ICCD Certification Experience: Hearing from the Certified

by Linda Chamberlain

I have been a member of Progress Place for four years, and they are four years which have changed my life. The staff and members of Progress Place have helped me grow, and to gain a greater understanding of myself. I feel as if I am part of a community which always encourages and supports me while I try to do things I never believed I could do. Over the last four years, I have completed two Group Employment Placements and two Transitional Employment Placements, and now I am involved in helping with Colleague Training. I am very proud of these accomplishments!

I want to talk about the importance of clubhouse certification. My clubhouse is a very important part of my life, and I want to help make it the best it can be. Most members work hard, investing a lot of themselves into their clubhouses, and in return, we have a right to expect our clubhouses to be of the highest quality. I believe that the clubhouse certification process can help us reach this goal.

During the last seven years, I have had two psychiatrists. The first psychiatrist was a wonderful, caring person, who listened to me, and I felt he took a real interest in my life. He helped me find good quality housing, and he introduced me to Progress Place. This psychiatrist believed in me, so I started to believe in myself. Unfortunately, he retired.

When I started going to my new psychiatrist, he treated me in a completely different manner. The entire time I was speaking to him, he would spend his time watching the clock. I do not think he was really interested in what I was trying to tell him. Occasionally, he would even doze off. He never asked me if I was satisfied with his treatment. I believe he has labeled me as a chronic patient and he does not believe in my abilities. I know he is wrong!

Several weeks ago, with the help and support of one of the staff at Progress Place, I confronted him. It took me weeks to get up the courage to talk to him. I was very nervous. I told him that I felt he never really listened to me. I told him his clock watching was causing me to speak very fast, because I worried he would say "Time to go," before I was really finished. I told him that I did not think he liked me, because he kept falling asleep. Now, he is always wide awake, and he never looks at that clock. Now, I am the one, who says, "Time to go. I've got lots to do!" It was not easy, but what a great feeling to be able to speak up and stand up for myself! (I still think I should get a new psychiatrist!!!)

The point I am trying to make is that it is difficult for some people to speak up and express their opinions. This means other people have to be willing to ask the right questions and to be willing to listen very carefully to their answers. I believe the certification process is important because it provides staff and members with an opportunity to express their opinions, and to evaluate the effectiveness of their clubhouses. If we really want to know what members think about their clubhouses, then we need to create safe forums for them to tell us. We need to be willing to ask

the difficult questions, if we want the truest answers. The certification process helps staff and members realize their opinions are vitally important to the future development of their clubhouses.

Most clubhouses operate in relative isolation. When I first came to Progress Place, I thought it was a good clubhouse, but I really did not know for sure. I had never visited another clubhouse, so I had nothing to compare it with. I only realized how lucky I was to have my first psychiatrist, when I was able to compare him to my second psychiatrist. The certification process allows us to benefit from the experience and expertise of the consultants, who have been to many different clubhouses. They are able to make suggestions and present ideas which they have discovered while visiting other clubhouses. It is similar to the benefit we are all gaining from exchanging our ideas and experiences at this conference. By participating in the clubhouse certification process, the ICCD and this Seminar, we are able to share our knowledge. This unites the clubhouse movement and makes us all stronger.

I was extremely pleased to be selected to work with seven other members and eight staff on Progress Place's certification committee. We all met to decide how we could best gather all the information needed for the clubhouse self study. The decisions made in the committee were all made by consensus. We broke up into four groups. Each group was responsible for a different section of the clubhouse standards. The group I was in dealt with issues related to the work- ordered day. My group decided to do a survey. We based our survey questions on the Standards. We tried to interview the maximum number of staff and members we could, in the limited amount of time we had. One of the concerns we had was that the members and staff would become tired of answering questions, because the other committee sub-groups were also interviewing people. When we began asking members if they would participate in our survey, we were surprised that everyone seemed so eager to be interviewed. People would stop me in the hall and say, "Hey! When are you going to interview me?" In total, we were able to interview 48 members and six staff from the three units. I was worried that we would not be able to complete the survey on time. It always amazes me what we can do, when we all work together.

The members and staff seemed to be very pleased to be asked their opinions on various issues. People took pride in wanting to provide detailed, thoughtful answers to our questions. We found ourselves having to do a lot of extra writing on the back of the survey sheets. I carefully wrote down the answers, because I knew the members were placing their trust in me to make sure their opinions would be fairly represented in the final report. I enjoyed being involved in the survey, because it made me feel that I had an important role to perform in securing the future of our clubhouse.

When we tabulated the information from the survey, the results were extremely positive. I was pleased to discover that most members felt the same way about our clubhouse as I do. The vast majority of the membership believed that Progress Place did an excellent job in fulfilling most of the Standards. There were a few areas that were identified as needing some improvement.

When the two consultants, Kevin and Roland, arrived from Genesis Club, we were all very excited to present our self study to them. Although I was a bit nervous, I was eager to hear their feedback about our clubhouse. We were all curious to see how they would conduct the consultation. I was very impressed by the two

consultants. They demonstrated tact, sensitivity, and skill, in all their interactions with the members and staff. They spent time in each of the different units, and they spoke with a wide range of people.

On the final day, when they presented their report, I was pleased to discover that they agreed with a lot of our findings from the self study. They offered some very useful suggestions for ways we could improve our clubhouse. They also highlighted certain areas in which Progress Place excelled. It's funny I had never thought about some of these positive areas. I guess I had taken them for granted.

I had always thought Progress Place was a good clubhouse, but now, I know it is a great clubhouse. Being involved in the certification process has meant a great deal to me. I would like to thank Kevin and Roland for helping us. I have given a lot to my clubhouse, and I have received a lot in return. I love it there!!!! I am confident that the staff and members of Progress Place, will continue to work together to overcome the challenges that still face us, so that our clubhouse will become the best it can be!

Linda Chamberlain is a member of Progress Place in Toronto, Canada.