress is difficult. The Clubhouse model, while striving to alleviate the stress often found in the workplace, contains several subtle features that help members cope with stress on their way to recovery and employment.

For one, Seacoast Pathways strongly adheres to a standard of making sure all work opportunities offered to members are voluntary. At the same time, the message is given to members that their work in the Clubhouse is needed, expected and vital. It is a delicate balance between the normal requirements of a workplace and making sure members don't get overwhelmed. By offering a wide variety of tasks as well as consistent encouragement, our staff help each member find something that they are suited for and comfortable doing. They can choose who they work with as well.

At a staff training conducted by Genesis House in Worcester, MA, we learned the importance of voluntary work in a Clubhouse. The voluntary nature of our work helps members regain the sense of empowerment and dignity they may have lost during their mental health battles and all that comes with them (the loss of a job, the requirement to maintain a regimen of medications, involuntary hospitalizations and even the loss of friendships). Making work voluntary is a significant combatant of stress.

We also have a unique feature that is rare in the workplace. We begin each day with a check-in. Each member and staff—if they are willing—share how they are feeling and what their goals are for the day. As they pass the baton to the next person after speaking, members share just a little bit about how they are feeling. This gives the entire group a sense of the specific needs of each individual that day. For members, this removes the need to conceal how they are feeling and offers them confidence that the group knows they are feeling anxiety, depression or, ready to conquer the world. Members need not feel the stress of subjugating their sometimes-delicate frames of mind or emotions. Coming clean and feeling supported is a magical stress reliever!

Following the check-in, we move on to a motivational quote of the day. Both members and staff are asked to generate nuggets of wisdom to offer some spiritual support. Most are about patience as a virtue, and failure due to a lack of trying. Others are more famous lines by poets, authors, and philosophers.

And finally, we have the benefit of an occupational therapist intern program in collaboration with the University of New Hampshire. Our interns play a key role in helping members change or adjust certain behaviors or attitudes in how they approach work and, indeed, life. Unlearning unproductive methods and instilling new approaches and outlooks to work, problem solving, and social situations is a key mission of our OT interns. In addition, they offer wellness groups which are ideal stress relievers for both members and staff.

For more information about Seacoast Pathways Call Us! 603-812-9031 or email seacoastpathways@gmail.com

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