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Participatory Action Research Study Demonstrates the Value of Team Science Led by People in Mental Health Recovery

February 23, 2023

A new study led by members of Fountain House, the originator of the “Clubhouse” model of mental health, in partnership with researchers in the Yale Department of Psychiatry demonstrates the power of studies led by people in mental health recovery.

This participatory action research study was part of a larger collaborative project between Fountain House, a national mental health nonprofit, and Yale that featured Clubhouse members in mental health recovery designing, conducting, analyzing, and writing up qualitative data.

The newly published study focused on carefully documenting Fountain House members’ experience of the Clubhouse model, while also highlighting participants’ suggestions for improvement.

The Clubhouse Model of Psychosocial Rehabilitation, featuring social inclusion and empowerment approaches to mental health, was started by Fountain House and has since expanded globally.

Fountain House seeks to improve health, increase opportunity, and end social and economic isolation for people most impacted by mental illness. Drawing on more than 200 community-based social rehabilitative programs inspired by Fountain House and known as clubhouses – to reflect an insistence on belonging and acceptance – Fountain House is leading a national movement for the dignity and rights of people with serious mental illness.

The Fountain House-Yale collaboration has already led to meaningful changes at Fountain House, including the formal creation of a new Clubhouse research committee dedicated to advancing member-led training and research and providing quality improvement feedback to Clubhouse programs. Fountain House has also developed a formal “Research and Knowledge Team,” which utilizes participatory methods for investigating matters beyond Clubhouse programs, including health policy and mental health services.

Jennifer Yoon, second author, stated, “now those with lived experience design, analyze, write up and benefit from the research.”

Miraj Desai, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and senior author, added, “this collaborative study illustrated the power and possibility inherent in participatory action research."

These new initiatives aim to provide a novel vehicle for advancing member empowerment and inclusion through partnership.

Submitted by Christopher Gardner on February 24, 2023