Name of Innovative Program:
Focus for Life
Name of Innovative Program Lead:
Janet Paleo and Anna H. Gray
E-mail Address of Innovative Program Lead:
Focus for Life is an innovative consumer designed and led program, effective for prevention of relapse and promotion of mental wellbeing. This program positively impacts personal recovery for those with mental illness by fostering increased levels of resiliency. Lead through a series of exercises, demonstrations and personal testimony; participants find openings to refocus their lives towards wellbeing. The program is highly interactive and people immediately begin using the tools to experience life in a new paradigm. Each section builds and reinforces the other sections. Through the use of personal mission statements and declaration, the person they thought they were upon entering the programs shifts to have them begin to see the person they were born to be. Focus for Life is a program that empowers people to find their pathway to recovery; providing access to a full and fulfilled life.
Creativity and Innovation:
The program developers pulled material from cutting edge business management and motivation research, brain plasticity research, salutogenesis (Aaron Antonovsky’s work on resiliency), personal recovery journeys and cognitive behavioral approaches to produce Focus for Life. This, coupled with adult learning techniques, provides an effective, interactive and dynamic program that is flexible and can quickly adapt to the specific issues presented by the participants. The program is also innovative in that it lasts only 3 days and produces long term results as people develop a sense of purpose and take action to fulfill on what they see available to them.
Focus for Life influences individuals to achieve their goals, especially people living with mental illness who participate in the program and fulfill on their dreams to be gainfully employed and make a difference for others. This in turn has had an impact on the Peer Specialist approach in Texas which is recovery driven. Additionally, as Focus for Life is also adapted for people working in the mental health field, especially in the public system, staff levels of resiliency increases and they see that recovery is possible for the people they serve. This is especially true after they have the opportunity to interact with Janet Paleo, who was told that she would never live outside of a mental health institution and she is in full recovery and now tasked with developing recovery based services through the Texas Council for Community Centers.
The program has been effective in working with people who are beginning their mental health recovery journey and with people who have been in recovery for quite some time and are working as Peer Specialists encouraging others toward recovery. Because of this the State of Texas, through the State mental health technical assistance center, Via Hope, has funded several Focus for Life programs throughout the State during the last 4 years. The program has also been considered by Alaska and a behavioral health organization as it prevents relapse and crisis, resulting in reduced cost of care for people in their services. The program has proven its own resiliency in a State that does not have a funding stream for innovative peer run services. Currently there is interest in having Focus for Life delivered in California and as interest grows, new leaders will be trained to meet the demand.
Many of our participants have gone on to teach their version of Focus for Life. Some have started groups to keep the conversation alive around the tools learned. Utilizing Focus for Life to alter the way life occurs, finding resources in creative ways and taking action to fulfill their discovered purpose, gives participants the lived experience of Focus for Life in action. While there are basic exercises and demonstrations, the facilitators take what participants in the program are struggling with and have them refocus. The criteria for teaching Focus for Life is living Focus for Life and participating in 3 programs and being mentored by the developers as a program leader; making this replicable where ever leaders arise.
Currently most of the results are anecdotal, although there was a study done by the UTHSC – San Antonio School of Nursing funded by a Hogg Foundation grant that showed promising results. In this study the Sense of Coherence Scale (SOC), measuring resiliency and the 72 item Quality of Life (QofL), scale were used. Using a pre and post test model over the 3 days, all of the subscales and overall results were statistically significant for the SOC scale, and 11 out of 13 subscales and the overall results were statistically significant for the QofL scale. In a 12 month follow up without any additional intervention the purpose for life subscale on the SOC and the elevated mood scale on the QofL scale remained statistically significant in the desired direction. Many participants have become employed after completing the program and on program evaluations 98% of the feedback has been positive.