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National Empowerment Center

Mission: To carry a message of recovery, empowerment, hope and healing
to people with lived experience with mental health issues, trauma, and extreme states.

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  • This is New!Voices of Hope and Recovery: Our Stories, Our Lives

    New CD Series

    These stories - honest, gut-wrenching and triumphant - are told by people who, through darkness, have found wellness and healing, meaning and purpose.


  • PACE: A Recovery Guide

    How Personal Assistance in Community Existence (PACE) facilitates people's recovery from "mental illness"


    Also available as a free pdf download:
    Guide in English 1.3MB, 36 pages) Guide in Spanish (1681KB, 35 pages) Guide in Japanese (4608 KB, 29 pages) Guide in Icelandic (944KB, 30 pages)

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Alternatives Conference 2017
Save the Date
August 18-21, 2017

The National Empowerment Center, a National Consumer Technical Assistance Center, is pleased to announce that the Alternatives Conference 2017 will be held in Boston, Massachusetts at the Boston Park Plaza from Friday, August 18 through Monday, August 21, 2017.

The Alternatives Conference 2017 website is in development and will have further information at www.power2u.org. Announcements will be sent when further information is available, which will include the Call for Presentations, an online submission link, hotel reservation information, and a direct link to online room reservations.

We hope to see you at Alternatives 2017 in Boston!

Dan Fisher's keynote address, "Heartbeats of Hope" to the Asia Pacific Conference, Brisbane, Australia, October 25, 2016

The radio interview of Dan Fisher and Jenny Speed on topic of Emotional CPR, by Australia Broadcasting Corporation, Dec. 4, 2016

Psychiatrist Daniel Fisher would like to shift the paradigm of mental health services and empower people to play a strong role in their own recovery—so he’s teaching emotional CPR. Click to listen

Living With Schizophrenia

Here is a touching essay by a woman who was recovering from "schizophrenia" and was killed by police while holding a pair of scissors. These killings by police of our people must end.

In the essay, Deborah Danner described the challenges of living with mental illness, including interacting with law enforcement. Read at NY Times...

Archive recording now available:
Webinar: How the Better Days Approach Can Help in a Crisis

More info at http://power2u.org/other-crisis-alternatives.html#Better-Days

Mental Health Legal Advisors of Mass holding a teach in on integration of mental health and physical health care, Nov. 15, 2016, 9-5 PM

Integration of behavioral and physical health care is supposed to improve the quality of health care, but the sharing of mental health information with physical health providers can mean inferior medical care for people with psychiatric challenges. And integration of care won’t improve outcomes if we remain limited to services that have produced lackluster results. Tuesday, November 15, 2016, we’ll be talking about making fundamental changes in how we think about mental health care and the people who use it so that integrated care can work.

Click for more info, and to register

New study by HHS shows benefits of peer delivered services

Peers in a variety of settings are shown to inspire hope, facilitate empowerment and reduce frequency of hospitalization.

Click to view study by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation [ASPE] (PDF, 1.24MB, 90 pages)

Oryx CohenHope, Healing, and the ADA: A New Perspective on Mental Health

In recognition of the 26th Anniversary of the ADA, join us for ice cream and discussion with Oryx Cohen of the National Empowerment Center and Co-Producer of "Healing Voices" a new documentary.

26 years after the passage of the ADA it is clear that people with mental health and substance use issues are still far from a central concern in considering who has rights and who has responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act. It might be the right time and place to revitalize attention to integrating people with mental health and substance use conditions into the promise of the ADA.

RSVP: Stacy Hart, at the New England ADA Center - 800-949-4232 or shart@IHCDesign.org

Please submit accommodation requests by Thursday, August 4th.

Peerlink National Technical Assistance Center announces the 30th national mental health conference organized by and for mental health consumers/survivors

The Alternatives Conference 2016 will be held September 19-23, 2016 - San Diego, California

The call for presentations has been extended to Monday, June 6th!

Improving Relationships Between Police and the Mental Health Community: Archive Now Available

Please note there are technical difficulties for about the first 20 minutes which get resolved. Click here for PowerPoint Presentation (2.96MB)

Free Webinar

Improving Relationships Between Police and the Mental Health Community

Wednesday, May 25, 2016 from 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM (EDT)

The National Empowerment Center’s Technical Assistance Center presents a webinar that includes best practices from both the police and mental health peer perspective. Research, collaboration models, and approaches to building better relationships, as well as tools and strategies for safely collaborating with police, will be offered with the ultimate goal of improving the relationship between mental health peers and police and reducing negative outcomes.

The purpose of the Improving Relationships Between Police and Mental Health Community webinar is to provide both peers and police officers with new perspectives and tools to promote successful collaborative efforts, improve relationships, and reduce harm.

Learning Objectives
Webinar participants will be able to:

  • Understand the importance of improving relationships between peers and police officers
  • Learn from case examples about how peers and police can successfully work together
  • Identify effective approaches to initiating collaboration
  • Learn about at least two trainings that can help police improve their effectiveness when they encounter people in severe emotional crisis.


Rebecca Cokley - Executive Director of the National Council on Disability (NCD)

Alan Green, MPA, - Executive Director of the Mental Health Association of Nebraska

Brenda Vezina - A licensed social worker with 25 plus years in the field and a trauma survivor

Sergeant John Walsh - Southeast Team Detective for the Lincoln NB Police Department


Oryx Cohen - a leader in the international consumer/survivor/ex-patient movement. Currently he is the National Empowerment Center's Technical Assistance Center Director

Click here to register, OR copy and paste in your browser this link

More info at www.power2u.org/events.html

Stop FDA from Down-Classifying the Shock Device to a Class II Device Stop shock treatment

Please sign this petition to the FDA requesting that ECT machines not be downgraded to Category II and also directly contact the FDA to give testimony that there should be no down grading of the ECT machines

Visit www.change.org/p/fda-stop-fda-from-down-classifying-the-shock-device-to-a-class-ii-device-stop-shock-treatment to sign the petition, and to find instructions on how to submit comments.

NEC CEO Daniel B. Fisher, M.D., Ph.D. to be the keynote speaker at the 12th Biennial Asia Pacific International Mental Health Conference Oct 24-26, 2016

Asia Pacific International Mental Health Conference

Another world renowned keynote speaker is Dr Manaan Kar Ray, a UK psychiatrist who is joint lead for PROMISE, a framework transforming the nature of day to day interactions at the frontline. For more info, visit www.aspacmentalhealth16.com.au

Are you a peer respite director or manager? Help us to understand key features of peer respites!

Peer Respites - Action and EvaluationDirectors or managers of peer respites in the United States are invited to participate in the 2015 Peer Respite Essential Features (PREF) Survey. A team from Live & Learn, Inc. and the Human Services Research Institute is conducting the survey to gather information about funding, staffing, and policies and inform development and sustainability of new and existing programs. Your participation in the survey will allow us to continue to understand important characteristics of peer respites – including financing, governance, staffing, and policy and procedure. The information you provide will support efforts to open new programs, establish sustainable funding for current programs, and ultimately ensure that there are trauma-informed, person-centered alternatives to traditional crisis services for people experiencing extreme distress throughout the country.

The survey should take approximately 25 minutes to complete; there are about 50 questions. When we report the results of this survey, we will not identify you or your program by name. Whenever possible, your responses will be combined with others’ from your state and across the nation.

Responses are due by February 19, 2016.

Please click on the following link to go to the survey: https://survey.co1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_0f8K1dtDoBR65lX

If you have questions, please contact Laysha at Laysha@LiveLearnInc.net or 617-999-4207

NEC's Event Featuring Bruce Levine Now Available!

National Empowerment Center Marches for Dignity

On August 24th, 2015, the National Empowerment Center participated in the March for Dignity and Change in Mental Health in Washington D.C.. Over 300 hundred advocates from around the country made a loud statement that day that the time for change in mental health is now.

Click here for a transcript of Acting Executive Director Oryx Cohen's speech before the march (PDF, 33KB, 1 page).

Webinar: We Are the Evidence: Evaluation of Peer Programs

The archived webinar is now available here
Also available as a PowerPoint Presentation (2.3MB)

Toolkit for Evaluating Peer Respites Now Available!

The National Empowerment Center supported Live and Learn and the Human Services Research Institute to develop a Toolkit for Evaluating Peer Respites that is now available on our website by clicking here.

This toolkit can be useful not only for peer respites, but also for anyone who wants to evaluate their organization or program. Click to download the toolkit (PDF, 841KB, 85 pages)

Hearing Voices

NEC's Oryx Cohen was featured along with the Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community's Marty Hadge in a SAMHSA sponsored webinar on Hearing Voices on World Mental Health Day (10/12/14). Click here to access the recorded webinar.

For more information on the Hearing Voices Network:

In the USA, please visit www.hearingvoicesusa.org
Internationally, please visit www.intervoiceonline.org

NEC's Technical Assistance Center Director Oryx Cohen quoted in California Health Report article touting Peer-Run Respites

Peer respites for mental health consumers prevent hospitalizations

NEC unveils a new video supporting the Alternatives Conference, peer-run programs, and alternatives in general.

Below is a link to a collection of recovery stories filmed at Alternatives 2013 and produced by the Cafe TA Center.


'Psychiatric survivor' says sharing her story put her on path of recovery

Leah Harris, NEC's communications and development director, national peer-support advocate and self-described "psychiatric survivor," said she made a deliberate choice to "live a life worth living" by changing the narrative of her life. Click here for the complete article.

Community treatment orders 'don't reduce psychiatric readmissions'

This study of community treatment orders (CTOs) in patients with psychosis is reported as being the largest of its kind. Its findings support those of two previous trials, which also found no benefit from CTOs in reducing readmissions. Click here to read a summary of the study.

Alternatives to Suicide: Lessons from the Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community

Webinar archive now available!

Alternatives to Suicide peer support groups exist because the opportunity to talk about feelings of hopelessness to empathic ears can decrease the inclination to act on suicidal feelings. This webinar, held on April 24, 2013, discussed the need for and development of peer-run support groups for people struggling with suicidal feelings and thoughts. Presenters: Janice Sorensen and Sean Donovan. Click here to access the presentation.

New study shows that people diagnosed with mental health issues more likely to be the victim of homicide than those with no diagnosis

Click here for a summary from the American Psychiatric Association. Click here to read the full study.

So You Want to Start a Peer-run Warmline? A Guide to Maintaining a Sustainable Warmline

This guide, co-authored by the National Empowerment Center and the Mental Health Consumers' Self-Help Clearinghouse, draws on the advice and experience of existing warmlines and provides tips on fundraising, marketing/outreach, training, supervision, data collection, evaluation, and much, much more! Click to view/download (PDF, 12.2MB, 29 pages)

New Study: Compulsory Treatment Unjustified, Does not Reduce Hospital Readmission

This study, published in The Lancet (March 2013), concludes: "In well coordinated mental health services the imposition of compulsory supervision does not reduce the rate of readmission of psychotic patients. We found no support in terms of any reduction in overall hospital admission to justify the significant curtailment of patients' personal liberty." Click here to read the full article (PDF, 274KB, 7 pages)

Obama administration to launch mental health dialogue

The Obama administration is planning a national campaign to encourage the discussion of mental health issues in light of recent mass shootings.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Education Secretary Arne Duncan will lead the effort, which will begin within weeks, Sebelius said Tuesday.

"There is no question that the recent tragedy in Newtown broke the hearts of the nation," Sebelius told a medical conference in Washington, D.C. "But it also gives us an opportunity to address some important issues that have gone unaddressed for too long."

The administration called for the dialogue in its January recommendations on preventing gun violence. Four of President Obama's 23 executive actions on the issue addressed mental health.

Click here to read more

Training and Technical Assistance Opportunities

The Bringing Recovery Supports to Scale Technical Assistance Center Strategy (BRSS TACS) Team can assist you in your work through free training opportunities, telephone consultations, email resources, peer learning, webcasts, distance learning, and knowledge products. The BRSS TACS Team is a consortium, funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), dedicated to promoting wide-scale adoption of recovery-oriented supports, services, and systems for people in recovery from substance use and/or mental health conditions. Click here to access the TA Request Form (Word Doc, 2 pages).

"Free Your Mind Projects" Radio Show featuring Daniel B. Fisher on Gun Violence, Mental Health, and Emotional CPR

Dr. Fisher discusses his personal story of recovery and Emotional CPR. Click here to listen to the show (streaming audio, 56 minutes). Click here for complete description of the show. (PDF, 88KB, 2 pages)

Daniel B. Fisher and Linda Rosenberg testify before the Biden Task Force on Gun Violence

Daniel B. Fisher and Linda Rosenberg testify before the Biden Task Force on Gun ViolenceOn January 9, 2013, Daniel B. Fisher and Linda Rosenberg testified before the Biden Task Force on Gun Violence. They agreed on the need for the federal government to sponsor a series of community dialogues on recovery. A related topic was the importance of balancing civil rights of persons labeled with mental health issues, the push for national registry of persons labeled, and the problematic nature of forced treatment. Click here to read Daniel B. Fisher's testimony. (PDF, 190KB, 2 pages)

Daniel B. Fisher Publishes Letter in the Boston Globe: Outpatient Commitment would Harm Patients in Need

NEC Executive Director Daniel B. Fisher writes that making outpatient commitment possible in Massachusetts would be the wrong move. Click here to read the letter.

National Empowerment Center (NEC) Calls for Peer-delivered Community Services Instead of More Forced Treatment

"The best means to help people recover from mental health issues is by funding more voluntary, community-based services delivered by people who have ourselves recovered: people who relate mutually or peers. Peers uniquely connect with persons in distress in a non-stigmatizing, egalitarian manner because we have been through similar experiences. Peers operate respite centers, which are alternatives to more traumatic hospitalization, and work as wellness coaches in health centers to help integrate mental health and medical care. Peers also teach the public how to help each other through emotional distress by a peer-developed program called emotionalCPR (eCPR). Also peers are learning community-based, voluntary Open Dialogue treatment from Finland." Click to view Press Release

Mind, Body, Faith, SoulWellness Works Initiative 2012 Now Live!

As part of National Wellness Week (September 17-23, 2012), Peerlink, the National Empowerment Center, and the other Consumer and Consumer Supporter Technical Assistance Centers—the National Mental Health Consumers' Self-Help Clearinghouse, NAMI Star Center, and the Family Cafe TA Center – are showcasing your creative works expressing what wellness means to you. Click here to view this year's exhibit and learn more about National Wellness Week.

New Peer-Run Respite Open in Massachusetts

Afiya is the first peer-run respite in Massachusetts and one of only 13 in the country. Afiya strives to provide a safe space in which each person can find the balance and support needed to turn what is so often referred to as a ‘crisis’ into a learning and growth opportunity. For more information, click here.

Personal Empowerment Recovery Coalition of Arkansas Makes Front Page News!

The Personal Empowerment Recovery Coalition of Arkansas (PERC) was featured on the front page of the Northwest Arkansas Times after a showing at a recent University of Arkansas School of Social Work conference dedicated to empowering people with lived experience and transforming the mental health system.  We at the NEC have been providing technical assistance to PERC, which is Arkansas's only statewide peer-run organization. First Lady of Arkansas Ginger Beebe made an appearance at the conference (pictured below with NEC TAC Director Oryx Cohen). NEC's Oryx Cohen was the keynote speaker, and Latosha Taylor, Vice-Chair of PERC also spoke [ click here for her talk ].  Taylor and Linda Donovan, PERC Chair, represented PERC on the closing panel.


Click here to view article (PDF, 1.31MB, 2 pages).

Exciting new paper by one of the developers of Open Dialogue

Dr. Jaakko Seikkula points out that the Open Dialogue is not just a technique of therapy, it is a way of life... Becoming Dialogical: Psychotherapy or a way of life? Published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, Volume 32 Number 3 2011 pp. 179-193 (PDF, 116KB, 15 pages)

Daniel Fisher writes for Robert Whitaker's blog, about the parallels between the Principles of Open Dialogue and Recovery and proposes a new synthesis of the two: "Dialogical Recovery" to take the place of the monological medical model... [Click to view full article]

So, What's Wrong with Hearing Voices?

Daniel Hazen and Oryx Cohen Featured on Major Provider Website

Recently Daniel Hazen and Oryx Cohen co-presented on the worldwide Hearing Voices Network at an event in New York City. The Editor-in Chief of Behavioral Healthcare, Dennis Grantham, was in the audience and wrote a fantastic article about what he learned.  It is now the lead story of their publication, and you can check it out at: www.behavioral.net/article/so-whats-wrong-hearing-voices

Inner voices, inner strengths

Peer-support approach challenges long-held views of mental illness

Brad Morrow had his first encounter with the mental health system when he was in his late 30s.

In the space of 15 minutes, a psychiatrist he’d never met before told him he had bipolar disorder, gave him some prescriptions and told him to come back in a month.

The diagnosis, so quickly pronounced, became “like a death sentence,” more shattering than the psychic pain for which he was seeking help, Morrow recalled. He’d previously considered himself a “really creative person,” but the diagnosis changed that. Now he had a label -- and a stigma.

“I felt like my life was a complete fraud, and everything I did and all my accomplishments were based on an illness,” Morrow said. [Click to read article at Hill Country Observer]

Peers ‘who have been there’ guide recovery

Article discussing the role of the peer support movement, in Portland OR, and beyond. Click here to read the article.

Mental Health Messages Actually Increase Stigma

The message that “mental illness is just a disease” isn’t reducing stigma. It’s actually making the stigma worse... Instead of emphasizing how different people with mental disorders are, especially when the scientific field has many open questions, messages should acknowledge that everyone struggles with ups and downs. [Click here to read the full article]

Intervoice Letter to Parents of Children who Hear Voices

Open letter to Oprah Winfrey in response to her program about “The 7-Year-Old Schizophrenic”

Dear Oprah

We are writing this letter in response to your program about “The 7-Year-Old Schizophrenic”. This concerned Jani, a child who hears voices, and was broadcast on the 6th October 2009.

We do so in the hope we can provide a more hopeful and positive alternative to the generally pessimistic picture offered by the members of the mental health community featured in the program, and in the accompanying article on your website. [Read more...]

Judge in NYC rules that 4300 mental health consumers are unduly segregated in adult psychiatric homes

New York State discriminated against thousands of mentally ill people in New York City by leaving them in privately run adult homes, which effectively replaced state-run psychiatric hospitals more than a generation ago but turned out to be little more than institutions themselves, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday. [Click to read full article]

New Review of 20 studies shows that being labeled with mental illness does not increase the risk of violence

Click to view - Schizophrenia and Violence: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis [PDF, 15 Pages, 944KB]

Psychiatric peer review touted: Care termed a low-cost, effective alternative

People with psychiatric illness get better care from other people with a psychiatric history than from traditional doctors and psychologists in a traditional medical setting, according to Daniel B. Fisher. [Click to read full article]

Consumer-Directed Medicaid Services more Effective than Professionally-Directed Services

The above SAMHSA funded study by Ce Shen, Ph.D. and others published in the November 2008 Psychiatric Services found that self-directed care works well for persons with mental illnesses. [Read more...]

New research study finds unlocked, mental health consumer-managed, crisis residential program produce better results than locked, inpatient psychiatric facilities

For adults with severe psychiatric problems, consumer-managed residential programs may be the way to go, a new study suggests.

Title of Study: A Randomized Trial of a Mental Health Consumer-Managed Alternative to Civil Commitment for Acute Psychiatric Crisis. [Click for more]

Dan Fisher's Presentations on Recovery

How Consumers STEP UP to Design a Truly Recovery-based Mental Health System 

Click to view Dan Fisher's article published in National Council Magazine

Reducing Seclusion and Restraint:

Reducing Seclusion and Restraint in Texas

Six Core Strategies to Reduce Seclusion and Restraint Use

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NEW NEC Initiative: Community Recovery Dialogues

Bringing together peers, providers, family members, and others to create community and shift the culture of mental health systems. [ more… ]

Recent Postings to the
Mad in America Blog:

  • Behind Locked Doors: How I Got My Hospital Records, and What I Did With Them

  • I Am A Witness… Fifty Years Later

  • It's Time to Wake Up and Stop the Violence

  • We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For

  • A New Understanding of "Psychosis"

  • Community Dialogues for Recovery and Wellness

  • Complete listing of blog postings

Recent Evidence and Strategies for Recovery

Videos and other Resources from Creating Connections through Dialogue Conference

Robert Whitaker's Summary of Findings from his book, Anatomy of an Epidemic (PDF)

Recovery from Severe Mental Illnesses: Research Evidence and Implications for Practice (Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation) Volume 1, Volume 2

In the Driver's Seat: Guide to Self-Direction in Mental Health

The Florida Self-Directed Care Program - A Practical Path to Self-Determination (PDF 181KB - 10 pages)

The Contribution of Self-Direction to Improving the Quality of Mental Health Services

Inclusive Livable Communities for People with Psychiatric Disabilities - NCD Report

Outcome of community-based rehabilitation program for people with mental illness who are considered difficult to treat. (pdf)

Recovery Oriented Systems Indicators Measure (ROSI) and other recovery measures (pdf 321KB - 17 pages)

Consumer-Directed Transformation to a Recovery-Based Mental Health System (pdf)

Self-Direction: Consumer Choice in Action (pdf)

Emerging evidence base for Consumer Operated Services (COSP)

Evidence That People Recover in Published Research and Other Articles

NEC is working with four consumer groups in a Recovery Consortium

Voices of Transformation: Developing Recovery-Based Statewide Consumer/Survivor Organizations (pdf 2MB - 104 pages)

NEC's proposed characteristics of a person who has recovered from mental illness

Additional articles that you may find useful:

People can recover from mental illness

Reclaiming your power during medication
appointments with your psychiatrist

Escuchando voces que deprimen: Recursos y estrategia para ayudarse así mismo

See all our Articles