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"Each of us must come to care about everyone else's children. We must recognize that the well being of our own children is intimately linked to the well being of all other people's children. After all, when one of our children needs life-saving surgery, someone else's child will perform it. When one of our children is harmed by violence, someone else's child will commit it. The good life for our own children can be secured only if it is also secured for all other people's children. But to work for the well being of all children is not just a practical matter-- it is also right!" - Lilian G. Katz, Phd.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Paricipatory Dialogues

This last weekend I had an incredible opportunity to attend a Train the Trainer on Arizona Dialogues, which is a form of Participatory Dialogues developed by Kathy Bashor. It was put on by the Stigma Reduction Committee at a state level.

From the application:

What is a dialogue? A dialogue is a forum in which two or more groups of people are brought together as equals to explore their differing perspectives, experiences, and belief systems

What is “training of the trainers”? “TOT” is a training that has been developed specifically to train others to be facilitators of a dialogue. It is a two-day training that encompasses group dynamics and the process of setting up a dialogue.

I am not ready to train others, but I am very excited to learn how to facilitate these dialogues. The training process, which was put on by Randy Webb and Charlotte Webb (no relation), was an emotionally exhausting one, and I can not imagine the energy of facilitating an actual dialogue. Previous dialogues have been with Police Officers and Mental Health Service Recipients, Psychiatrists and Service Recipients, and other groups that often maintain stereotypes and misconceptions about each other.

One of my classmates with experience and I are already planning on hosting a dialogue between administrators of adult mental health programs and children mental health programs, which in Arizona, especially Maricopa county, are very disconnected with each other.

SAMHSA has this to say about dialogues:
Background

Dialogue is not a new concept. Participatory Action Research, twenty years ago, created a new paradigm for the conduct of research using dialogues nationally and internationally.

In the mental health arena, three roundtables were convened in 1989, by the Community Support Program, under the National Institute of Mental Health, to discuss the issue of involuntary treatment. These three meetings (held first with consumers, then psychiatrists and consumers, lastly with consumers, psychiatrists and family members) were the inspiration for a conference model, Pioneer Dialogues, the first of which was held in Broward County, Florida, in 1992. The two-day dialogue conference was held at South Florida State Hospital, bringing consumers and professionals together to discuss basic consumer issues and strategies.

In other parts of the country, similar dialogues were being held. New York State convened a series of Recovery Dialogues between psychiatrists and consumers. Darby Penny, New York’s Director of Recipient Affairs, describes one of these dialogues in the manual. Dialogues were also organized between state commissioners of mental health and mental health consumers under the direction of Ann Loder, consumer advocate from Florida, while working with the National Consumer Policy and Research Workgroup.

Why are Dialogues Important?

First, there is general agreement that the mental health system needs to change. Consumers have been talking for years about what the problems are, expressing anger about mistreatment in the name of treatment. Consumers have received support for some of these viewpoints. Today, there are innovative programs, many of which are directed by consumers, jobs that have been created, and new policy development that has been influenced by consumer input. Yet, it just isn’t enough. The mental health system has had its equal share of failures and advances. The climate of the general community is more volatile than ever; violence on the rise is often attributed to mental patients. Approaches are being considered that may further put consumers at risk for increased involuntary treatment. Consumers need to talk about issues from their different perspectives in order to develop workable solutions that will assure consumer survival.

To Talk About Differences, There Must Be a Partnership

Dialogue can be a first step toward establishing partnerships between people who agree to listen to each other. They offer opportunities for people to exchange their beliefs with others while simultaneously having a deep, private conversation within themselves. A dialogue is a way of healing, opening the possibility for gaining new trust and understanding. When people understand each other, they are able to work together and create partnerships. Ultimately, however, the success of a dialogue rests with the individual whose life has been changed.
I am finding as my career progresses that I enjoy facilitation and group dynamics. I will have to see where that takes me.

The other aspect of the weekend that was interesting was the venue. It was held at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Paradise Valley. The rooms are sparse, the meal times structured and the grounds awesome. I went for a walk Saturday night as a thunderstorm rolled in and was in another world. I forgot I was in the city, and had that moment of contemplative self-awareness that is so rare. I walked the labyrinth, explored the sweat lodges and meditation room and explored the desert. It is open to the public, so I am going back later.

The biggest drawback to the weekend is that it felt like I worked all weekend and had no time off. This was not sponsored by EMPACT, so I was not paid. It was also a solid block- meals were together, constant training, no down time except for those stolen moments in the desert.

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