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.
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 “readiness”. 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 “no limits” 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.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.