Part 2: The Values and Ethics of WRAP


Part 2: The Values and Ethics of WRAP

As more and more people started using WRAP, particular Values and Ethics evolved around its use.¬† People agreed that it was essential that there were values and ethics that people could expect would be followed in the administration of WRAP.¬†¬† And they felt that these values were vital to people’s success with WRAP.¬†¬† I checked them out over and over with people. ¬†Finally we came up with a list that people agreed on.¬† I wish they were used as a guide for all mental health service provision including peer support.

They are:

1.   All WRAP groups and related activities give people hope that they can feel better, get well, stay well for long periods of time and do the things they want to do and have dreamed of doing with their lives.

2. Self-determination, personal responsibility, empowerment, and self-advocacy are essential to the achievement of positive outcomes with WRAP.

3. In WRAP groups, people treat each other with unconditional high regard, there is no hierarchy of any kind, everyone is equal, and each person is treated with dignity, compassion, mutual respect, and unconditional high regard; as a unique, special individual, including absolute acceptance of diversity with relation to culture, ethnicity, language, religion, race, gender, age, disability, sexual identity, and ‚Äúreadiness‚ÄĚ.¬† A person is “ready” to develop a WRAP when they want to develop a WRAP.

4. WRAP is based on the premise that there are ‚Äúno limits‚ÄĚ to recovery, and that is reflected in all WRAP-related activities.

5. Every part of WRAP is totally voluntary.  The person who is developing the WRAP, decides if they want to do it, when they want to do it, how long they will take, what it will include, and who assists and supports them as they do it

6. It is clearly understood that the person who is developing this WRAP, is the only expert on him or her self.

7. The focus is on individual strengths and away from perceived deficits, no matter how these deficits are determined and who determined them.

8. The use of clinical, medical, and diagnostic language is avoided.  It is not helpful and is often harmful.

9.  It is understood that peer support enhances wrap activities.

10. The focus is on strategies that are simple, safe and free or cheap.

11.  Let me spend a few more minutes on the last of these Values and Ethics, that WRAP is trauma-informed. Back in 1988 I was beginning to do my studies of how people get well and stay well.   Over time I found out that, contrary to popular belief at that time, there are lots of people like my mother who have gotten well and stayed well for long periods of time.  She was definitely not the only one.  And I began, at that time, to change the focus of my studies from looking at how people cope from day to day to how people recovery and reclaim their lives.

When I first began talking about recovery, I was chastised.¬† I was told that people who have mental health challenges have “broken brains”, that they can never get better, and that they will need to let others take over control of their lives, and they will need to take their medications for the rest of their lives.¬† I was told that if my mother got well, she was never really sick.¬† This didn’t feel right to me.¬† Over time I became more and more convinced that these mental health challenges are the result of the bad things, the trauma that has happened to people.¬† I saw it in my own life.¬† I saw it in my mother’s life.¬†¬† And I heard it from many, many other people as I asked them about it.¬† Years went by.¬† More and more people are accepting that mental health challenges are the result of trauma.¬† Researchers are still working on the studies that would prove the theory of the¬† “broken brain” but is has never panned out.¬† I’m not sure if it really matters.¬† If we can help people reclaim their lives, that is what we should be doing.

What does that mean about how we do things?

Trauma informed means that, when a person reaches out for help, comes to a WRAP group, comes to your agency or organization and asks for assistance and support, instead of blaming and punishing them, we ask, “What happened?” and “What do you need?” And then we listen, listen, listen–which takes us back to my mother, Kate, in that mental hospital.¬† She figured it out.¬† And she needed to get back her power.¬† And she needed to be validated.¬† And that is what we need to give every person, everywhere that reaches out for help and support.¬† Empowerment, validation and connection.





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  1. “What happened?” is the question I expected the psychiatrists to ask when taking “the patient’s full history”. They seemed to know it all: “severe mental illness” they said. Not giving in easily, I tried to explain. They looked at me as if I were a bit naive. They weren’t really interested in what I was trying to tell them. Then they “begged to differ” and said with condescention and pitty: “why don’t you leave it to the specialists?” They put him on meds and nearly killed him with those meds.

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  2. Dr. Copeland,

    I think your posts have been fantastic, very encouraging, hopeful and practical. The WRAP system is wonderful for everyone regardless of whether one is a psychiatric survivor or supposedly “normal” since everyone has their ups and downs or emotional distress while some become traumatized due to abuse and other life stressors. I find the principles here especially useful for all of us during those trying times when we are tempted to regress into atrophy rather than continuing to do what keeps us healthy.

    Your powerful story about your mother also has many messages and inspirations as to what contributes to emotional and physical health.

    Thanks so much for sharing this great path to achieve and maintain optimum health and/or recovery.

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  3. You and your wise counsel have managed to come up with a set of guidelines that enhance rather than limit individual freedom, personal authority and creativity. This would indeed be very empowering and healing if it were practiced by all mental health care providers or any health care providers and organizations.

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