I want very much to share with you something that has saved me from a great amount of turmoil, and may have even saved my life. That is Wellness Recovery Action Plan or WRAP for short. To properly understand WRAP, one needs to take a course in it that often takes weeks to fully present. While I can’t do that here, I can tell you some basic things about it and perhaps provide my Gentle Readers with some links to help find a class.
WRAP was developed by a woman named Dr. Mary Ellen Copeland. She put an enormous amount of work into it and deserves full credit. She put all the work into it because she herself desperately needed something like it and it didn’t exist yet. Dr. Copeland suffers from severe and persistent mental illness, just like I do. In her day, people pretty much assumed that if you have this sort of disease your life is just over and you will never be well. Oddly enough, however, her mother had a similar disease and was well. She had been in the insane asylums and gotten out and lived a good life. Dr. Copeland wanted that for herself very badly so she interviewed her mother and others like her and found out what they did to get better.
I don’t know whether Copeland was a PhD before that or after that, but either way, she decided to use her education and training to thoroughly test and prove what she could about WRAP. She’s listed all her studies on her website. In my opinion, she can’t really prove the major claims of WRAP because they are by their very nature not provable. Dr, Copeland claims that by using WRAP people can have fewer crises and that the crises themselves are less severe. You can never prove that scientifically, but I am a peer support specialist. My specialty is experience and I will tell you for a fact with my experience that everything said about what WRAP can do is absolutely true.
All this hype, but what is the actual plan? The short version is that in a WRAP class, people meet regularly and discuss every stage of their wellness and illness. They discuss life when it’s going great, life when it is hard to avoid committing suicide, and everything in between. They discuss what contributes to all of this. They plan steps for every stage. What actions to take when life is great to keep it that way. What actions to take when it’s getting quite hard to make it not turn into a crisis. And of course, they discuss what to do in an actual crisis to stay alive and minimize damage.
I’ll give you some examples from my plan. I need to walk regularly, I always need to do that. I don’t always actually do that, but that’s always on the plan. I strive for it. I do this because walking makes me feel good and always improves my condition. I pet dogs when I can, because that always helps. In a crisis, I have three people who can order me to a psych hospital. They did that a year ago. I wasn’t happy about it, but things improved dramatically very quickly. I’ve been lazy about my WRAP recently and it shows. I’ve not been as well. I’ve been irritable and depressed. I’m reminded by writing this that I need to go over my WRAP as I am sure it will help me to get well again.
This plan is amazing. It may sound very simple, and even I have called it “packaged common sense”, but honestly, we need that in our lives. My favorite financial advisor type person is Dave Ramsey who basically says don’t spend money you don’t have. Pretty obvious, but he’s saved thousands of people an enormous amount of trouble. Dr. Copeland is like that. She’s put a great deal of effort into proving that taking basic care of yourself actually works and that having plans is a good thing. This world is complicated enough that we need forces for good reminding us of the simple obvious truths that make life better.
Dr. Copeland wrote a book that pretty well covers WRAP. It doesn’t replace going to a class but I recommend it to anyone. It’s 10 bucks, so not a major investment. The purchase page is here.
While you’re at it, just check out her whole site at mentalhealthrecovery.com
For those in Kent County, Michigan, there are two places I can think of off the top of my head that offer instruction in WRAP. I call it a class, but it’s not formal. It’s laid back and friendly. I happen to know the people who work in both of these places and cannot speak high enough praise of them to do them justice.
Recovery Academy The phone number is (616) 233-0884. Email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Place The phone number is (616) 389-2734
If you’re interested in WRAP but don’t live around here, let me know in the comments. I’m pretty sure I have the resources to find a place near you. That was part of my job as a peer support anyway.