Agents of HOPE


by: Jenn Cusick


If there was ever a time in history when there was any doubt about the enormous role hope plays in the recovery process, it has long passed.

Still, there are many ways we can give the message of hope more prominence in the work we do.

There are so many different paths people can take on their recovery journey, but every single path begins with HOPE.


I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to be a WRAP Advanced Level Facilitator for the past decade. (Wellness Recovery Action Plan is an evidence-based recovery program.) I have learned so much about hope from the people whom I have shared the sacred space of a WRAP group with.


Hope is the first thing we talk about. It’s the message people receive within the first ½ hour of walking into the room.

Participants hear the message that they:

·      CAN get well and stay well for long periods of time

·      CAN lead a happy and productive life

·      CAN work toward your goals

·      DO NOT benefit from dire predictions


This is all said without any qualifiers.

Hope for many starts out really, really small. I often describe hope as the wee spark that gets us out of bed in the morning. If that spark is tended to, it can grow and grow until it becomes that catalyst that fully changes our lives.

People are inspired by stories of hope.


Human beings are intrinsically storytellers. People discover their voices when provided the opportunity to share their story. We feel inspired when we hear accounts of how someone has triumphed over mental health challenges.


Supporting the Growth of Hope

Hope comes from within.

Hope is born in the stillness of a moment when one, ever so slightly, begins to believe that they might be able to experience relief, happiness, satisfaction, connection, and joy.


We can’t give anyone hope, just as we can’t empower another person.

That can be hard truth to sit with. We all get into this field to support those struggling, and we deeply want to make a difference.

However, hope and empowerment are deeply personal and come from within us. Every single person has an inner expert/teacher, and when the conditions are just right, that inner expert can begin to come forward and make themselves known.


Author Parker J. Palmer (A Hidden Wholeness) describes this situation so well.

Palmer says,

“The soul is like a wild animal—tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient and yet exceedingly shy. If we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is to go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek.” 

As practitioners, we CAN create environments where the message of hope rings clear.

We can create space for the inner expert to feel safe enough to come out of hiding. When we see a glimmer of hope show up within people, we can fan the flame.


What can we do to Support a Culture of Hope?

As practitioners we all have a hand in creating the culture within our organizations. Here are three things we can do to support the growth of a hope-filled culture.


1. Reflect on our personal biases, because we all have biases…

We all come to the table with a worldview and a set of beliefs. Our worldview is created through processing all of our life experiences. As humans, we need to figure out how to make meaning of the world around us, and that becomes the lens through which we see the world.

I find that questioning what I have always believed, though uncomfortable, has helped me to see recovery and hope in a different light.


As a person who supports others, spend some time reflecting on the following:

  • What does recovery mean to me?
  • Does recovery equal having a sense of agency?
  • Does recovery mean life satisfaction, or does it meant something else?
  • Is it possible for everyone to experience recovery? Why or why not?


When we are talking about biases, it’s good to look at the Clinician’s Illusion (click link for more info). 

The Clinician's Illusion a term created by Cohen and Cohen that suggests we create our beliefs about recovery based on the population we serve. If we work with the same population who are using serves for a long period of time, our belief in recovery diminishes. We don’t often have the opportunity to hear from the people who get well and move on, because they are out living their lives, and not accessing services anymore.

This is another reason why sharing recovery stories, and integrating peer support into the system is so intrinsic for a recovery-oriented culture.


2. Intentionality around language

Language wields much power. Power to build up, power to tear down. Power to encourage and share hope.


Reflect on the following:

  • Does my language share the message of hope, or illness?
  • Am I subconsciously making a dire prediction?
  • Am I fanning the flames of hope and empowerment with this comment, or am I discouraging it?
  • With this comment or action am I supporting the development of this person’s self-determination, and choice, or will this comment take away from their growth?
  • Does my language inspire or support the growth of agency within this person?


3. Create space for the inner expert to show up. 

 Like Parker J. Palmer says, people won’t fully show up unless we create conditions where they feel safe. Trauma Informed Practice is the norm now, so we keenly aware of the role emotional safety plays in growth.


We can reflect on how we can create even more space for people to show up.

  • Do we believe that each person has an inner expert? Do I think I know better then they do?
  • Does the environment from when a person first walks in the door to when they leave,  feel safe and comfortable?
  • Do I need to work on some quiet biases I may have that may be getting in the way of the person’s inner expert showing up?
  • What can I do to sit with the discomfort that comes when I let go of the need to see an outcome, so that the person can exercise their self-determination without my strong influence?


In the comments below, please share your thoughts and ideas on how we can continue to be agents of hope in the work we do. 


Click here for more information about contributing an article. 

If you would like PSR/RPS Canada to write an article about your agency or program, contact Jenn Cusick. Click here. 

NEW 2017 Core Competencies and Why You Will Want to Take Note of Them!


First of all what are the Core Competencies?
(Find the 2017 version HERE.)


Simply put, the Core Competencies are both a guide, and a measuring stick for organizations and staff practicing Recovery-Oriented Services.

If we say we practice PSR, how do we know that are actually doing it? How do we make sure that we are putting our money where our mouth is, so to speak? Knowing about evidence-based practices is one thing, and implementing into practice in a whole different ball of wax. It takes a tremendous amount of intention, teamwork, courage and determination to create a recovery-oriented culture.


Why You Need the Core Competencies

Bringing the culture of an organization to one that fully supports PSR and recovery in everything that it does, is no small feat for those involved.

There are so many facets of PSR, and to be honest the bar is set really high.

It takes a movement of like-minded people to see systems transformation come into being–a community of people who together provide support, accountability, encouragement, education and a springboard for innovative ideas. You can be a leader in this movement.


Doing this work also requires us to have a high level of self-awareness and intentionality. We all know that when we get busy and overwhelmed by the tasks of the day, it can be easy to slip into autopilot. There is a comfort in the old familiar ways of doing our work. However we all know that doing things in the same old way as we always have, does not create the change in culture that most of us are wanting.  

PSR/RPS Canada is committed to supporting you and your organization in your extremely important journey of deepening your PSR practice. 

That is why the Core Competencies are such a big priority for this work. It gives us direction for the important work we do.


Why the Revision?

The Core Competencies were first written in 2013. (Click HERE to read them. Insert link)

Recently a team of PSR Champions–Dr. John Higenbottam (UBC and Douglas College), Dr. Regina Casey (Douglas College and PSR Advanced Practice), and Michael Lee (UBC), took on the task of revising the competencies to meet the needs of the PSR movement in 2017.

They spent many volunteer hours collaborating, researching, and writing. The result of their work is stellar, and it moves the guideposts for Recovery-Oriented Practice into new areas.

The biggest change is the addition of Competency E (Facilitating Change and Providing Leadership).


Dr. Higenbottam says, “Each practitioner of PSR is a leader in their own right. We want to acknowledge that PSR practitioners are leading a significant change in the way we support people with mental health and addiction issues.”


If you are doing this work, you are a change agent.

You are a champion.


It is the goal of PSR/RPS Canada to create ways to foster the growth and development of leaders of this movement.

Please let us know if you have any ideas about how we can provide that support.


Other Important Points to Note

Dr. Higenbottam also stressed that the team felt it was really important that practitioners strengthen skills in evidence-based practices such as:

·      Cognitive Remediation

·      Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) approach

·      Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

·      Supportive Employment

A significant change in recent years is the merger of mental health and addictions services. This brings new guidelines around continuity of care and skill development.

The team also acknowledged that there is a need for a basic understanding the basics behind the DSM 5 and medication management. Therefore that was added to the 2017 version.


You can access the full version of the 2017 Competencies HERE. 

We at PSR/RPS Canada wish to hear from you! Please let us know what educational and support services you need from us, and we will do our best to meet those needs!


The new updated 2017 Core Competencies are as follows:

A.   Diversity and Inclusion

B.    Professional Skills

C.   Psychosocial Rehabilitation (PSR), Supporting Practices and Recovery Oriented Services

D.   Equity and Social Participation

E.     Facilitating Change and Providing Leadership

Nova Scotia Conference Slides



On September 21st and 22nd we gathered at Pier 21 in Halifax, NS to connect, and learn together.


It was a fabulous opportunity to further anchor PSR into our practices, and connect with like-minded people across the country. 

Among other things John Higenbottam from PSR/RPS Canada officially launched the new 2017 Core Competencies. Also the first CPRRP graduates were celebrated! 


PSR NS Chapter 2017 Conference in Partnership with PSR Canada National Gathering! (1).png

We are getting very excited about the upcoming conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia! 

Topic: Effective Approaches for Nurturing Recovery

Keynote Speakers:

Robert Drake (M.D., Ph.D) is the Andrew Thomson Professor of Health Policy and Clinical Practice at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, NH USA and Vice President of the Westat Corporation. His work on psychiatric rehabilitation over four decades, including integrated treatments for people with dual disorders, evidence-based mental health practices, implementing vocational services, and has helped to shift mental health services toward greater resonance with clients’ goals. He has conducted numerous research projects, published over 600 journal articles and books, and trained many successful researchers.


Deborah R. Becker (M.Ed., CRC) is the Research Senior Associate and Director, IPS Learning Community, at the IPS Employment Center, the Rockville Institute at Westat. She has been a rehabilitation specialist for 30 years. Ms. Becker has held project director positions for vocational, housing, and dual diagnosis research studies. She co-developed the SAMHSA Evidence-Based Practice Supported Employment Implementation Resource Kit. She oversees the IPS International Learning Community, also known as the Johnson & Johnson – Dartmouth Community Mental Health Program, which is organized to improve access to IPS, the evidenced-based approach to supported employment, in twenty states and three European countries.


Laura Burke is drama therapist, certified counsellor, researcher, and public speaker. She also moonlights as a poet, playwright and actor who uses the arts as a means of advocating for those impacted by mental illness. She is currently writing Mad Ones a play about women impacted by trauma and madness in the 18th century, and a semiautobiographical circus themed solo play called Tight Rope about navigating professionalism and vulnerability. Laura has been diagnosed with several mental illnesses listed in the DSM over the years including schizophrenia, but prefers to identify as a mad person. Much of her work involves deconstructing sanism and stigma and supporting others in redefining anomalous experience. She also has particular interests in balancing the practices of vulnerability with professional responsibility, and the imperative of compassion in reducing mental health discrimination in our modern world.


Looking For Input!


We at PSR Canada want to highlight all that great things that are happening in the field of Psychosocial Rehabilitation across Canada.

If you have a story you want to share, or an educational opportunity you would like to let the national community know about–please contact us! 

We are looking for articles that illustrate putting the Core Competencies into practice. 

Some ideas are articles that illustrate the importance of: 

  • Cultural Diversity
  • Implementation of PSR Practices
  • Relationship Building
  • Peer Support
  • Community Inclusion
  • Education
  • Employment

We deeply respect copyright. So we are only accept original articles with original content. If you are citing other people's material, please include your references.

If you have the CPRRP designation, you may be able to get Maintenance of Certification authoring credits for an article! Please contact the Registrar at if you want to ask about this opportunity. 

Click the button to submit your article. We look forward to connecting with you!