B. Fisher, M.D., Ph.D.
Recovery From Mental Illness and Becoming a Commissioner - Dan is a
person who has recovered from schizophrenia. He was hospitalized several times
prior to becoming a psychiatrist. He is one of the few psychiatrists in the
country who publicly discusses his recovery from mental illness. He is a role
model for others who are struggling to recover, and his life dispels the myth
that people do not recover from mental illness. His recovery and work in the
field were recognized by his selection as a member of the White House Commission
on Mental Health.
Education and Practice - Dan received his AB from Princeton University,
his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin and his M.D. from
George Washington University. He is a board-certified psychiatrist who completed
his residency at Harvard Medical School. He is presently Executive Director of
the National Empowerment Center.
Speaker/Teacher/Researcher - Dan travels to all parts of the country to
conduct workshops, give keynote addresses, teach classes, and organize
conferences for consumers/survivors, families, and mental health providers to
promote recovery of people labeled with mental illness by incorporating the
principles of empowerment. He has been featured on many radio and television
programs, including CNN Special Report. In addition he is a researcher having
carried out research into neurotransmitters at the National Institute of Mental
Health and on the ways that people recover. Along with Laurie Ahern, he
developed the Empowerment Model of Recovery and the PACE/Recovery program to
shift the system to a recovery orientation. He was recognized for this work by
being selected for both the Clifford Beers National Mental Health Association
Award and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law's Advocacy Award.
Author - Dan has written chapters in many books, as well as a number of
articles in professional journals such as Hospital and Community Psychiatry and
the Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal. He has produced a video and booklet
about important aspects of recovery, "Recovery is for Everyone" as well as a
video on "Consumers Working as Providers."
If you would like to request Dan Fisher to give a presentation in your area, click here to complete this form.
Oryx Cohen, M.P.A.
Technical Assistance Center (TAC) Director
Oryx is working with NEC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to continue systems change state by state. The most important part of what informs his work is his lived experience with altered states of consciousness: being diagnosed, hospitalized, and subsequently finding a path to healing.
Work experience he brings to NEC includes co-directing the Western
Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community (WM RLC) for the past four years. At
the WM RLC he helped develop a system funded peer-run alternative to the
mainstream system that has experienced amazing success (www.westernmassrlc.org).
He also co-founded the Freedom Center in 2001, the Pioneer Valley’s only
independent peer-run support/activist organization. Freedom Center’s purpose is
to empower and support people with psychiatric labels while challenging
oppressive mental health policies and practices (www.freedom-center.org).
He has served on several boards and committees internationally, nationally and
regionally, including the International Network Toward Alternatives for Recovery
(INTAR) and the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA).
He volunteered for several years with MindFreedom International, directing its
Oral History Project. This project involved collecting and documenting c/s/x
stories of abuse, empowerment, and healing in the mental health system. He is
currently adjunct faculty in the Westfield State College Psychology Department.
If you would like to request Oryx Cohen to give a presentation in your area, click here to complete this form.
Judene Shelley, M.P.H.
Director of Special Projects
Judene has long believed in the power of people working together to create
change. While raising her children, she worked with other parents to reform a
public elementary school in New York City, to build a playground for young
children in Rowley and to establish a weekend drop-in activity center for teens
in Hamilton, Massachusetts. She currently volunteers as a girl scout camping
leader and accompanies the public school chorus where her children sing. She has
helped raise funds to preserve music, arts, and world languages in her local
public school system. Judene’s recovery from a label of mental illness included
counseling, publishing articles and speaking about choice in treatment and
recovery as well as singing, kayaking, hiking, bicycling, and cross country
skiing with family and friends.
Education - Judene has been an advocate for positive health since
receiving her Master of Public Health degree from the University of Chapel Hill
in North Carolina. She taught at Durham Community College's Early Childhood
program, served as Interim Program Director, and helped organize annual
conferences for providers. Judene worked for the Massachusetts Department of
Public Health as a Health Educator in the addictions field before coming to NEC.
Advocate - Judene has been an active member of the consumer-survivor-expatient
movement since her involuntary hospitalization in 1993, testifying before
Massachusetts legislative committees in the process of passing a Bill of Rights
for mental patients and reforming the involuntary commitment law. Judene was one
of the people whose story was highlighted in a May 1997 Boston Globe Spotlight
Series on Involuntary Commitment. She also worked as the Boston Area Director of
the Massachusetts Consumer Satisfaction Team.
Presenter and Writer - Judene presents at conferences on Consumer
Choice through Crisis, Experiencing the Full Range of One’s Emotions, and
Wellness and Recovery. Her newspaper articles include topics such as Teen Anger,
Depression, and Finding the Path to Mental Health. Judene was the former chair
of the Human Rights Committee of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health,
and organized their series of highly successful statewide human rights
conferences for several years.
Anne Weaver, MA, LMHC
Public Policy Specialist
Following an early career in the literary world, where she was an independent bookstore buyer and manager, and later an acquisitions and developmental editor at both trade and academic book publishers, Anne returned to school and received a master's degree in counseling psychology, leading to licensure as a clinical mental health counselor.
Her change of career was inspired by experiencing a serious depression in her mid-thirties, which lasted for several years. Her recovery from this depression included a commitment to change the treatment of people labeled with serious mental health conditions from a purely biologically-based model to one based on the recognition that recovery comes from empowerment, self-determination and meaningful connections with others.
Since graduating in 2003, Anne has worked as a recovery-oriented psychotherapist and as a policy advocate for people with lived experience of mental health issues and is dedicated to creating new paradigms of care and self-advocacy in healthcare reform. She is also a doctoral student studying the inclusion of peer organizations and peer-led services in healthcare reform.
Communications and Development Coordinator
Leah Harris is a mother, activist, writer, and a psychiatric survivor. She is
also the daughter of two parents who were diagnosed with mental illness, both of
whom died very young as a result of their disabilities. This depth of personal
experience fuels Leah’s unstoppable commitment to ensuring human rights,
recovery, and wellness for all people who have been labeled with mental illness.
Activism, creative expression, education, spirituality, connecting with other
survivors, and parenthood have all been crucial factors in Leah’s healing and
Leah has been a nationally recognized leader in the consumer/survivor
movement for nearly a decade. She was an editor and participant in the
MindFreedom International Oral History Project. She has served on numerous
committees and boards, including the National Association of Rights Protection
and Advocacy (NARPA), Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI), and, prior
to her employment with NEC, was a member of the NEC Board of Directors. She also
served as Chair of the District of Columbia Protection and Advocacy for
Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Advisory Council, and was active in
forming the Consumer Leadership Forum, a District of Columbia-based advocacy
Over the last decade, Leah has written and spoken widely about her experiences as a youth in the mental health system. Her audiences have included consumer/survivors, activists, youth, mental health providers, and family members. She has been a keynote speaker and workshop leader at NARPA and Alternatives conferences. Her poetry and prose have appeared in publications including Word Warriors: 30 Leaders from the Women’s Spoken Word Movement (Seal Press, 2007), Off Our Backs: A Women’s Newsjournal, Adbusters.org, CounterPunch, New York City Voices, and Street Spirit. She is a founding member of the DC Guerrilla Poetry Insurgency, which uses public poetry as a means to promote social justice and inspire people to get active on the issues they care about. Her first book of poetry is entitled Poems of Mass Construction, and her debut spoken word album, Take Refuge, is available here. To read an article about Leah's journey of recovery, click here.
Will Hall, MA, DiplPW
Will is a therapist, trainer, and community
development worker whose recovery from a schizophrenia diagnosis has
brought him to the forefront of leading innovations in mental health.
A longtime leader with the peer recovery movement, Will's community
development work spans more than a decade of peer advocacy and mutual
aid, including founder of Portland Hearing Voices, past board member
of the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care and the
International Network Towards Alternatives for Recovery, and current
board member with INTERVOICE, the International Hearing Voices
Movement. Will hosts the interview format FM radio program Madness
Radio, syndicated through the Pacifica Network and on iTunes, was
co-founder with Oryx Cohen of the Freedom Center, and is a longtime
organizer with The Icarus Project.
Will's writing has appeared in the Journal of Best Practices in Mental
Health Care and in Oxford University Press's Modern Community Mental
Health Work: An Interdisciplinary Approach, and he has been widely
featured in the media, including the New York Times, Forbes, and
Newsweek magazine. His Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric
Drugs has been translated into 4 languages, and he recently spoke at
the American Psychiatric Association's Institute on Psychiatric
Services and at Oregon Health and Sciences University Psychiatry
Department's Grand Rounds.
Will has brought his mental diversity trainings to more than 9
countries, including peer organizations, community mental health
agencies, hospitals, family members, activist groups, law enforcement,
public policy makers, medical schools, and universities. He received
the Disability Advocacy Award from the Amherst Center for Independent
Living for his work, was a featured philanthropic project by Forbes
magazine, and has consulted in Argentina, Mexico, and Peru for
Disability Rights International. Trained as a therapist and coach at
the Process Work Institute of Portland Oregon, will recently completed
a certification in Open Dialogue with its originator, Dr. Jaakko
Seikkula, at the Institute for Dialogic Practice in Haydenville MA. He
has a private therapy and clinical supervision practice and sees
clients both in his Portland office and via skype internationally, is
adjunct faculty with the in Slovak Institute for Process Oriented
Psychology in Bratislava, Slovakia, and is co-founder of the online
training organization PracticeRecovery.com.
Will's current areas of training in the US and internationally
including Mutual Peer Support; Mental Diversity; Medication Withdrawal
Harm Reduction; Living with Suicidal Feelings; Hearing Voices; Process
Work with Extreme and Altered States; and Family Recovery. He is a
longtime yoga practitioner and meditator, and a student of night and
waking dreams. More info at www.willhall.net, www.madnessradio.net, and
"When I was growing up, I wanted to be a magician. Then I wanted to be
a biologist, then I wanted to be a psychologist, then I wanted to be a
community organizer, then I wanted to be a philosopher. Now I’m sort
of all of them.”
– Interview with Will Hall in the Portland Mercury newspaper, June 2009.
Deborah Trueheart comes to NEC as a consultant, educator, counselor, artist,
writer, motivational speaker, and change agent. She has transformed her own
experience of suffering and is passionate about helping to birth a new paradigm
in mental health care by moving away from pathology toward wholeness-based
Deborah devoted the past 16 years to the study of psychology, holism,
metaphysics, process therapy, spirituality, and the healing process. She held
positions in business management, volunteer management, training and
development, community organizing, and mental health advocacy. She served as
direct care staff in several DMH and DMR funded residential facilities,
volunteered on a telephone counseling service, and had a private counseling
practice. She was the team leader for a federal grant project to create a
statewide network of people who use mental health services in Massachusetts, and
established the first Massachusetts Leadership Academy to build advocacy and
leadership skills. She received cultural competence training at the National
Coalition Building Institute in Bethesda, Maryland and is of Native American
Deborah is an experienced trainer, workshop facilitator and speaker. She has
been developing and facilitating workshops since 1989 and has presented at
Massachusetts Human Rights Conferences, annual statewide consumer conferences in
Maryland, Virginia, and New York, and nationally at NARPA and Alternatives
Conferences. She has also conducted one-day workshops and led retreats in
Florida, Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, Maine, and
Pennsylvania. As Director of Training and Development, she coordinated a
state-work-force training grant awarded to Relief Resources, an organization
that provides relief staff to direct care facilities.
Deborah is developing a curriculum: Living Into Wholeness. This combines her
experiential wisdom and studies to create principles and practices that help
change habitual thought and behavior patterns, bringing one to a greater state
of wholeness and wellbeing.
Deborah has written extensively on mental health issues and recovery. She has
published essays, poetry, photography, as well as book and theater reviews. All
of Deborah’s activities are informed by her own experience of personal
transformation from psycho-spiritual suffering and trauma history. Deborah is
also a family member.
Education: Leslie College, Cambridge MA: Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral
Middlesex Community College, Lowell, MA: Associates Degree in Mental Health
1993. Graduated with highest honors; Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society
Deborah is available for trainings, workshops and keynote presentations and
consulting on the following topics:
- Wellness Principles & Practices
- More than Brain Chemistry: Holistic Approaches to Alleviate Suffering
- Inside/Outside: Personal and Systemic Transformation
- We’re in this Together: How do I Help my Family Member?
- Beyond Pathology: Training for Professionals
Here is more information for two of Deborah Trueheart's trainings:
Living Into Wholeness (PDF, 237KB, 1 page)
Being a Catalyst for Social Evolution by Following Your Compass of Joy (PDF, 217KB, 1 page)
Janice Sorensen; Janice has been focused on mental health recovery, education, communication and support skills acquisition and training for over 20 years.
Janice’s variety of life experiences informs the work she does and her approach to every day. She survived a childhood laced with trauma and chaos only to enter young adulthood aimed on poor choices and suicide attempts. In her early 20s, she spent a year in a drug rehabilitation center and eight weeks in a psychiatric hospital where she was diagnosed as having “severe schizophrenia.” Overcoming this, and the many lables that would soon and eventually follow has been a life success.
This history of hospitalizations, suicide attempts, lables and depression is what brings her to this work. Her learned understanding that things can and do get better and that people can and do recovery is what she brings with her. Today, Janice lives a healthy life, free of both street and psychotropic drugs. She considers her past to be the gift of an emotional language that has helped her to read and navigate her own life and to better understand others, especially those who suffer. It also allows her to understand the importance of ending the stigma around mental health recovery.
In addition to her work with the National Empowerment Center, Janice has been involved with the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community since its inception and in various roles, including as the Franklin County Coordinator and currently as facilitator for the Alternatives to Suicide Peer Support Groups, trainer and graphic artist. She is the recipient of numerous awards in education, including the Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, the House of Representative Education Award, and the State Senate Citation for Accomplishments in Education.
Janice is a graduate of UMASS Amherst, a published writer, artist and community activist.