By: Kathy Muscari
A decade ago, I was a Gestalt therapist in a rural West Virginia community. It wasn’t unusual to leave the office late or work weekends to honor people’s schedules and their desire to share time and tell stories. I witnessed pain, joy, growth, and tears. Like them, I had a few emotions tucked away. My certificate-covered bookshelves held a couple of Copeland books. People found hope in the gathered suggestions for dealing with difficulties. There were routine requests for excerpts from dog-eared sections.
Opportunity knocked me into an innovative consumer-run network. My orientation began during a feverish grant-writing fest. Staff looked at me, anticipating newcomer brilliance. I stammered over an idea to bring Mary Ellen and Wellness Recovery Action Planning to our state. “They won’t fund that”, I was told. “It’ll never fly here.” I took the challenge, and wrote my heart into a proposal. I also took a deep breath and dialed a number I found on the back of a little red WRAP book.
Maybe someone would quote the cost of a visit from Mary Ellen herself – wishful thinking perhaps, but why not ask? A friendly female voice answered the phone, telling me she was washing up a few dishes while enjoying some flowers through the window. It was Mary Ellen.
WV WRAP has been ongoing since that initial conversation and funded proposal. Mary Ellen and Ed trained WV’s first group of WRAP facilitators that same year. Expanding exponentially, WV has since grown a team of caring facilitators. Many promote wellness nationally. All continue to learn and grow, applying the wisdom of their own WRAP experiences. People still have a desire to share time and tell stories. I’ve noticed a nice change … conversations are more often about living, learning, and helping out friends. I find myself smiling.
Mary Ellen Copeland, PhD, developed Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) with a group of people with lived experience who were attending a mental health recovery workshop in 1997. She is the original author of the WRAP Red Book, as well as dozens of other WRAP books and materials. She has dedicated the last 30 years of her life to learning from people who have mental health issues; discovering the simple, safe, non-invasive ways they get well, stay well, and move forward in their lives; and then sharing what she has learned with others through keynote addresses, trainings, and the development of books, curriculums, and other resources. Now that she is retired, and that, as she intended, others are continuing to share what she has learned, she continues to learn from those who have mental health issues and those who support them. She is a frequent contributor to this site.