Tuesday, December 31, 2013


"Prayer that is based on relationship and not transaction may be the most freedom-enhancing way of connecting to a God whose vantage point we can never achieve and can hardly imagine. ...... "We need not bang a drum or bring animal sacrifices to get God's full attention; we already have it."
(Quotes from Philip Yancey's book on prayer)

Meditative or contemplative prayer may be one of the most divisive issues in Christian thought today.  Some say it is a great way to draw closer to God while others claim it is a tool of the devil and is drawn from the occult. There isn't any need to discuss the issue with folks who hold a strong opinion on the subject. No matter which side they take they know they are right.

There is a certain group of people who are almost universally discouraged from engaging in anything close to meditative prayer.  I am speaking of those of us who have been given a psychiatric label.  We are discouraged from getting too deep into anything spiritual because it might cause us to become delusional or less compliant with our medical treatment.

Yes, I know that people talk about us having a spiritual side, but few programs trying to help the people considered seriously mentally ill have a spiritual component to them.  In fact, I personally don't know of any although I am sure there are some.

I would like to see the funding sources such as Medicaid and the states take seriously the fact that we have a spiritual dimension.  The truth is that many of the phenomena labeled in DSM-5 may be a spiritual crisis and not a mental health issue at all.

Let me ask you this simple question.  If you were the victim of childhood sexual abuse, do you think it would be of more help to see a therapist or to go to a place where other abuse victims were seeking the solace for their souls in God's creation and by drawing closer to the Creator?

This coming year I hope folks will give some thought to how they can help those of us labeled with a mental illness draw closer to the embrace of the One who only wants to show us grace.   

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

NEW YEAR WISH! by Judd Howard Story

This season can mean many things to many people. To me it is a time of joy and sorrow.  The joy is that I get to spend time with my family.  The sorrow is that I miss the people who have passed on that I no longer get to spend the holidays with.

I have the memories of how exciting Christmas was as a child.  Waking up and being excited about what Santa had brought me.  Playing with my new toys all day and eating the wonderful holiday food.

I think about how lucky I am because I have my family and there are people who don’t have any family to celebrate with this time of year.  Some people with a mental health label who have families are alone because their families do not want to be around them or they don’t want to be around their families.  The issues surrounding mental health can divide families even at this important time of year.

I would hope that people would become more open towards each other including those with a mental health label. That is my NEW YEAR WISH!

Guest Blogger
© Judd Howard Story, December 25, 2013, Stoney Creek, Tennessee

Judd Howard Story

Monday, December 23, 2013


If you go to Thesaurus.com and look up the verb synonyms for dream, you will find the following words:  conceive, crave, invent, think, visualize and the phrase conjure up scenario.  If you look it up as a noun you will find goal, desire, hope, vision, image, and yes a couple of very familiar terms delusion and nightmare.  My point is that most of the nouns and verbs that are considered synonyms with dream are positive.  When I came up with the name Project Dream Again, I meant it to be full of hope and vision.

Over the years as an organization and as an individual the involvement with the mental health system has almost killed my ability to dream of a better future.  At the breakfast table the other morning I told my wife that it may just be the aging process, but that I was ready to surrender to the powers that be.  You fight for years and each step forward you make they knock you back two just a couple years later.  She has said to me for years that the county, state or federal government can out wait you.  I think they have.

When a US Representative can propose a law to cut every consumer initiative in the country and get praised for it by anyone with an IQ over 1, then we are in deep trouble.

When the C/S/X movement is so divided it is hard to tell where it is then we have lost the battle before we begin.  We can't even get consumers (or whatever the latest name is) to unite on the simple principle that a person can't be locked up unless they have committed a crime and no forced treatment for any reason including on the pretense of preventing suicide.

Is there a reason for hope?  If you know of some strong reason there is a comment section or you can go to my website and email me.


I will use the strongest reasons in a future blog entry and certainly give credit to whomever pointed them out.    

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Ed 1967
Only by learning to dream again can one find solace for a shattered soul so deeply wounded that they feel like a mistake.

You may want to go back to the second blog entry and read it. It was published on 2/15/05 as "I Am A Mistake".

After reading the above blog entry, you may come to the conclusion that I am the last person in the world you should be reading.  I said I was a mistake. What I did not say is that I don't have to stay that way.  There are answers to healing the wounds of trauma.

I can't say that drugs do much good.  Legal or otherwise.  Counseling has limitations that make it so unlikely to be helpful I will not even say I consider it of real value.  Mental health professionals hold too much legal power over you to ever have a relationship with enough depth to it to really be helpful.  (These are my opinions and I am not saying they are scientific fact or the ultimate truth.)

What can help?  A good partner and a spiritual life that works for you.  Also, it is important to become a person who reaches out their hand to others.  My wife is my best "drug" and if I had not had a deep grounding in theology and philosophy I would be dead by now.  To that I owe my father even if I also owe him no thanks for his constant disapproval.

I am saying you can look inward at your soul and learn to know you are good because you are.  The fact you are a human being gives you rights among which is to tell your own story your way.

For a starting point I can say Ed is good because Ed is. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


One of my first posts on this blog.  It is still my purpose for writing the blog and my hope for it.  It is also my hope that each person who reads my words will find some truth in them that they can use to make their own sojourn here more comfortable and fulfilling. 

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Learning To Dream Again #1

This posting has a very simple message. Anyone can learn to dream again. Without dreams our souls begin to die and tomorrow seems like a dark hole to be avoided rather than a bright light to walk towards. I am not speaking of the dreams we have at night. I am speaking of the dreams we hold in our hearts.

The truth is most adults seem to lose the ability to dream. All of us have had things happen in our lives to dull our dreams. We die inside a little with each painful experience in life if we do not find a way to renew our spirit when life slaps us across the face.

The point of these writings is not to give you the way to learn to dream again, but rather to walk a journey together. My promise to you is to always try to be honest, but understand that my reality may not be yours. I hope we both learn from this sojourn.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013



I am not a couch
     to simply be recovered,
or an old tire
     to just be retreaded.

I have earned the right
     and endured the pain.
I deserve more than drugs
     and a pat on the head.

I want to feel alive.
     Awaken to my dreams.
I want a renewal.
     I want a new me.

A me I decided who was.
     A me who I can love and
who loves the me I created.
     A new me to dream again.

by Ed Cooper, December 17, 2013, Stoney Creek, Tennessee

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

ORDINARY DAYS by Patrica Cooper

Waking up and thinking
Oh no, another ordinary day
Then the extraordinary happens
Every pore begins to exude the specific
All air is purer and
All things become exquisite
Waking up and thinking
Oh no, another ordinary day
Then it happens and everything
Becomes agony
Every breath too heavy a labor
Every movement surely impossible to make
It goes on…Forever
Then dreaming
Oh, just to have an ordinary day

© Patrica Cooper
December 2012

Ungrateful Child by Patty Cooper

Ungrateful child was what she called my sister
Always unwanted
Knowing it, but unable to rectify

Ungrateful child a problem
Much reminded
Unwanted by the world she felt
Acted on it

Always too much
Never enough
Unable to be reassured
She believed the lies

Prove being bad
Became habit
Then life

Ungrateful child
Needed love
Needed nurture
Needed more

She wasn’t an ungrateful child
Perfect baby
Precious toddler
Precocious teen

Beautiful young woman

Drug addict

Mother not child was ungrateful

Caused it
Not seeing
Beautiful daughter
Never had a chance

Unfit mother
Needed to have a license
To procure such a treasure
Damn shame

©by Patty Cooper, October 18., 2013, Stoney Creek, Tennessee

Wednesday, December 04, 2013



Try to stay another moment
     because you may find
          during this season
               a reason to be.

I know the pain is tearing
     at your most tender self
          and hope seems a joke
               because of the death yoke.

You may not see the reason
     but there is a why
          to your being
               if the only why is me.

You do for me what no one
     before you has ever done
          so before you go on          
               Try to stay another moment for me!

You may find to your surprise
     That what you did for me in that moment
          Turns into mountains climbed
               For seasons to come. 

Try to stay another moment for me
     and a real reason to be will come for thee.
© by Ed Cooper, December 4, 2013, Stoney Creek, Tennessee

Tuesday, December 03, 2013


  • "In my early professionals years I was asking the question: How can I treat, or cure, or change this person? Now I would phrase the question in this way: How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for his own personal growth?

    I have gradually come to one negative conclusion about the good life. It seems to me that the good life is not any fixed state. It is not, in my estimation, a state of virtue, or contentment, or nirvana, or happiness. It is not a condition in which the individual is adjusted or fulfilled or actualized. To use psychological terms, it is not a state of drive-reduction, or tension-reduction, or homeostasis.

    The good life is a process, not a state of being.

    It is a direction not a destination." --From On Becoming a Person, 1961
Carl Rogers did not have all the answers, but he certainly had a great start to understanding what it takes to heal from the pain of a disrupted life.  I don't care if you use the term mental illness or emotional distress or spiritual crisis, but I do care deeply how people are interacted with when they ask for help.

The mental health system in North Carolina and many other states keep trying to redo the system by rearranging the players without ever changing anything but the words on the papers that describe the system.  It is still system- centered services being delivered by the same groups heavily overloaded with professionals.

If the real goal is to facilitate a person's integration into the community of their choosing and to the degree they decide, why does it take an agency loaded with professionals to get this done?  The real fact is few of them know how to help a person connect to the community.  What they know how to do best is keep a person dependent on their drugs, treatment teams and case management.

People who have had to transition from a hospital to the community and get work with long gaps in their work history and bad social skills may be able to help someone else make the transition.  However, don't make the mistake that just being a peer will make a person good at helping others.

I just wish the funding sources like Medicaid and the states would finally realize that their dollars are not always best spent buying the time of mental health professionals, but rather they should be buying the time of the real professionals.  People who have survived the hospital and the transition. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013


The church I grew up in grew out of what was called the Second Great Awakening.  The two most prominent men of what is now known as the Restoration movement were Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone.  They both wanted unity in the church, but as was recently pointed out by Michael Hines in The Restoration Herald they disagreed on how to accomplish the task.  Campbell thought unity could only be based on agreement on what the Bible said.  Stone was more interested in casting "abroad the sweep-net of the gospel, which gathers fishes of every kind."  Campbell remained to his death an advocate of restoring the primitive practices of the New Testament church.

Here we are faced with an example of one of the biggest questions a person must decide.  Does one compromise for the sake of unity or for that matter any reason?  In our country today everyone seems to be calling for the people in Washington, DC to compromise and get something done.  I know you have been told that compromise is good and a reality of life.

Recently, I was asked to attend a meeting at a provider's location to discuss with an ACT Team what the person being served was doing that was dividing their family from the team.  I said I would not attend a meeting that started out with the premise that the problem was the person.  Should I have compromised? 

This business about compromise is complicated.  I agree more with Stone than Campbell about the church issue.  I don't think we can turn the clock back two thousand years and have a church that is exactly like the church described in the New Testament.

However, I could not bring myself to compromise on the idea that the meeting should be about looking at the ACT Team, the support people including me and the person.  I could not agree it was even close to being person-centered to hold a meeting with an agenda of only discussing what was wrong with the person being served.

I have written before that I don't think that Assertive Community Treatment Teams by their very design have much chance of being person-centered, and this deal did nothing to change my mind.

  • "It is the client who knows what hurts, what directions to go, what problems are crucial, what experiences have been deeply buried." --From On Becoming a Person, 1961
How did Carl Rogers know this in 1961 and only the minority in the mental health arena know it in December 2013? 

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Today is my 65th birthday.  That is not so remarkable in today's world because many people live that long.  However, it is a surprise to me.  I have lived far longer than I ever expected to live.  I have wanted out of this world for as long as I can remember.

I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and a survivor of the mental health system.  I have spent over 50 years in the system and the abuse started about 60 years ago.  I made it to my 65th birthday for reasons that at times are not clear to me.

I consider suicide to be the most selfish act a person can do.  One of the reasons I am still here is that there are people on this earth who I don't want to leave or hurt by killing myself.  Those relationships are better at times than others and when all of them go south at once I am in real trouble.  They can all go south at once when I get manic or otherwise out of sync with society.  During those times it is hard to find a reason to stay around.

I try to always keep something to look forward to.  Something planned for the next morning and something else for not too far in the future.  I try to think about my plans and the people I love and who love me.  It seems to work well enough to stay alive.

It does not make a whole person or a real life.  I am still shattered into different people.  The mental health folks call it Dissociative Identity Disorder, but they can't help other than naming it and putting it in their big book called DSM-5.  The truth is I will never be whole again.  They have names for my other pain like Bipolar Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but like the other they have names for pain rather than a way to gain a real life.

I never finished college.  I lost my business to bankruptcy. My father saw me as a failure and told me so.  Today I am a winner.

Today I beat the odds.  I lived longer than most people do who have DID, Bipolar, PTS disorders diagnoses and have spent months locked away in mental hospitals and on the streets.  I have fought and I won.  The other thing you may not know about me is that through the years that I fought to live I also fought for other people and their rights to be treated as fully human in a mental health system that should have both health and system removed from its name. 

Today, on my 65th birthday, I celebrate my victory, but I also celebrate the victory of many of my fellow sojourners and morn the loss of those that did not make it.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

UNGRATEFUL CHILD a new poem by Patty Cooper

Ungrateful child was what she called my sister
Always unwanted
Knowing it, but unable to rectify

Ungrateful child a problem
Much reminded
Unwanted by the world she felt
Acted on it

Always too much
Never enough
Unable to be reassured
She believed the lies

Prove being bad
Became habit
Then life

Ungrateful child
Needed love
Needed nurture
Needed more

She wasn’t an ungrateful child
Perfect baby
Precious toddler
Precocious teen

Beautiful young woman

Drug addict

Mother not child was ungrateful

Caused it
Not seeing
Beautiful daughter
Never had a chance

Unfit mother
Needed to have a license
To procure such a treasure
Damn shame

©by Patty Cooper, October 18., 2013, Stoney Creek, Tennessee

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


There are no stairs only stares
     and the community they promised
         must be somewhere else
because I am here alone and unknown.

They should have left me alone
     in there I was not alone
          and they prepared my food
which I ate among silent souls.

Community is a concept seldom found.
     More often I find myself alone
          in a crowd I am told are my peers
but they don’t peer at me.

So here I stand with no stairs only stares.

© by ed cooper, November 13, 2013, Stoney Creek, Tennessee   

Sunday, October 27, 2013


                             THE HAWK DOESN'T RECOGNIZE ME

       They cut deep into my belly to reach the coal,
      That ran their engine of life.
      They heard my deep moans and other moans,
      The moans of dead miners and their families.

     Then they took big machines and chopped off my head.
     I screamed so loud I could be heard all around,
     But no one stopped them because they said it was progress.
     Fewer miners died and fewer miners worked.

     I moaned and I screamed,
     But now the hawks doesn't recognize me.
    I am not a mountain any longer or you a miner,
    Neither of us recognize ourselves or the other.

© 2013 by Ed Cooper, Stoney Creek, Tennessee

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


It may not come as a surprise to you to know that simply fixing the potholes on a road does not help you get to your intended destination if in fact you are on the wrong road.  By the same token, it does not help to keep trying to fix or reform a mental health system which is based on a false paradigm. The underlying framework containing the basic assumptions, the ways of thinking and the methodologies that are commonly accepted by most members of the mental health services community is more than just a little flawed.  It should be apparent to all that they are grossly off course and on the wrong road.
It seems strange to me that we think we can fix this mental health system without starting over with a new paradigm that more accurately portrays the human conditions that have been labeled in DSM-5. We cannot continue under the same assumptions and expect a different outcome than we are presently getting.  Going down the same road and expecting to end up at a different place is not logically no matter how many good hearted people are in the car.

We can’t fix this flawed system of services by simply putting “peer services” attached to it.  Whatever definition one gives to the word “peer” and whatever services they may deliver does nothing to address the core problem of a system of care based on a bio-medical model.  You can’t put enough “peers” into such a system to make it a natural recovery paragon.

Natural recovery is a process that takes place in the community with the person choosing the direction and the amount and type of help wanted.  There is no place for force or coercion in this model.  Natural recovery is not driven by a system, peers, professionals, or family.  Natural recovery is driven by the person at their pace and on their path within their chosen paradigm.

Natural recovery is not just a dream, but it does allow people to Dream Again.

Friday, October 18, 2013


No one will know
     if the scar don't tell
          and it can't
               because it don't show.

A soul scar
     is hidden below
          somewhere no fool goes.
               Only Scarred Know Where!

We know because
     the scar on our souls
          was left there by
               earth bound devil people.

These normal looking folk
     will never see God's good morn
          because they scar
               the barely born.

Oh, people who claim the Faith
     fight this evil with might
          for these soulless ones one night
               may seek pleasure with your young.

A scar don't tell
     Because it don't show,
          but if you know
               don't just whisper shout it out.

© by ed cooper, October 18, 2013, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
    Dedicated to My Wonderful Wife, Patty Cooper  

Monday, October 14, 2013


When I have a manic episode I don't know if I am dealing with a biological phenomenon. Since I am told my bipolar disorder is a brain disease, should I put it in the bio category.  However, even if I do is it not true to say that there are other influences that play a part in the manic episode?

When I am depressed it is bio, or is it mainly psychological?  This is sometimes referred to as situational depression. How can I tell the difference? Certainly not by how I feel. Does it matter?

A social situation that those of us with a mental illness and our families are very familiar with is stigma. Another one that most of my fellow sojourners deal with is poverty. You put stigma with poverty and you have created a social crisis for us to deal with.  What part does this play in what is labeled bi-polar disorder?

Spirituality may be more important than understanding the causes. To understand spirituality does not require one to believe in a soul or God or a life after this one. Let me clearly state I do believe that we have souls which live for eternity and that God created us and all we see around us. However, spirituality does not mean a church or a certain dogma. It means we all have an inner life and much of how well we do on our individual recovery journeys depends on how we learn to deal with our inner life.

For example during a manic episode my actions are more determined by what is deep inside me than from any psychological insights or social morals. My mind is racing and I am acting faster than facts can keep up with. You might say I have to hope my guts will keep the ship on course. From deep within is my only hope. I believe that deep within me is the Creator’s Spirit helping me keep this manic force on some sort of course. You may have a different belief about how you get the help you need when the world seems to over take you, but whatever the view most folks still say they feel it deep inside themselves. In their souls.

We will never get to the place that we can truly be useful to others on their recovery journey until we see them in their complex state as all humans are. We live in a complex yet fragile universe among people who are both complex and fragile. Brave and weak. How would one ever know how majestic an elephant was if they could only see the tail?

Friday, October 11, 2013


They say children are resilient,
      but don’t come too close
          or you will see I am a hollow tree.

From far away I look like all the other trees,
      but my insides are eaten away.
           The hole will never be hallow or whole.

The cavity was created by sexual abuse
      when I was too young to stop it
           and too scared and scarred to tell.

The damaged tree became a we
      with branches on our trunk
           looking like small trees.

We are infested with hornets,
      and parts of us are dead or dying.
           If you get too close you will see the scarring.

As a Resilient Children Tree,
      we did the most impossible of all,
          we took a scarred tree and learned to simply be.


© by ed cooper, October 11, 2013, Stoney Creek, Tennessee


Sunday, October 06, 2013


Matthew 5:39

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

39 But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

This is one of the most difficult sayings of Jesus.  Every Bible scholar seems to have a different interpretation of it.   I can’t say I know the correct one, but I do know how it changed some people’s way of life. 

One well known example I will point out is Mahatma Gandhi. He broke with organized Christianity over how he was treated by the church in South Africa, but still left his legal practice in Johannesburg to start the Indian Red Cross during the Boer War before going on to India to lead the Independence Movement there.  The above words of Jesus are credited as the seeds of his nonviolent theories.

Jesus probably did not have a political movement in mind when He spoke the words.  Jesus was really not talking about nonviolence here. He was talking about not letting an evil person pull you into their world of insults and filth.  He was not talking about someone punching you, but a slap to the face as an insult.  Jesus is saying don’t fight with evil people or you are becoming just like them.

If we could learn to follow these words, the result would be a more peaceful community in which to live.  A more peaceful country.  A more peaceful world.  An evil person can’t insult or fight if you refuse to participate.

Maybe the most important benefit a person will receive by following the directions given in this verse is an inner peace.  I was in a discussion with a person the other day about how many books have been written and classes and seminars on how to become happy.  My response was to ask, “Wonder what they mean by that word?”

For some of us who have spent most of our lives trying to figure out how to make it through the day and to come up with a reason to stay until the morn, happiness is an elusive goal we seldom think about.  I guess it is all where you are at on the spectrum from darkness to light.  However, it dawned on me when I read this verse that I might find some solace for my soul if I just stopped playing in the sandbox when someone wanted to throw things at me.  If I stopped throwing them back, sooner or later they would have nothing left in the sandbox to throw at me.

Oh yes, I am still in the sandbox.  The old saying that children are resilient is just a lie to make grownups feel better when kids are abused.  Kids may learn to cope, but look around you at the adults and tell me honestly if you believe children are resilient?  Look the word up.  Resilient means returning to the original form.  What a joke!  I am still in the sandbox, but I am going to stop throwing back what is thrown at me.  Solace for my soul is coming to the sandbox.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013


Can we build a movement of persons of lived experiences of mental and emotional distress?  I am not sure we can.  We can't even agree on what to call ourselves, but more important we can't agree on what is happening to us.  It is really not so strange that we can't agree on what is happening to us since we all are having different experiences. Everyone with the same label certainly does not experience it the same way.
The DSM-5 (Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders) have neat boxes for human experiences to fit into and then a label for those experiences and behaviors.  However, we know that the lived experience has little true relationship to those neat little boxes.
If you watched 60 Minutes on CBS last Sunday night (September 29, 2013), you might have come away thinking that a psychiatrist can look at a brain scan and make a diagnosis and that if they could only be allowed to treat the people they wanted to there would be no gun violence in this country.  Of course both are dead wrong, but it made for good fictional television even though 60 Minutes is suppose to be a news show.
So people who care deeply about the issue of gun violence, the people who care deeply about the civil and human rights of people label with a psychiatric disorder, and the folks like myself who care about both were done a gross injustice by CBS, E. Fuller Torrey and the entire piece broadcast that night.
The question is what can we do about it?  It will not be done in any grand movement in my humble opinion.  A heart and a mind at a time must be changed.  As long as we as a country do not believe in the human and civil rights of those of us with a psychiatric label nothing will change.  If we as persons with those labels cannot find some common ground to come together on then we will never gain any ground.
I suggest thinking about two points to see if we can get agreement.
1) The state (any government body) does not own our minds or our bodies and therefore unless we commit a crime we can't be locked up.  Suicide would not be a crime since they don't own our bodies.  No forced treatment since they don't own our bodies. 
2)  Crimes should not simply be blamed on some DSM-5 label when there is so much disagreement about their efficacy.  
Anyone having other suggestions or wanting to make comments please email me.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


In this postmodern world without mind,
We are told our brains are mere computers.
Matter without the ability to send or receive,
From any other reality or higher sphere.  

Mind was a concept for the uneducated,
And those who needed something higher,
But we of this post-postmodern age,
Only need our brains and nothing beyond.

What if the old woman who saw the face,
Of her Lord on the ceiling above her bed,
As she lay dying from a mass on her brain,
Was not delusional? 

What will the brains say then?
The postmodern bio-medical reductionists,
Who told us mind was mere brain.
What will the brains say then?

If the old woman who saw the face,
Was not delusional?

© September 19, 2013 by ed cooper

Monday, September 09, 2013


As I have grown older and my body has developed more problems, I have become less focused on my mental illness or even the brutal childhood sexual abuse I suffered. I have come more and more to realize that the disabling pain of one’s brain, or body or soul all cause tremendous suffering.

Project Dream Again’s focus should not have been so narrow as a single cause or issue, but rather an attempt to address any disabling pain. I am not saying we should have tried to be all things to all people, but we should have recognized all people are in pain.

People can have their pet causes and support them, but if we are to follow the example of our Lord we will first be about the business of supporting people. The person in need no matter what their need is.

You can’t Dream Again if you are hungry. You can’t Dream Again if you are physically sick. You can’t Dream Again if your brain is betraying you. You can’t Dream Again if your soul is so dark no light can penetrate it. You can’t Dream Again if you just lost your home. You can’t Dream Again if ____ you fill in the blank.

Project Dream Again is evolving. I hope for the better. I hope it is becoming more humane at the same time it is becoming more Christ like. Person-centered is a word used in the human services world, but it is a word lived out in the life of our Lord. My prayer is that Project Dream Again will go down the path towards becoming an organization Jesus would approve of. A person-centered organization dedicated to showing God’s grace to all of His creation.

You can visit Project Dream Again at www.projectdreamagain.com
First published on 9/2/09

Thursday, September 05, 2013


I did my first self advocacy as soon as I left my mother’s womb.  I squalled to let the world know I was here and had needs independent of my mother.  At 64 I am still at it, trying to advocate for my rights and independence as an individual.  At the same time, I fully recognize my interdependence with my wife, other humans, nature and dimensions I don’t even pretend to understand.

I did my first advocacy on behalf of myself and others while working in a shop that retreaded tires.  The working conditions were poor and the pay was worse.  It was my personal introduction to trying to get people to stick together for a common good.  I failed.  I guess I should have been more aware of the difficulties because I grew up in the home of a school principal and minister who then became a missionary to Zimbabwe, Africa.  Watching churches, church boards, school boards, parents at school meetings and mission boards should have prepared me, but I thought I could do what my father had been unable to do.

I started advocating in the mental health arena in 1988.  I was hoping to help myself and my fellow sojourners.  I soon learned that advocates eat their own.  I had never been in a more competitive environment.  Other consumers of mental health services, mental health professionals, family members and others who had vested interests would defend their turf with everything they had.  I remember being appointed to a board in south Florida, but before the chair would let me take my seat I had to go through an interview to make sure I was well enough to take my seat and would behave during the meetings. 

I find my hope dying day by day.  I am not losing hope about the possibility of recovery.  Although, I don’t think that recovery should be defined as being able to participate in community employment as some program models use as one of the criteria.  It is a wonderful thing to be economically independent and I wish it for everyone and not just folks with a label. 

I am losing hope that we will ever be heard by the decision makers. They pretend to listen.  Lip service is given to what is called person-centered services.  I receive some of those person-centered services.  I have family members who receive some of those person-centered services.  I talk to others who receive those person-centered services.   However, the truth is few of the services delivered by any mental health provider are person-centered.  The services are provided to meet the requirements of the entity the provider is going to bill and not necessarily the hopes, dreams or desires of the person served. 

North Carolina has an ACT Technical Assistance Center.  The website first statement is the following. “The  Center's new program will help North Carolina respond to its recent settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), by developing and implementing an overall plan for using multidisciplinary ACT teams throughout the state. Specifically, the DOJ settlement requires that Individuals with severe mental illness have access to ACT teams that are following a nationally recognized model.” 

Why were ACT teams the model picked?  Is the Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Team model even a person-centered model?  The following comes from Dictionary.com as the definition of assertive.
1. confidently aggressive or self-assured; positive: aggressive; dogmatic: He is too assertive as a salesman.

The Assertive Community Treatment Association has under Principles of ACT on its website the following statements.

“ACT team members are pro-active with clients, assisting them to participate in and continue treatment, live independently, and recover from disability.
The team encourages all clients to participate in community employment and provides many vocational rehabilitation services directly.”

I am not sure ACT Teams can follow the model and be person-centered.  I think they already start out with goals and expectations for people they serve without asking the people anything about their dreams, hopes or expectations of the services they are about to receive.  I am not alone in this assertion.  The team decides a person will participate in treatment, live independently, be employed and recover.  Why ask the person anything?  So they with aggressive confidence and dogmatic opinions about the person’s goals assert their will and call it treatment.  It is treatment of some sort, but is it person-centered treatment?

When people in south Florida would ask me what kind of program I thought worked best, I would answer without any hesitation with Patty.  They knew I was talking about my wife.  Everyone can’t have a Patty.  I know that, but we need to take natural supports more seriously.  I am not talking about peer support.  I am not talking about family support.  I am not talking about support from the mental health system.  I am talking about learning how to build a support system that is not built on a person’s disability, but rather on their abilities, interests, dreams and spirituality.  If you know of a good resource for natural supports talking about how to help people build them around those things please email me at edcooper@projectdreamagain.com.