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ROLE TRANSFORMATION. Key Elements to Successfully Shifting from Being a Client to Becoming a Staff Member Presenter: Cynthia Smith, CAC/CPSS, Aiken Barnwell Mental Health Center. Objectives. The learning objectives for CPSS’s are:

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role transformation


Key Elements to Successfully Shifting from Being a Client to Becoming a Staff Member

Presenter: Cynthia Smith, CAC/CPSS, Aiken Barnwell Mental Health Center


The learning objectives for CPSS’s are:

  • To understand the benefits seeking services from outside the mental health center
  • To develop a framework for setting personal and work boundaries
  • Developing an “Work” vocabulary
  • Key Components for Maintaining Your Recovery
history of clients as employees at scdmh
History of Clients as Employees at SCDMH

Hiring “clients” or self-identified employees

began as an empowerment initiative to bring

current or former users of mental health

services to the management tables of

mental health systems as planners, policy-

makers, program evaluators, community

educators, and service providers.

two types of self identified client employees
Two Types of Self-identified Client Employees
  • Client Affairs Coordinators are internal agents of change who voice the client perspective during key meetings and policy sessions.
  • Certified Peer Support Specialists are persons who have successfully demonstrated their own efforts at self-directed recovery and who provide recovery skill building services to clients.
cpss employment challenge
CPSS Employment Challenge

One of the toughest

moves for some peer

support specialists to

make is the shift from

the client to the provider




why is it a challenge
WHY Is It A Challenge?

Because staff may still look

at you as a “client” and clients

may see you as “staff”.

They both may do this without

understanding that you did or

still do receive mental health


employment service policy
Employment – Service Policy

Although there is not a SCDMH departmental policy that states you cannot work where you receive services, many centers have adopted policies that does not allow this to happen.

  • It is NOT a good idea to work where you receive

services for several reasons.

reasons for seeking services elsewhere
Reasons for Seeking Services Elsewhere
  • Allows you to identify

yourself as a staff member

at the agency you work

and be treated accordingly.

reasons for seeking services elsewhere1
Reasons for Seeking Services Elsewhere

2. Allows you to keep personal and

professional life separate.

If you receive services where you work,

your personal information is available and

may be known to staff.

Receiving services outside the agency

allows you to keep your personal business


reasons for seeking services elsewhere2
Reasons for Seeking Services Elsewhere
  • Ethics and policies become

difficult to enforce and are blurred.

As a client you are entitle to all services

and guidelines as any other client;

however, as a staff member you have to

abide by the policies and procedures of

all DMH staff.

  • This can become a gray area.
reasons for seeking services elsewhere3
Reasons for Seeking Services Elsewhere
  • Returning to “client role” in the event

employment does not work out.

In the event employment does not work out the transition

back to the client role can extremely difficult and


  • You now know private information about

your peers and staff.

boundaries some key points
Boundaries: Some Key Points
  • Your recovery expertise and experience

got you where you are today.

  • Using them to demonstrate a broad

point or recovery concept is an appropriate

use of your experience.

five ways you can minimize problems
Five Ways You Can Minimize Problems
  • Don’t bring up personal questions about your

illness, symptoms or medications.

  • Develop a crisis plan or recovery plan.
  • Develop a strong support system.
  • Continue to use the recovery tools you learned

in treatment.

  • Continue with your treatment if needed.
boundaries your job
Boundaries & Your Job

Remember you are a

role model for the clients,

helping them to discover

recovery tools they can use

to move forward in their

personal recovery.

boundaries for all employees
Boundaries for All Employees

Employees should

not discuss their

personal problems

with clients.

boundaries clients
Boundaries & Clients

Sharing your recovery experience does not

include giving out information about your:

  • Medications
  • Personal Telephone/Cell Phone Numbers
  • Home Address
  • Personal Family Issues or Problems
more on medications
More on Medications…

Never make jokes about your medications

Statements such as “ I should

have doubled up on my meds

today” or “ Excuse me today I

forgot my medication”… may be

taken seriously by staff and/or

clients and can “blow-up” on



your medications
Your Medications…

NEVER use your medication

or symptoms as an excuse at


NEVER allow anyone else the

opportunity to use them

against either!


boundaries all employees clients
Boundaries: All Employees & Clients

You never have the

right to give out the

personal, private

information of other

employees including

other CPSS’s.



Personal Information

danger of breaking boundaries
Danger of Breaking Boundaries

Seeing you as a

“buddy”, can damage

the therapeutic

relationship because

you may no longer be

seen as part of

the treatment team.

boundaries supervision
Boundaries & Supervision

And Now A Word From The Supervisors

boundaries supervision1
Boundaries & Supervision

Understand That Your Supervisor

Is NOT Your “Therapist.”

  • Supervisors have policies to follow. They are

encouraged to refer employees to Employee Assistance

Program for mental health issues.

boundaries supervision2
Boundaries & Supervision
  • Supervisors cannot

provide therapy in the

supervisor role.

They are available to provide

direction and assistance with your

job duties, provide feedback

regarding your job performance,

lead team meetings and handle

clinical issues.

boundaries supervision3
Boundaries & Supervision
  • Due to nature of the job, supervisors may not have

time to address your personal issues. Many are caring

people who want to see you get help and ensure you get

the time you need devoted to your problems.

boundaries supervision crisis response
Boundaries, Supervision & Crisis Response

At any time employees may need to

respond to crises that may involve

threats, police, verbal outbursts,

and other situations which may

make you feel threatened or


Before responding you should

know & understand your limits.

boundaries supervision crisis response1
Boundaries, Supervision & Crisis Response

If you feel threatened or uncomfortable, let

someone else handle the situation and

leave. Staying can endanger your safety and

the safety of others and there is a potential

that the client’s agitation can be escalated.

boundaries supervision4
Boundaries & Supervision

All staff may to “debrief”

after an incident. This is

when staff can talk

about the incident, how

it made them feel and air


This is not to therapy.

developing an work vocabulary
Developing an “Work” Vocabulary

I’m Sooo


I Feel Depressed

I’m Manic

It’s Overwhelming!

That’s One of my Triggers

developing an work vocabulary1
Developing an “Work” Vocabulary

I’m Sorta Overwhelmed Today

If you have been a client

of you have probably

developed a “client

vocabulary”. We get

comfortable using these

terms like triggers, off

track, manic, and over-


developing an work vocabulary2
Developing an “Work” Vocabulary

These are “symptom”

words and should be

used only with your

personal therapist.

developing an work vocabulary3
Developing an “Work” Vocabulary

When you use a client “ vocabulary”,

staff and other clients may respond to

you as such and question your


If you want to step from the client role and

be treated as any other staff member you

have to change your vocabulary.

developing an work vocabulary4
Developing an “Work” Vocabulary

When responding to codes or

stress you need to be able to

verbalize what you are feeling in a

more appropriate manner.

Instead of “Triggered” you may

say..” That code was a "tuff one”

to describe how it effected you.

Codes can have an effect on all


developing an work vocabulary5
Developing an “Work” Vocabulary

Learn and use appropriate the diagnoses and

symptom vocabulary to:

  • Aide you when diagnosis and symptoms are discussed at team meetings.
  • To help you more accurately describe to the treatment team problems or issues that the clients you work with may be experiencing.

The “ I am all better syndrome”…

your recovery
Your Recovery

The “ I am all better syndrome” has cost more

CPSS staff their jobs than most all other reasons.

When moving into a staff position it can be easy to start

wanting to prove you are like everyone else. In the effort to

“ FIT IN” some Peer Support Specialists have stopped

seeking treatment, stopped taking Medication.


key components for maintaining your recovery
Key Components for Maintaining Your Recovery

The only way to be able to provide clients with the tools they need to move forward in recovery is to be able to effectively stay in recovery.


Not discussing your

treatment & not using

your symptoms as an

excuse will earn you

acceptance and

respect by staff and


your recovery1
Your Recovery

Staff know that you have to

be, or have been in the

past, a client to get this


Stopping Treatment Will

Not Earn You the

Respect of Staff or Clients.

points to remember
Points to Remember
  • Seek treatment outside of your center it keeps your

treatment issues separate from your work responsibilities.

  • Allow yourself to stay well
  • Do not assume that because you are a self -identified

staff that other staff do not also seek treatment. We are not

the only staff within DMH that may get mental health

services nor are we the only staff to openly uses our

treatment and recovery skills to help others.


Mental Illness

One of the greatest

thing about being a

CPSS is that probably

for the first time you did

not have to hide your

diagnosis to obtain


recovery keys
Recovery Keys

Don’t start being ashamed about

being a client now.

To keep the client part of you

healthy you will never need your

coping skills more than you do



Staff and clients will treat you the by the way you act today.


What I always wanted

to ask but was afraid


finally remember
Finally Remember…

All self-identified employees serve as

recovery role models for each client,

staff, family and community

member they come into contact with.

The willingness to publicly disclose

their mental illness and triumphs

associated with recovery go a long

way in dispelling the stigma of mental

illness and prove that treatment


Self-Identified Employees Are HEROS!!!


THANK YOU!!!ROLE TRANSFORMATION: Key Elements to Successfully Shifting from Being a Client to Becoming a Staff Member Cynthia Smith, CAC/CPSS, Aiken Barnwell Mental Health Center