NEC Staff & Consultants

NEC staff and consultants bring unique experience in organizing and developing consumer-run organizations, and helping individuals and groups develop the knowledge and ability to transform the mental health service system toward a more recovery-oriented and consumer-and family-driven approach. Each has experience running organizations, nurturing the process of recovery in individuals and groups, and strong skills as educators. This team is available to individuals, organizations, service systems, and family members looking for a speaker or for technical assistance, training, and consultation.

Oryx Cohen, M.P.A.
Chief Operating Officer

Oryx is working with NEC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to continue systems change state by state. The most important part of what informs his work is his lived experience with altered states of consciousness: being diagnosed, hospitalized, and subsequently finding a path to healing.

Work experience he brings to NEC includes co-directing the Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community (WM RLC) for the past four years. At the WM RLC he helped develop a system funded peer-run alternative to the mainstream system that has experienced amazing success ( He also co-founded the Freedom Center in 2001, the Pioneer Valley’s only independent peer-run support/activist organization. Freedom Center’s purpose is to empower and support people with psychiatric labels while challenging oppressive mental health policies and practices ( He has served on several boards and committees internationally, nationally and regionally, including the International Network Toward Alternatives for Recovery (INTAR) and the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA). He volunteered for several years with MindFreedom International, directing its Oral History Project. This project involved collecting and documenting c/s/x stories of abuse, empowerment, and healing in the mental health system. He is currently adjunct faculty in the Westfield State College Psychology Department.

Booking Information
Articles and Videos
Healing Voices – DVD
My Recovery Story

Maria Ostheimer
Coordinator of Emotional CPR
Cultural and Linguistic Competency Coordinator

Maria works for the National Empowerment Center (NEC) as the Emotional CPR (eCPR) coordinator and trainer (English and Spanish) and Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) Coordinator. Maria translated the eCPR program into Spanish, which has been embraced by Promotores (Community Outreach Workers) and in Puerto Rico. Her passion for her work comes from her own personal background as both a survivor of trauma and a family member. Maria is committed to support, strengthen, and promote projects like eCPR that promote community-based education of mental wellness. “I believe in dialogue to build a common path of humanity. eCPR gives us a voice individually and collectively and opens a sense of wonder and humility.”

Daniel B. Fisher, M.D., Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer

Recovery From Mental Illness and Becoming a Commissioner – Dan is a person who has recovered from schizophrenia. He was hospitalized several times prior to becoming a psychiatrist. He is one of the few psychiatrists in the country who publicly discusses his recovery from mental illness. He is a role model for others who are struggling to recover, and his life dispels the myth that people do not recover from mental illness. His recovery and work in the field were recognized by his selection as a member of the White House Commission on Mental Health.

Education and Practice – Dan received his AB from Princeton University, his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin and his M.D. from George Washington University. He is a board-certified psychiatrist who completed his residency at Harvard Medical School. He is presently Executive Director of the National Empowerment Center.

Speaker/Teacher/Researcher – Dan travels to all parts of the country to conduct workshops, give keynote addresses, teach classes, and organize conferences for consumers/survivors, families, and mental health providers to promote recovery of people labeled with mental illness by incorporating the principles of empowerment. He has been featured on many radio and television programs, including CNN Special Report. In addition he is a researcher having carried out research into neurotransmitters at the National Institute of Mental Health and on the ways that people recover. Along with Laurie Ahern, he developed the Empowerment Model of Recovery and the PACE/Recovery program to shift the system to a recovery orientation. He was recognized for this work by being selected for both the Clifford Beers National Mental Health Association Award and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law’s Advocacy Award.

Author – Dan has written chapters in many books, as well as a number of articles in professional journals such as Hospital and Community Psychiatry and the Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal. He has produced a video and booklet about important aspects of recovery, “Recovery is for Everyone” as well as a video on “Consumers Working as Providers.”

Booking Information
Articles and Videos

Emily Sheera Cutler

Emily Sheera Cutler is a Master’s student in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Growing up Jewish and queer in a conservative part of Birmingham, Alabama, she was bullied and struggled with mental health challenges throughout her childhood and teenage years. As a result of her own experience, she is passionate about supporting people who are struggling with the effects of marginalization, bullying, and other kinds of trauma. Emily’s goal is to create spaces in which people can express their thoughts, feelings, and lived experiences without fear of judgment. She is an advocate for trauma-informed, person-centered approaches to mental health care.

Deborah Trueheart

Deborah Trueheart comes to NEC as a consultant, educator, counselor, artist, writer, motivational speaker, and change agent. She has transformed her own experience of suffering and is passionate about helping to birth a new paradigm in mental health care by moving away from pathology toward wholeness-based perspectives.

Deborah devoted the past 16 years to the study of psychology, holism, metaphysics, process therapy, spirituality, and the healing process. She held positions in business management, volunteer management, training and development, community organizing, and mental health advocacy. She served as direct care staff in several DMH and DMR funded residential facilities, volunteered on a telephone counseling service, and had a private counseling practice. She was the team leader for a federal grant project to create a statewide network of people who use mental health services in Massachusetts, and established the first Massachusetts Leadership Academy to build advocacy and leadership skills. She received cultural competence training at the National Coalition Building Institute in Bethesda, Maryland and is of Native American heritage.

Deborah is an experienced trainer, workshop facilitator and speaker. She has been developing and facilitating workshops since 1989 and has presented at Massachusetts Human Rights Conferences, annual statewide consumer conferences in Maryland, Virginia, and New York, and nationally at NARPA and Alternatives Conferences. She has also conducted one-day workshops and led retreats in Florida, Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, Maine, and Pennsylvania. As Director of Training and Development, she coordinated a state-work-force training grant awarded to Relief Resources, an organization that provides relief staff to direct care facilities.

Deborah is developing a curriculum: Living Into Wholeness. This combines her experiential wisdom and studies to create principles and practices that help change habitual thought and behavior patterns, bringing one to a greater state of wholeness and wellbeing.

Deborah has written extensively on mental health issues and recovery. She has published essays, poetry, photography, as well as book and theater reviews. All of Deborah’s activities are informed by her own experience of personal transformation from psycho-spiritual suffering and trauma history. Deborah is also a family member.

Education: Leslie College, Cambridge MA: Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Science 1995 Middlesex Community College, Lowell, MA: Associates Degree in Mental Health 1993. Graduated with highest honors; Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society

Deborah is available for trainings, workshops and keynote presentations and consulting on the following topics:

  • Wellness Principles & Practices
  • More than Brain Chemistry: Holistic Approaches to Alleviate Suffering
  • Inside/Outside: Personal and Systemic Transformation
  • We’re in this Together: How do I Help my Family Member?
  • Beyond Pathology: Training for Professionals

Here is more information for two of Deborah Trueheart’s trainings:

Living Into Wholeness (PDF, 237KB, 1 page)
Being a Catalyst for Social Evolution by Following Your Compass of Joy (PDF, 217KB, 1 page)