Good Things Happen When Clients Take the Initiative

Colorado Recovery approaches mental healthcare based on a path to self-reliance through developing practical skills. Our approach to care is about nurturing an environment of inclusivity, socialization, and community building. Clients are encouraged to take part in activities out in the community to achieve a certain degree of social independence.

Recreational activities include snowshoeing through Colorado’s spectacular winter landscape, movie nights, talent shows, trips to the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, and even go-kart excursions.

Peter Kamback is Colorado Recovery’s vocational rehabilitation specialist and Community organizer. We base a lot of our community activities off of the “Club House” model. He organizes, participates, and supervises many of these therapeutic activities. He is particularly proud of clients who take the initiative themselves.

Colorado Recovery client James (not his real name) recently suggested making candles with the group. “He did a great job coming up with this idea on his own,” praised Kamback. “It shows initiative to interact with others in a structured and productive way. He did prepare all the materials himself before he came over to lead the group.”

Introducing new interests and subjects is a great way for clients to make connections with one another and boost self-confidence. “It was great to see and hear his excitement when he described the process of candle-making to his fellow clients,” Kamback says. “This is something he enjoyed doing on his own and it was wonderful that he wanted to share it with others. As a result of his enthusiasm for this subject, others were stimulated to consider and share things they were interested in as well.”

This was a different experience from being part of a group led by someone else, requiring more focus and attention. “He did need some guidance when it came to coordinating all of our efforts. But this was also a learning experience for him,” says Kamback. “In his mind, James had it all figured out for himself, but he hadn’t quite worked out all the details of dividing tasks and keeping everyone engaged. So, it was a great opportunity for him to work on his leadership qualities. He paid attention to the other clients if they had questions along the way. He knew when he was needed and when he could let others proceed on their own. He also took the lead when it was unclear what to do next in the process.”

James is a pleasant, conversational person which helped a lot with this activity. However, he did not fully anticipate the limitations of the materials and tools he had at the time. “This is something that often happens when introducing a new idea or exercise to clients,” explains Kamback. “At one point there was nothing left for anyone to do but wait for the wax to cool. I’m not sure James considered this part of the process or knew how to end the activity but everyone went along with it fine.”

The candle-making experience yielded some good things for James to think about should he decide to lead another group activity in the future. He certainly acquired some new tools to better equip himself and others for ventures to come. “Overall, he did a great job,” says Kamback.

Creative socializing activities like candle-making as part of a group are all part of the groundbreaking approach to mental health treatment pioneered by the late Colorado Recovery founder Richard Warner. Recovery from serious mental illness requires that patients retain a sense of empowerment—a belief in their ability to take charge of their lives and manage the complex challenges of their illness.

At Colorado Recovery it is our mission to help adults with serious mental health issues stabilize their illness, minimize symptoms, improve functioning, and enhance each person’s social inclusion, quality of life, and sense of meaning in life.

If you have questions about our recovery model or our services to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and similar mental illnesses, call us at 720-218-4068 to discuss treatment options for you or the person you would like to help.

Go-Karts and Social Recovery

Recovery is a term frequently used by people with mental health issues to describe their efforts to live meaningful and satisfying lives. Colorado Recovery approaches mental healthcare based on a path of self-reliance through developed practiced skills. This non-institutionalized social recovery offers comprehensive levels of care supported by an expert medical and clinical team, engaging patients in increasing community participation.

Colorado Recovery’s approach to care is about nurturing an environment of inclusivity, socialization, and community building. Clients are encouraged to go out and take part in activities out in the community. We want our patients to achieve a certain degree of social independence.

Social recreational activities include hikes through Colorado’s spectacular landscape, movie nights, talent shows, cooking together and trips to the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art

Peter Kamback MFA, is a vocational rehabilitation specialist and community organizer for Colorado Recovery. He recently took overjoyed clients on an excursion to drive go-karts.

“This was a free event for clients, new or old, who have been with Colorado Recovery at some point,” he says. “Our community is always expanding and older clients have the chance to meet new folks and vice versa.”

These outings are designed to be fun and engaging while also providing opportunities for relationship-building, conflict resolution, and teamwork. “They allow our clients to forget about themselves and their mental health issues for a while,” says Kamback. “Some of the best ways to achieve that involve games and a sense of play.  When our folks are taken out of their element they often feel more relaxed, which allows them to be more social.  It is a wonderful sight to see smiles on faces and hear laughter and excitement in their voices.”  

Go-karts are not a cure, of course—it is a temporary, time-limited activity. But it is a great way for clients to feel comfortable and get to know each other. “The friendly spirit of competition can be the key to connection and to remind them that they are capable of having fun and enjoying what life has to offer,” says Kamback. “This is also a great opportunity to overcome personal barriers and express individual qualities.”  

There are many other activities we pursue at Colorado Recovery that facilitate social recovery and connection to people in the community. We also always encourage clients to suggest activities and outings they are interested in and excited about.   

A go-kart adventure, trips to the art museum, hikes, movie nights, community meals and other socializing activities are all part of the groundbreaking approach to mental health treatment pioneered by Colorado Recovery founder Richard Warner. Recovery from serious mental illness requires that patients retain a sense of empowerment—a belief in their ability to take charge of their lives and manage the complex challenges of their illness.

At Colorado Recovery it is our mission to help adults with serious mental health issues stabilize their illness, minimize symptoms, improve functioning, and enhance each person’s social inclusion, quality of life, and sense of meaning in life.

If you have questions about our recovery model or our services to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and similar mental illnesses, call us at 720-218-4068 to discuss treatment options for you or the person you would like to help.

Treehouse Planning Session at IOP Level

Colorado Recovery is now expanding services outside our signature continuum of care. We are admitting directly into our intensive outpatient program (IOP) clients who may be ready to begin their recovery at the IOP level of care, or for those in the process of stepping down from another program. Community integration and social engagement continue to be at the heart of the approach, setting the course for a life of engagement, purpose, and connection.

This non-institutional approach created by Colorado Recovery founder Richard Warner is key to outcomes associated with independence and self-respect. One of the offerings now available at the IOP level is our Treehouse Planning Session.

This group gives clients the opportunity to participate in their recovery plan and voice what they seek from the psychosocial program. We review any needs that they have toward connecting and contributing to the community or improving the space. It’s also a time for people to meaningfully get to know each other and develop friendships outside of a strictly therapeutic setting.

Dr. Warner considered schizophrenia and similar conditions bio-psycho-social disorders significantly affected by the environment surrounding the client on multiple levels. The Warner method harnesses the benefits of client empowerment to increase skills and work preparedness and assist them with social integration. 

The Treehouse planning group is an important element of that. On the one hand, it’s “a safe space to take a break and just hang out,” says Treehouse community organizer Elise Alvarez. “At the same time, it’s a great opportunity to build more comfortable relationships.” The Treehouse group highlights the value of social integration, “many people have found roommates and best friends here,” says Alvarez. “Treehouse gives a population that doesn’t have too much opportunity to socialize the chance to do just that.”

People are able to reach a deeper level of knowing one another while engaging in fun activities. “Hiking is always the most popular group,” reveals Alvarez. “Especially people who are not from Boulder appreciate the nature side Colorado Recovery has to offer.”

In Treehouse planning, people work out their budget, another aspect of empowerment. “It’s an important skill to come to a decision yourself and not just defer to the judgment of the coordinator. Often, I keep pushing it back to them, telling them ‘this is your space,’ so they get to make the call.”

It’s important to give clients some measure of control, to let them work out the budget and create the space the way they want it to be. “We typically start with me making announcements, and then open the floor to things they want to talk about,” explains Alvarez. “We’ve had discussions about terminology: should it be mental illness or biopsychosocial disease? Other times, we plan out dinners or days at the beach.”

For more information about direct admission to our intensive outpatient program or our other services, connect with a specialist who can answer your questions at (720) 218-4068.


The Impact of the Environment in Schizophrenia

Colorado Recovery founder Richard Warner considered schizophrenia a bio-psycho-social disorder significantly affected by the environment surrounding the person with the mental health condition on multiple levels.

In his book The Environment of Schizophrenia, Dr. Warner drew upon the “knowledge of the environmental factors that affect schizophrenia in order to suggest changes which could decrease the rate of occurrence of the illness, improve its course, and enhance the quality of life of sufferers and their relatives.”

Warner divided those environmental factors into three levels: individual, domestic, and community. 

The Individual Level

Among the individual factors, Dr. Warner listed the strong correlation between substance misuse and schizophrenia. “It seems to be true that people with schizophrenia use more drugs than others in the population,” he wrote in The Environment of Schizophrenia. Frequently, that behavior has a detrimental effect. Research has shown time and again that “people with serious mental illness who abuse substances have a worse course of illness.” However, Warner was adamant that substance misuse cannot cause schizophrenia although that is often how it seems to family members and other people. 

On the other hand, a mental health condition can be a driver of addiction. “Many in this population feel a need to find relief from chronic affective symptoms and medication side effects,” Warner wrote. Since the reasons for the substance misuse are complex, treatment approaches need to be individualized. 

Stress is another important factor on the individual level. Stress can trigger episodes of schizophrenia. “People with schizophrenia are more likely to report a stressful life event preceding an episode of illness than during a period of remission,” explained Warner. One of the hallmarks of schizophrenia is “a deficit in the regulation of brain activity so that the brain over-responds to environmental stimuli, reducing the person’s ability to regulate his or her response to new stresses.” 

The Domestic Level

Stress also plays a significant role on the domestic level. People with schizophrenia who live with relatives (by birth or marriage), who are “critical or over-involved” have a much higher relapse rate than those living with relatives who are less critical or intrusive. Outcomes can be improved if families are involved in a more supportive way. 

Studies have shown that “family psychoeducational interventions can lead to a change in the level of criticism and over-involvement among relatives of people with schizophrenia and so reduce the relapse rate.” With appropriate support, domestic stress can be mitigated for all parties involved. 

Dr. Warner included “alienating environments” at the domestic level. “Many people with mental illness face lives of aimlessness and boredom,” wrote Warner. While the traditional state hospital incarceration frequently led to an “instituional neurosis,” featuring restless pacing, unpredictable violence, and posturing, more recent treatment approaches may lead to an “existential neurosis,” which similarly stands in the way of recovery.

Open-door, domestic alternatives to hospitalization, on the other hand, offer a number of benefits, Warner wrote in The Environment of Schizophrenia. “They provide care which is much cheaper than hospital treatment, less coercive and less alienating, and they produce a different result.

The Community Level

On the community level, people with schizophrenia have to contend with numerous misconceptions and false assumptions about their disorder. “People with mental illness are subject to prejudice, discrimination, and stigma,” Warner wrote. 

Unfortunately, after being exposed to discrimination and stigma for a long time, people with schizophrenia start to accept negative labels about themselves and conform to the stereotype of a mentally ill person as being incapable and worthless. Frequently, they become socially withdrawn and dependent. 

The many harmful misconceptions about schizophrenia include the belief that

  • Nobody recovers from schizophrenia
  • Schizophrenia is untreatable
  • People with schizophrenia are usually violent and dangerous
  • Schizophrenia is contagious
  • Schizophrenia is the result of a certain weakness of willpower
  • People with schizophrenia cannot make rational decisions about their lives
  • People with schizophrenia are unable to work

Not only are most people with schizophrenia able to work, many of them should.  “Work helps people recover from schizophrenia,” Warner found. “Productive activity is basic to a person’s sense of identity and worth. Given training and support, most people with schizophrenia can work.”

At Colorado Recovery, the psychosocial clubhouse offers a rehabilitation model with a vocational focus that harnesses the benefits of client empowerment to increase members’ skills and work preparedness and assist them in obtaining employment.

Colorado Recovery—created by Dr. Warner—approaches care for mental health based on a path of self-reliance through developed practiced skills. This non-institutionalized philosophy offers comprehensive levels of care supported by an expert medical and clinical team, engaging patients in increasing community participation.

Our treatment facility provides the services needed to address schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other serious mental illnesses which are specific to each individual. Call us at 720-218-4068 to discuss treatment options for you or the person you would like to help.


The Role of Work and Community in the Treatment of Schizophrenia

Empowering People with Mental Illness at Colorado Recovery

Upcoming Training with Expert in Communicating with Someone Experiencing a Mental Health Challenge

Do you ever struggle to connect and communicate with a loved one who is experiencing a mental health challenge? Dr. Xavier Amador is an internationally renowned clinical psychologist, expert, and author specializing in communication tools to help support people with mental health disorders like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Dr. Amador developed his evidence-based techniques to help him develop a better relationship with his brother, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He founded the  LEAP® (Listen-Empathize-Agree-Partner) method. Many family members and caregivers have found his techniques very helpful. 


Colorado Recovery encourages families and caregivers to read his book, I Am Not Sick and I Don’t Need Help, or attend an upcoming training listed below. 

Dr. Xavier Amador will be presenting an online training sessionlive with Q&A! 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021, @12:00pm-3:00 pm Eastern Time (the US and Canada)

This session is for Family Caregivers and Professionals who want to help someone with serious mental Illness and anosognosia—the neurological symptom that leaves a person unable to understand s/he is ill, resulting in conflict, isolation, and treatment refusal.

Participants will be introduced to LEAP® (Listen-Empathize-Agree-Partner), an evidence-based approach that teaches you how to create relationships that lead to treatment and recovery. Learning objectives include:

  • Identify Anosognosia vs. “Denial”
  • Lower Anger, Resistance & Defensiveness
  • Re-establish Trust & Broken Relationships


$130 Early Bird (ends Dec 11), $150 Regular

LEAP Foundation is a small nonprofit and 100% of proceeds from this session are used to fulfill the organization’s mission.

More info:

“Shssss……(she said so quietly)……I am on medication!”

She was 17 years old and came by the booth that I was hosting on mental health challenges.   Even before she whispered this to me, she had looked around to make sure no one else was listening.  I leaned in and she told me that she has been living with depression and finally she talked with her mom and found a therapist and therefore the medication.  Her depression had clinging to her spirit weighing her down for a long time.  But now she is engaged with others, a member of a church youth group, and has even had the courage to tell one of her closest friends of her struggles with depression.

I felt privileged that she would talk with me, a stranger, although I was at a church conference and I was at a display on mental health.  She seemed relieved to be able to speak, to name her situation, and to find a listening heart.

There are so many people, including young people, who are living in the shadow of mental health challenges.  They are in our families.  They are in our faith communities.  How can we offer the hospitality of spirit so that the sharing of such stories as the teenagers can be balm for healing and offer hope?

One of the easiest ways is by using caring and compassionate words in a clergy person’s sermons, homilies, or prayers.  While many congregations are not known for such welcoming of naming mental health challenges, they can be.  Using the words, “we pray for those who are living with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or major depression,” or “we pray for those who are battling addictions or mental illness,” or “we pray for those who are affected by mental illness, including their families and friends,” can be an open door for people who are living in the isolation of silence and to come out and speak or at least realize they are not alone.

When have you experienced such a welcome?  When has hospitality opened a door for you or someone you love to find a place where their spirit can be at home?  I don’t really know if the 17 year old girl felt better talking with me.  However, I surely did feel connected.  I have found myself telling this story so others may also be attentive to those times when chance encounters can lead to break the silence.  Out of the whisper a truth was spoken that led from vulnerability to strength.

Alan Johnson

 Interfaith Network on Mental Illness


Sibling Support – What’s Out There?

As a child growing up I never thought about the concept of needing “support”. I didn’t think about the fact that I didn’t know anyone who was experiencing a lot of the things that I was experiencing in my home. Maybe I did have friends who were also sibs to special needs kids, but if I did, I didn’t know it, because I was not aware that there was a need and so I didn’t talk about it. I was a kid trying to be a kid, plain and simple. I had no idea of the concepts of peer support, the need for validation, or a safe forum to ask questions that I had about my brother’s disability or what it meant for my family, for me, or our future.

It was when I got older, working in the fields of both mental health and developmental disabilities, that I felt a kinship with the siblings, admittedly more so than with the parents of the special needs’ kiddos, or even the person with the special need him or herself. It started to happen naturally, and frequently, that I felt good when I could tell it helped them when I said something that clicked – I would often get a look which I translated as “Oh wow, you understand?, “You get this??”, or “This is comforting”. And then they’d be on their way, or I would … out the door, and then I worried they’d be back in a void; a place where they could not speak openly or feel as heard. At that point I realized my life had been a bit different than my peers and that it sure would have been nice if someone had understood, and that things should change.

I then reached a point in my career where I felt fairly secure or grounded in how I would approach sibs and was lucky enough to make talking to them about these things a small piece of my work. But I also became obsessed with finding out what else was out there. What kinds of groups? Doesn’t anyone else realize this is a need? And I researched. What I found was both thrilling, and disappointing. There is very little available, which saddens me. It is still a field untouched and undiscovered, really. However, I also found The Sibling Support Project, and Don Meyer; someone who not only knew the need very well, but the man who took the extra leap and created the curriculum for Sibshops. Eventually, I took his workshop and now am a facilitator of these Sibshops in Colorado Springs, Colorado. There are many around the world. Below are a couple of links, with explanations of this issue, the need to address it, what Sibshops are, and how to find them. I highly encourage you to surf around, wherever you are. There may be a Sibshop near you, and if not, you may want to make it known to a local organization that you wish there was, and that you would want to partake in that service if it was available. Maybe you want to take the workshop and then facilitate them yourself! It is highly rewarding, FUN, challenging, and affirming.
There are so many places to go within this site. If you are a sibling of a special needs’ person, you could be here endlessly. Pay it a visit.

Some options:

You may click on “Sibshops”, then “Find One Near You”, and enter your country and state and see what pops up.

Or click on “Connect With Other Sibs” and find the various stories to read and maybe connect with, and there are also some very active online forums for sibs to join.

There are books under “Publications” (which can be life-changing; one in particular was, for me), or click on “Workshops” to see if a facilitator training is coming to your area.
A shameless plug at my own website, should you happen to be in the Pikes Peak region…. Even if you’re not, I invite you to click on “External Links” for some good Youtube videos and recommended publications which might serve you.

I have seen some change in the past year or two. I give most of that credit to Don and The Sibling Support Project, for raising awareness, and to the work of Sibshops’ facilitators in so many communities. It is a healthy start. There is so much need, and so much more room to grow. Please get involved. Chances are if you are reading this blog, you are involved at some level. I hope the importance of sibling support is ringing true with you and that you will seek it in your community and consider getting involved.

Lisa Croce, RN, BSN


Confidentiality Barrier

I hear many families complain that, when their relative is admitted to a psychiatric hospital ward, they can’t get basic information about him or her when they call the hospital. They are told that the information is confidential and protected by statute. What a frustrating situation for the family and what an obstacle to good patient care this must be! Common sense and common courtesy, at least, should tell the hospital staff that each patient, upon admission, should be asked if he or she would be willing to sign a release of information form allowing staff to communicate with specific family members. New patients are asked to sign plenty of forms. This could easily be one of them. This is rarely done, however, in US hospitals and clinics. Why is this so? Is it laziness, because talking to families takes time? Or is it a reflection of the often unrecognized stigma that even mental health professionals harbor inside?

We have to recognize an important element in this situation. In the US, hospital administrators and their lawyers are running scared since the introduction, in 1996, of the federal HIPAA Privacy Rule that prevents service providers (with heavy fines) from releasing confidential health-related information. At the same time, the Privacy Rule is balanced so that it permits the disclosure of health information needed for patient care and other important purposes. A simple release of information form signed by the patient, or the existence of an emergency situation that over-rides confidentiality, can satisfy the needs of the family, the service providers, hospital administrators and lawyers alike.

Whatever the underlying motivation, if you run into this situation, you need to know that, even without a signed permission to release information or the existence of an emergency situation, communication is still possible. You can always give information to the staff that they should have if they are to be able to understand their patient and to treat him or her properly. You can tell them, for example, about your relative’s behavior prior to the hospital admission that they may not know about because he or she is too guarded to mention it. You can tell them about your fears, your concerns, or what a wonderful person your relative is when not afflicted by illness.

Here is what the well-known American psychiatrist Robert Liberman has to say about this issue in his 2008 book, “Recovery from Disability”:

“Too many practitioners pay obeisance to a misguided conception of privacy and confidentiality. There is no violation of confidentiality when a clinician solicits information from family members. Can anyone picture an internist or surgeon failing to invite a close family member to provide confirming and converging information regarding the patient as a key element in diagnosis and choice of treatment? Relatives are lucky if they get in to see the professional responsible for the patient’s treatment, much less hear of the patient’s diagnosis and prognosis. Plainly speaking, relatives are ignored by mental health professionals.”

What can you do if you find yourself in this situation?

Number one: Be assertive. It is your right to know what is happening with your loved one. Take a stand!

Two: Ask the staff to ask your relative to sign a release of information allowing them to talk to you. Failing that, ask your relative to ask the staff to give him the same form to sign. If your relative declines to do this on Day One, ask again on Day Six or Seven.

Three: Remember, there is no law that prevents you from giving information to anyone on the hospital staff if you think it would be useful.

Four: Expect to be included in post-hospital discharge planning unless your relative specifically objects to your inclusion.

Let’s bring some sanity back to the mental health treatment system.
Dick Warner