2008 INTAR Conference Toronto Notes and Materials

Action on Alternatives Conference 2008The 2008 International Recovery Perspectives Conference – Action On Alternatives – Critical and Creative Exploration of Leading Edge Approaches in Mental Health Recovery was held in Toronto Canada June 5-7 . The powerful event brought together more than 300 survivors, professionals, family members and others involved in helping people through extreme states of emotional distress.

Download conference program

See below for conference presenters biographies and handout materials.

Key Contributors and Sponsors

The International Recovery Perspectives conference was sponsored by the following agencies and organizations. We thank them for their support.

Alternatives East York Mental Health Counselling Services Agency is a community-based program for individuals with serious mental health problems living in East York / East Toronto.

Community Resource Connections of Toronto (CRCT) provides direct service to adults who struggle with day-to-day living as a result of severe and persistent mental health issues as well as health promotion/community development support to consumer/survivors, families and groups in Toronto.

Family Outreach and Response (F.O.R.) is a program that provides support services to families and friends of people who are recovering from a serious mental health problem.

International Network Towards Alternatives and Recovery (INTAR)

We like to thank all organizers, planners and volunteers for their hard work and assistance!

“Why Alternatives? – Conference Editorial

There is a low-level struggle against traditional psychiatry’s strict adherence to the bio-medical model. It is argued that the bio-medical mental health system is too mechanistic, too embedded with Big Pharma, and has too much authority over people;s lives; that this is inadvertently counter-recovery. We look to, and call for alternatives to the bio-medical approach, but what is meant by the term, alternatives?

Alternatives are generally conceived as actual, altruistic programs or services that operate in a spirited and cooperative fashion on the margins of the mainstream system. However, alternatives are not just under-funded, voluntaristic, user-friendly drop-ins, support groups and crisis centres. In the context of the International Recovery Perspectives conference we take a broader view of alternatives, one that includes a shift in thinking away from burdensome thoughts of diagnosis, chronicity and coping, to a more stimulating mental environment that fosters hope, connection and creativity.
Among various possibilities:

We want an alternative, and more hopeful, way of understanding and responding to psychosis and other mental challenges.

We want an alternative to the traditional, paternalistic service model wherein the professional knows best and the client lacks insight.

We want an alternative to “more of the same” as it relates to government funding and policy decisions.

We want more critical thinking and less complacency with respect to the problems attached to the medical model.

We want access to psychological supports, and a re-integration of psychological training within psychiatry.

We want our young people in crisis to feel supported, to have choices, and services like trauma-informed peer programs and drop-ins.

And for alternative supports, we want the best that can be conceived: recovery-oriented services that are peer-driven, diverse, responsive, respectful of human rights and personal dignity, non-medical, non-coercive, with opportunities for growth and education, and the guarantee of safety, shelter and a fair income. We deserve them as an alternative to the fading status quo.

A caveat, however; alternative mental health supports are urged and hailed as empowering, user-friendly and effective, but this is not to say that we should succumb to magical thinking, that wands can be waved and peer support will wondrously uplift and transform. Not so simple we all know. Rather we acknowledge that this is challenging work for everyone involved, whether directly as a survivor, or as a family member, or as someone working in the field.

We understand that people struggle long and hard for personal recovery, that sometimes one can only bear witness to human suffering, that creating and sustaining alternative supports is an uphill battle, that much of the good work is underappreciated and unsupported by mainstream mental health. Yet, we also know alternatives do work, that people’s recovery is the message and the evidence, combined. We do know that this low-level social change movement for human rights and alternative supports is making progress.

Whether as survivor change agents or progressive clinicians, or both, people are doing extraordinary work in the fields of wellness, rights and recovery. This includes most or all of us assembled here for this conference, so as much as possible think of everyone around you as a fellow traveler, a co-equal, and as a believer in our shared resilience and our capacity for recovery, growth and transformation.

Talk to the people around you in these terms, and guaranteed, you will have contributed to a positive and memorable conference learning experience.

Participant Biographies and Presentation Materials/Handouts

Download all materials/handouts in a .zip archive (38meg)

Keynote speaker: Dr. Ronald Bassman PhD
At 25, I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for the second time in three years. Diagnosis: chronic schizophrenia; treatments: electro-shock, insulin comas and massive doses of Thorazine. After I recovered from my “treatments” and addressed the identity issues that triggered my excursion into madness, I earned my doctorate and became a licensed psychologist. My current work includes psychotherapy, consultation and University teaching. Advocacy and activism fills the remainder of my non-family time. In June 2007 I published the book, A Fight to Be: A Psychologist’s Experience from Both Sides of the Locked Door.

Anne Marie DiGiacomo MSW
Anne Marie has been working in human services and community mental health since 1977, receiving her Masters of Social Work in 1986. Since 1996, she has worked at Windhorse Associates and Windhorse Community Services in the position of Clinical Director, Co-Executive Director, admissions Manager and Senior Clinician. Anne Marie is a practicing Buddhist and brings a contemplative perspective to her work as a psychotherapist and Sandplay Therapist.

Ann Thompson MSW
Ann is a Recovery Educator and “survivor/ provider” trained in critical social work at York University, who is exploring the implementation of recovery principles in programs/organizations supporting consumer/survivors and family members. Ann is a certified Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) Facilitator and developed a course in “Critical Perspectives in Mental Health” in the Masters Social Work program at York University.


Bhargavi Davar
Bhargavi is a survivor of psychiatry from India, works as a researcher and writer, with books published from Sage Publications on women’s mental health. She is a Director of the Bapu Trust, India, which is devoted to national level advocacy on human rights in mental health. She has facilitated the development of alternative mental health thinking in services as well as policy. She is very serious about her own self recovery practices.


Celia Brown
Celia is a psychiatric survivor who was instrumental in developing the first peer specialist civil service title in the country. A long-time activist and leader in the psychiatric survivor movement, sheserves on the board of the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA), and was a founding member of the National People of Color Consumer/Survivor Network. Celia is Board President of MindFreedom International and serves as the organization’s primary representative to the United Nations on the International Convention for the Human Rights of People with Disabilities. With other ex-patients and allies, she was a founder of the International Network Toward Alternatives and Recovery (INTAR), which held its first meeting of alternative practitioners and psychiatric survivors in 2004. Celia has presented nationally and internationally on topics such as self-help, peer counselling, crisis intervention, advocacy and human rights, trauma and cultural competency.

Celine Cyr
Celine from the province Quebec is a Masters student at the School of Social Work at the University of Montreal. She works as a Trainer, teacher, provider, and is an activist and service user. Her areas of expertise are: GAM (Gaining Autonomy with Medication), alternatives and recovery, crisis intervention and the effects of trauma, secondary victimization, psychiatric medications, electroshock, and salsa dancing (in progress!).


Darby Penney
Currently a Senior Research Associate with Advocates for Human Potential, Inc., Darby was Director of Recipient Affairs at the New York State Office of Mental Health for nine years, where she brought the perspectives of people with psychiatric disabilities into the policy-making process. She was instrumental in creating the first peer specialist civil service positions in the US and in bringing people with psychiatric histories into the mental health workforce in a variety of roles. With Peter Stastny, she is co-author of “The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic” (Bellevue Literary Press, 2008).


Dr David Cameron PhD
David is currently employed as Head of Research of Threshold a psycho-dynamically oriented Belfast-based voluntary Mental Health organization. He also works as an associate lecturer with Dublin City University School of Nursing, is published in the field of specialized psychotherapy research and clinical commentary, and a member of the International Society of the Psychological Treatments of the Schizophrenias (ISPS) and an associate group member of the Association of Therapeutic Communities. As a mental-health professional his perspective is necessarily informed by theoretical presuppositions and the best available scientific evidence, but is also firmly grounded in the lived learned experience (professional-personal) of spending some ten years working in residential therapeutic communities with people whose voice hearing experiences and associated internal and external distress were synonymous with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. This lived learned experience of bearing witness to and tolerating each of the others full “biological” cycles of ordered and disordered behaviour, madness-sanity as well as the full gamut of related human emotions has had a powerful and lasting impact on his perspective and formulation of mental-health/illness.

Elise White
Elise White completed the Boston University Recovery Workshop and was trained in Peer Counseling at Windhorse Associates in Northampton, Massachusetts. She was hired as a Peer Counselor in 2005 and recently received additional training as a Clinical Mentor. She has served on numerous teams at Windhorse as well as co-facilitating the groups the Art of Eating Well (2006) and Peer Counselor Training (2006). In addition she is currently the staff liason to the Administrative Steering Committee and has served on the Outcome Evaluation Project Committee at Windhorse. Elise graduated magna cum laude from Mount Holyoke College with a B.A. in psychology

Eric Friedland-Kays MA
For the past 8 years, Eric Friedland-Kays has been a Senior Clinician with Windhorse Associates in Northampton, Massachusetts, working with clients, families, staff, and the states and depths of his own mind. He has practiced Vipassana meditation for nearly 15 years. He has a parent he loves very much who has struggled with extreme states of mind.

James B. (Jim) Gottstein Esq.
Jim is a psychiatric survivor and Harvard lawyer who has been practicing law in Alaska for 25 years, including representing or advocating for people diagnosed with serious mental illness, and establishing alternatives to the current coercive, “Medical Model” approach of psychiatry. Since founding the Law Project for Psychiatric Rights (PsychRights) in 2002 to mount a strategic litigation campaign against forced psychiatric drugging across the United States, he has won two cases, which have been described as landmarks. His and others’ efforts to create non-coercive, non-drug alternatives have yielded Soteria-Alaska, and CHOICES, Inc., two peer operated programs in Alaska. Mr. Gottstein is most known round the world for subpoenaing and releasing the Zyprexa Papers to the New York Times documenting Eli Lilly’s suppression of information regarding Zyprexa causing diabetes and other metabolic problems.


Dr Jan Wallcraft PhD
Jan has been an activist in the mental health system survivor movement in the UK since the mid 1980s, and has become a mental health researcher and program manager, mainly in service user led projects within mental health voluntary sector and government agencies. Her particular research areas are holistic therapies, crisis alternatives, the survivor movement and survivor/service user involvement in research. She believes survivors need to create our own scientific research methods based on empowerment and self-definition.


Jasna Russo
Jasna comes from former Yugoslavia, where she experienced psychiatry. She graduated in clinical psychology, lives in Berlin and works in the survivor-led organization “In Any Case”. She serves as a board member of European Network of (ex) Users and Survivors of Psychiatry and has published papers in Germany and UK. Her research reports include “Taking a Stand: Homelessness and Psychiatry from Survivors’ Perspective” (together with T. Fink, Berlin 2003); “From One’s Own Perspective: Users’ Experiences of Person Centred Care” (together with F. Scheibe and A. K. Lorenz, Berlin 2007). She currently works on research about informed consent for a clinical study as experienced by participants (for Service User Research Enterprise at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College, London).


Jim Walsh
Jim used mental health services for approximately 14 years. During that time he became actively involved in various mental health initiatives set up with the specific aim to improve the status of people experiencing psychological and emotional distress within mental health care systems. He is involved in a number of local, national and international user and carer initiatives: Mental Health Ireland, the Irish Advocacy Network, the Institute for Mental Health Recovery the International Network Toward Alternatives and Recovery and the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership. He now works as a lecturer in mental health at the School of Nursing, Dublin City University.

Dr Johan Cullberg MD PhD
As a retired professor of Psychiatry, he is now active at the Ersta Skandal University College in Stockholm. He was born 1934, has four children and received his psychoanalytic training in the 1960ies. He wrote in 1972 his doctoral thesis in psycho-endocrinology, and served as leader of several social-psychiatric research projects. In the 20 years he has worked with first episode psychosis projects, including The Parachute Project. He is the President of the 10th ISPS symposium in Stockholm in 1991 and chairman for the ISPS international 1990-1997. He has written several text-books, among which “Psychosis: an integrative view” was translated in English (Routledge 2006).


Kate Storey RN
Kate is Chief of the Acute and Community Care Division at the Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene. Her experience in mental health and addiction service includes direct service, education and administration in both hospital and community settings. She is a family member and was diagnosed with clinical depression in 1980 and describes herself as “in recovery”. Kate is a registered nurse; her undergraduate degree is in Psychology and her Masters degree is in Adult Education and Counseling Psychology. Currently she is a doctoral student in the Faculty of Education at the University of Western Ontario with research interests in recovery education and empowerment. Kate is the co-lead for the “Culture of Recovery” project implemented by the Central East region, which is designed to build a strong framework of service philosophy and delivery that is recovery oriented and in which peer support and consumer/survivor empowerment will thrive.

Krista MacKinnon
Krista MacKinnon works for the Family Outreach and Response program. She is supporting families in understanding the many ways they can be helpful to someone they love when psychosis has affected the family. Her own experience of hospitalization and being labeled “Bipolar” as a young teen shaped her belief in recovery and her perspectives on mental health service delivery. She found and explored alternative forms of support for maintaining her wellness. Post-grad, she has studied Solution Focused Counselling, Psychosocial Rehabillitation, and Mindfulness Based Groups. She keeps herself busy by studying Ashtanga yoga, doing homeless relief work with the Street Outreach Van, designing websites, creating graphic art, photography, dreaming of extravagant knitting projects, and naturally, playing with her two boys.

Dr Kwame Julius McKenzie BM MRCPsych
Kwame is a psychiatrist, researcher, policy advisor and broadcaster. He has worked in the field for 19 years. He has set up award winning mental health services, has 100 academic publications and has published four books. His work spans basic science and applied policy research. He worked in Europe, the Caribbean, the UK and the United States of America. Until he came to Canada, Dr McKenzie sat on and an advisory group to the Secretary of State for Health Services of the British Government and was part of the team that drafted the current UK policy for improving mental health services for black and minority ethnic groups. He moved to Canada to take up a post at the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health Toronto which spans research, policy and clinical work. He is a Professor at the University of Toronto. As a trained journalist, Dr McKenzie is an International Editor of the British Journal of Psychiatry and the International Editor of the Journal of Ethnicity and Inequalities in Health and Social Care, a contributor to the Guardian newspaper and before that wrote a column for the on line version of the Times. As a broadcaster he presented All in The Mind – a half hour program on BBC Radio 4.

Liam MacGabhann
In 1988 I qualified as a mental health nurse and headed off from Ireland with my new found insights to change the world. Spending most of my early career in England with some brief sojourns in Australia and the Middle East, I have pretty consistently worked with people whom some would classify as having a serious psychotic illness, and more specifically concentrating on acute mental health care. Roles have varied with the common grounding of practice at the centre of each one. As a nurse, researcher/ practitioner and in practice/service development. In 2001 I returned to Ireland with my family and now find myself somewhere between an ivory tower and lived experiences, as a lecturer in practice. I practice on an acute psychiatric admission ward and co-ordinate the Graduate Diploma/MSc in Health Care Practice/ Nursing Practice plus some interesting professional development courses at Dublin City University. My clinical research focus generally centre’s on the relationships and understandings of mental health professionals and service users in relation to mental health, illness and health care. I recognized earlier on that one way to push the boundaries of health care practice was to seek academic pursuits in other areas. Beginning with a grounding in Health Studies for my first degree and then going on to complete a Masters in Sociology of Health and Health Care. For my sins, returning to nursing and have just completed my taught Doctorate in Nursing Science. Thankfully I have found new insights, lost some along the way and am still trying to change the world.

Chaya Grossberg
Chaya Grossberg is a Hampshire College graduate, psych survivor, and has worked as a Freedom Center Organizer in Northampton MA for the past 6 years. She is a writer, writing group leader, yoga and meditation teacher and has self published and sold 5 books. One of her books is an account of her experiences in the psych system, the others are poetry and fiction. Chaya teaches yoga, meditation and writing as healing alternatives to the mainstream system and has experienced their power in her own life as well as others lives. The Freedom Center and peer support she has experienced there have been a cornerstone in her moving out of the trauma caused by the system.

Dr Norma Friedman PhD
Norma Friedman has a degree in education and works as Professor of Business and Social Sciences at Indiana Tech. She is a Family member: “my brother was a consumer, but unfortunately not a survivor.” As former President of the Board of Windhorse Associates, Northampton, Massachusetts she represents the International Network Toward Alternatives and Recovery.

Oryx Cohen MPA
Oryx is a leader in the international consumer/survivor/ex-patient (c/s/x) movement. Currently he is the Co-Director of the Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community. He has helped to spearhead an innovative peer-run approach focusing on recovery, healing, and community. Oryx is also the co-founder of Freedom Center, the Pioneer Valley’s only independent peer-run support/activist organization. He serves on several boards and committees internationally, nationally and regionally, including the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA) and the International Network Toward Alternatives and Recovery (INTAR). Oryx volunteered for several years with MindFreedom International, directing its Oral History Project, which involved collecting and documenting c/s/x stories of abuse, empowerment, recovery, and resistance in the mental health system.


Paddy McGowan
Paddy is currently working as lecturer for Dublin City University, School of Nursing but hails originally from Omagh in County Tyrone. He recovered from schizophrenia with the support of other survivors and professionals and can speak authoritatively and humanely from the inside out, relying not on the presuppositions of dubious and largely unproven scientific theories, but from reflecting sensitively, honestly and often painfully on the experience of “hearing voices” synonymous with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. He was involved in organizing the first Voices conference in Derry in November 1999. As a member of the Institute for Recovery in Mental Health and a prominent member of the International Network Toward Alternatives and Recovery (INTAR) he is committed to creating alternatives to the medical/maintenance model. Paddy set up the first user group in Ireland in1994 and was the founder and first Chief Executive Officer of the Irish Advocacy Network, which is heavily involved in developing peer advocacy training alongside staff awareness training in user empowerment and advocacy to an accredited degree level. He continues to lecture on mental-health advocacy and recovery-oriented approaches to severe psychiatric disability in Universities and Colleges locally, nationally and internationally, alongside facilitating training for mental-health and allied professionals, families and carers.

Peter Lehmann
Peter is a publisher, survivor of psychiatry, and is living in Berlin. He serves as board-member of the European Network of (ex-) Users and Survivors of Psychiatry. His English publications include, “Coming off Psychiatric Drugs: Successful Withdrawal from Neuroleptics, Antidepressants, Lithium, Carbamazepine and Tranquilizers”, edited in 2004; “Alternatives Beyond Psychiatry” edited in 2007 together with Peter Stastny. More at www.peter-lehmann-publishing.com.


Dr Peter Stastny MD
Peter conducted research on the effects of long-term institutionalization, family influence, peer support, self-help, empowerment, and advance directives. He works as a consultant and is a founding member of several user-run organizations, providing advocacy and expert testimony in many cases dealing with psychiatric malpractice and forced treatment. He is a co-founder of the International Network Toward Alternatives and Recovery and served on the Board of Windhorse Associates and the National Associations of Rights, Protection and Advocacy and is Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.


Dr Philip Thomas MD
Philip is Professor of Philosophy Diversity and Mental Health in the Centre for Ethnicity and Health in the University of Central Lancashire, and Chair of Sharing Voices Bradford a community development project working with Bradford’s diverse communities in the field of mental health. He worked in the National Health Service as a consultant psychiatrist for over 20 years, but in 2004 changed careers, stopping clinical work to focus on academic work and community development with SVB. He is committed to community development and critical approaches to diversity in responding to the mental health needs of all communities. His academic interests include post- structuralism and critical approaches to narrative.


Ron Unger LCSW
Ron is an activist promoting human rights in the mental health field, and also a therapist specializing in cognitive therapy for psychosis. He has given numerous workshops about cognitive therapy and other psychosocial approaches to psychosis, and on trauma and its relationship to psychosis. He has also both experienced and lectured on the connections between spirituality, creativity, and “madness,” and enjoys exploring the positive potential present in troublesome states of mind. His workshops emphasize simple, practical, and humanistic ways of understanding and relating to human difficulties that are all too often perceived as being “beyond understanding.”


Stephen Pocklington

Stephen is the executive director of the Copeland Center for Wellness and Recovery, which promotes personal wellness and community empowerment. As a person with lived experience with both mental health and substance challenges, Stephen has also been a leader in advocacy in North Carolina, bringing WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) to his state and helping to establish peer support and self-advocacy groups in his community and around the state. Stephen was a co-developer of North Carolina’s first peer support crisis alternative program and is still a peer advisor there. Stephen was formerly the deputy director of a public multi-county, multi-service human services agency that provided mental health, substance abuse and developmental disability services. As deputy director, Stephen led his agency’s transformation into being a leader in recovery education and a provider of recovery-oriented services in North Carolina. Stephen has provided keynote addresses and conducted workshops and institutes on WRAPâ„¢, Recovery and Peer Support across the US (20 states), as well as Canada, England, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand and Scotland. Stephen is married to the woman of his dreams; he has three wonderful daughters, two gifted stepsons, and two amazing grandsons who are his favourite wellness tools.

Tanya Shute
Tanya is the Executive Director of the Krasman Centre and identifies as having personal experience with mental health challenges and addictions. She has a degree from York in Public Policy and Administration, and is currently working part-time on her MSW in social policy at Laurentian University.

Dr Thomas Bock PhD
Thomas was born 1954 and is married with three children. He is a Professor of clinical psychology and social psychiatry at the University Clinic of Hamburg. He is the leader of a big out-door-service, and is the cofounder of the “psychosis-seminar” and “trialogue movement” and is engaged in an anti-stigma-campaign. His scientific work includes many publications about trialogue, the subjective aspects of schizophrenia, psychotherapy of bipolar disorder, and untreated patients. He is an
author of child specialist books.


Voyce Hendrix LCSW
Voyce is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Licensed Psychiatric Technician. He has worked as the Assistant Director with the Institute for Psychosocial Interaction. He was the Clinical Director with the Soteria Project (as part of the Mental Research Institute). He is the Director and Founder of the Soteria Alternative Family Education (SAFE) Project with the Mental Research Institute. He is also a producer and writer with WORT Radio, Madison, WI and a professional musician.

Conference Planning Group

Karyn Baker Family Outreach and Response Program and INTAR
Ronald Bassman International Network Toward Alternatives and Recovery
Emily Collette Family Outreach and Response Program
Norma Friedman International Network Toward Alternatives and Recovery
Heinz Klein Consumer/Survivor Activist and ILSD
Krista MacKinnon Family Outreach and Response Program and INTAR
Brian McKinnon Alternatives – East York Mental Health Counselling Services Agency
Leslie Morris Community Resource Connections of Toronto
Peter Stastny International Network Toward Alternatives and Recovery