The Story of Recovery to Practice Transformation: WRAP Facilitation

Heather Smith

by Heather Smith, Advanced Level WRAP Facilitator

When I started this journey with WRAP 3 years ago, I was considered a “clinician” rather than a peer.  I suppose it was a relatively new concept to include people in WRAP seminars that weren’t widely considered to be in the “peer” category.  After a day of listening to Gina Calhoun, Copeland Center Director for Wellness and Recovery Education,  tell me that I needed to shed my own personal labels and just listen to what WRAP was telling me, I gladly walked away from the idea that I had to be either a clinician or a peer.  I stopped accepting that I had to be limited to one category or label.  The group I was with started slowly coming to that same realization too and in what seemed like an instant, we started seeing each other as humans with experiences and feelings and needs and hurts and a desire to be well.  That’s what bonded us (some of us still to this day, 3 years later!).  We stopped excluding each other based on notions of who belonged and who didn’t. 

It was more eye opening than most any experience I’ve ever had.  I took pride in my position as “helper” but failed miserably to ever address my own needs.  I realized that so many of my co-workers did this very same thing.  We often talked about putting ourselves in the shoes of our clients but we never realized we were actually already there.  I immediately understood on a personal level the necessity of understanding and attending to my own wellness needs before I could ever be effective in working with others on their wellness.  It didn’t matter whether or not I had a “diagnosis” or had ever been hospitalized or anything else.  My new friends accepted me because I was able to talk about wellness from a personal view rather “it’s about everyone else” or “it’s about what I can do for you”.  
I spent the next three years working my own WRAP plan and preaching the value of caring for self to my workmates and anyone who would listen!  I developed a passion for talking about WRAP and what the key concepts had done in my life to change my entire outlook on what I was doing every single day.  I was so brokenhearted when I found out the state system I work for wasn’t prepared to continue our update trainings for Advanced Level WRAP Facilitators and we would be basically giving up the one thing I felt like was making a real difference in people’s lives (not just mine!).  After much nagging and praying, I heard we were once again on the WRAP train and I was headed to Washington, D.C. for the WRAP Around the World Conference!  Relief.  And fear.  How do we keep it going this time and not lose it again?
My self-mentoring started with all the connections and re-connections I made in D.C.  I’ve kept the ideas and the people close to the front of my mind and I immediately started planning what the next steps would be for us as an organization.  There are 4 of us working for the state and we worked out some rather immediate plans to address updating existing facilitators on the new information and re-introducing WRAP concepts to our hospitals.   We’ve made some long term plans as well although as with any organization, those plans are contingent upon the administrative support needed to make them a reality.  
All four of us have agreed to act as supports to each other and help each other in any capacity we are able – even if that means travel to another hospital to act as a co-facilitator or even just as a support.  We’ve agreed to communicate regularly to help ourselves stay fresh and energized about WRAP and to share ideas about what’s working and what’s not.  Even though I’m in a new position and it’s possible I won’t have as much ability to travel or be available for trainings as I used to be, I want to be available in whatever ways I can be to my fellow ALF’s.  
On a more personal note, I’ve started taking some steps to improve my physical health (and by extension, my overall health!) and I started writing blog posts from time to time when I feel moved to do so.  I started sharing them just with my friends and recently I wrote one about some of my challenges with anxiety and stress and how the concepts of WRAP really helped me through.  I’ve had more “hits” on that post and more people sharing that post and it really just reminds me how important it is to share our stories and especially walk the talk of WRAP.  It is so important to spread this message of hope because had it not been for others doing that, I can’t even imagine where I’d be right now in my life.  

I am a person of faith and I strongly believe God brought WRAP to me at the exact moment when it would make the most impact and He used people he knew I would relate to and connect with to do it.  This recent “success” with telling my story and having people share how it has helped them personally just re-energized me and re-focused me on my wellness journey.  I will continue to share my story and the key concepts of WRAP because I know it works, I know it works for me, and I know it can help other people find their own hope.  It has given me my life back but it has also given me the responsibility to share this information with others.  It is much like my faith – I feel like it’s a gift that I can’t keep for myself!  I want to share it because I so strongly believe it is life-altering in a wonderful and amazing way.  
I look forward to continuing my WRAP journey, my life journey, and my work with the state system to bring WRAP and the concepts of WRAP to all those individuals receiving services.  Just as important, I want to see the system and the culture of the state change to embrace the key concepts and the language (and intention) of WRAP.  After seeing the changes other systems have made, I know it’s possible and it’s just a matter of time and effort and passion!

In addition to being an Advanced Level WRAP Facilitator, Heather Smith is the Case Expediter for the Department of Behavioral Health. Outside of work, Heather spends time running tough races like the Udder Mud.