Last Friday, AHP and the Copeland Center co-hosted a webinar to celebrate WRAP’s 20th birthday. I attended this webinar as AHP’s WRAP social media manager, and also as someone fairly new to the broader WRAP community. The experience was educational, and it was inspiring to hear about WRAP through the voices of its earliest and most ardent supporters.

Kristen King, AHP’s WRAP Project Manager, moderated the webinar. She began by sharing her own WRAP story and, between facilitating question-and-answer segments, kept attendees engaged in a lively chat box discussion about the content being presented.

In the first segment of the webinar, Mary Ellen Copeland and Ed Anthes reflected on WRAP’s beginnings, its founding principles, and each of its components. They did this using the materials from the first WRAP presentation back in 1997, which was a nostalgic experience that also highlighted the evolution of WRAP and the language we use to talk about mental health. For example, while the word “symptom” frequently showed up in that old presentation, we now talk about signs, signals, and indicators, and continue to make changes to the language we use to better reflect WRAP’s underlying values and ethics. Mary Ellen and Ed also spoke about changing the conversation around mental illness to include the idea of recovery, which was not common practice in service settings at the time WRAP emerged. Today, the idea that people can recover from mental illness is more widely accepted.

Throughout this presentation, there was a lively conversation happening in the chat box. There was praise for Mary Ellen and Ed, as well as peer support and encouragement for fellow attendees. But, the most prominent theme of the chat box conversation was wellness tools and action plans. Attendees chatted about things that work for them and connected over shared strategies. This theme continued for the entire webinar. I’ve chosen a few quotes to include here that stood out for me.

  • Tyrone G.: “Wellness tool – go under water. Can shift my perceptions and reconnect me with [the] world around me. Changes stimulus and sensory input.”
  • Katie W. said, “I use breathing. Listening to music.”
  • Kristen K.: “Journaling is a huge part of my triggers action plan.”
  • Odie D.: “Painting, dance, and general stream-of-consciousness time are big for my early warnings plan.
  • Niki M.: “My relationship with animals is a source of joy and healing.”
  • Amey D.: “A good action plan for me is to walk to the creek by my house and just listen to the water and sounds of nature.”
  • Greg P.: “Zumba.”
  • Larry B.: “A walk along the river is one of my favorite stress reducers.”

While WRAP’s underlying principles have stayed the same, it has grown and developed alongside a shifting mental health and recovery landscape. And, most importantly, WRAP’s evolution has always been greatly influenced by the community of individuals who use it on a daily basis, including people like Gina Calhoun. Gina is the National Director for Wellness and Recovery Education at the Copeland Center. She’s also a WRAP facilitator and peer support specialist. During the webinar’s second segment, she shared about her experience as a service user at Harrisburg State Hospital in Pennsylvania and how she eventually became a peer support provider during the hospital’s closure.

Gina made two points that really resonated with me, as well as the other attendees. First, she described the power of shifting from a “What’s wrong?” conversation to a “What’s strong?” conversation. This kind of strengths-based thinking can be a powerful tool for drawing on past successes, recognizing our personal strength, and highlighting what is going well. This resonated with attendees in the chat box as well:

  • Shannon M. said: “Gotta love that strength based feedback!”
  • Larry B. said: “Whenever I listen to Gina, my energy goes up!”
  • Odie D. said: “Gina, this is so inspirational.”

Gina also talked about the role of community and how the WRAP community provides an important support system. We’ve talked about the power of reconnecting with community in a past website article. We can connect with community through WRAP groups, refresher trainings, or events such as the upcoming WRAP Around the World conference. We can also do this virtually through webinars and social media platforms. (Like us on Facebook to join in the conversations and peer support that happen there.)

Then, Katie Wilson, the Copeland Center’s Director of Operations, spoke about the values and ethics of WRAP, which are the foundation upon which WRAP stands. Katie spoke about their importance with a conviction and passion that sparked more sharing in the chat box.

  • Ren K.: “Each WRAP group I facilitate teaches me something new about myself.”
  • Amey D.: “These values and Ethics have changed my interactions with others. Not just in WRAP groups, but with every person I meet.”
  • Joch W.: “So agree with you Katie. WRAP doesn’t tell us what to do. We get to be the pros who know about what works for ourselves.”
  • Gina C.: “WRAP is mutually beneficial – both for participants and facilitators.”

Katie also spoke about the evidence base for WRAP. As a social work researcher and program evaluator, this topic always stands out to me. WRAP is an effective tool for improving mental health. WRAP has also been recognized by SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices, which is a great source for learning more about the research on WRAP and what it means to be an evidence-based practice.

By the end of the webinar, I found myself in awe of the community that has formed around WRAP. I look forward to future events, including WRAP Around the World, and hope to continue to learn from the collective experience of WRAP’s vast network.

If you missed this webinar, watch an instant replay here: WRAP 20th Birthday Celebration Webinar Recording

View a PDF of the webinar slides here: WRAP 20th Birthday Celebration Webinar Slides

Don’t forget to register for WRAP Around the World, taking place June 5-7, 2017 in Sacramento, California.