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It's My Life - Social Self-Directed Care

The It's My Life program helps connect women with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder with life coaches who help them forge their own path to recovery.

It’s My Life is a highly innovative intervention that combines three evidence based practices into an integrated skill and support strategy that is specifically constructed to help people with schizophrenia build networks of friends and intimate relationships. Success in this area would be a major breakthrough for some of the most isolated, misunderstood members of our communities. As an essential aspect of recovery, people with schizophrenia need to be included in their communities as more than just residents. Social exclusion, isolation, and poverty exacerbate disability and are associated with ill health and premature death (Wilkinson, R., Marmot, M., 2003). 

Mental Health America has implemented a novel demonstration to address the problems.  The program staff are people with lived experienced with severe mental illness, and who are certified Mental Health Peer Specialists, cross trained as professional Life Coaches, and have completed a 60 hour on line class from Boston University in the techniques of Psychiatric Rehabilitation. The coaches teach and support people with schizophrenia to build healthy, lasting relationships. Employing a unique Social Self-Directed Care (SSDC) framework in which participants retain control of life decisions, this unique combination of techniques, while anecdotally helpful in other contexts, has never been tested in a single intervention. “Self-direction is a concept in the recovery process which treats individuals as capable of determining their own purposes, and achieving their own goals” (Florida SDC Operational Policies & Procedures, 2007).  Our intent is to provide a breakthrough for people with schizophrenia by helping them build networks of supportive, and sustainable relationships that will increase overall health and life quality while reducing crisis events and hospitalizations.

Peer coaches assist participants develop and exercise skills to enhance social connections, friendships, and intimate relationships. As peers, the coaches are able to more easily build trust with participants than other professionals. Coaches use a variety of techniques, including:

  • Identifying areas of participant interest and strategies to build social networks that are responsive to the individual’s interests.
  • Helping participants develop a social plan based on their goals and aspirations.
  • Skill training using psychiatric rehabilitation techniques.
  • Coaching and feedback regarding progress.
  • Participating in community events and services.
  • Building connections to community employment and volunteerism if desired.

Each person participating in the program chooses a coach they would like to work with, and receive a small monthly stipend to be used for social activities.  These funds can only be spent on activities that match their planned goals. Working with their coaches, participants develop their own social goals, develop an action plan to achieve those goals and create a budget for the funds allocated for social activities.

The program will be evaluated using Personal Outcome Measures, a quality of life survey tool developed by The Council for Quality and Leadership, and through self-report using a guided weekly journal that allows the individual to provide their degree of satisfaction with the progress they have made in achieving their goals.  The coaches also compare rates of in-patient treatment to the individuals history over the past two years prior to entering the program.

500 Montgomery Street, Suite 820
 Alexandria, VA 22314

Phone (703) 684.7722

Toll Free (800) 969.6642

Fax (703) 684.5968

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