Saturday, June 16, 2012

Education for Mental Health Practitioners Must Include Our Real-Life Stories!

I am pleased to introduce guest writer Nancy Pizzo Boucher. Nancy has extensive education and experience in Special Education, is a NAMI presenter, and the author of two books: Replanting Lives Uprooted By Mental Illness, a practical guide for families and Getting My Night Vision. (More detailed professional background is at the bottom of this article.)

Set A Place At The Table For Families And Consumers 
By Nancy Pizzo Boucher 

I believe that the future treatment of mental illness will have at its core an understanding and acknowledgment that families and consumers are colleagues in the quest and development of best treatment practices.

Long before my youngest son got sick with a severe mental illness, I had learned through my profession as a teacher in special education how essential the voices of my students and their families were to true progress.

I have a self appointed mission that I need help accomplishing! It is to bring primary sources of experiences with mental illness - qualitative experiences - into the curriculum of those studying to become practitioners in the field of mental health. Until the qualitative lived experiences of families and those with an illness are considered primary, treatment and healing will be marginalized.

A progressive step in the educational preparation of students going into the field of mental health should include course readings and discussion from primary sources- from families and consumers.

From the study of these primary resources, many good research proposals could emerge, and when carried out lead to some improved best evidence based practices.

These practices need to incorporate 2 strands of treatment- one focused on strengthening, nurturing and healing of the person who got sick and one focused on education about the illness and its impact and strategies for managing the illness.

From the beginning, eighteen years ago when Clem had his first psychotic break that impacted his communication and sent him inward for so long, I would keep handing him alternative familiar ways to get out what he had to say. I gave him canvases and journals and paints and pens. What he captured in his art and writing through the years offers a profound look at the experience of getting hit with a mental illness. He has been so brave to be willing and glad to share his very personal and poignant experience in real time as it happened in my recent book “Replanting Lives Uprooted By Mental Illness, a practical guide for families”.

The field of special education has already done the groundwork in this area and could provide good direction in how to build up a person's strengths and interests and incorporate them as the means for teaching to skill deficits/ impact areas.

I have written two books of our family's journey and I know there are many other quality primary source books out there and available.

It doesn't matter to me if my books are included in curriculum and study.

It does matter to me deeply that those with an illness and those who love them are listened to and asked about what they know that can make a difference.

Thank you for all of your efforts in this large endeavor to make a difference.


Nancy Pizzo Boucher

Professional Background
  • B.A. in Sociology University of Maine
  • Masters in Special Education, University of Southern Maine 
  • Twenty four years of teaching experience in special education as a behavioral strategist, then a curriculum strategist. 
  • Workshop presenter for district workshops, as well as workshops at Maine Universities.
  • NAMI: Participant in 2010 NAMI national convention doing a poster presentation. Member of NAMI Portland, Maine board. Steering committee member of Voices Of Recovery Speakers’ Bureau out of Portland, Maine. 
  • Author of: Getting My Night Vision and Replanting Lives Uprooted By Mental Illness, a practical guide for families

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Last Updated:   16 June 2012

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