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Lived Experience Transformational Leadership Academy (LET(s)Lead)

The Lived Experience Transformational Leadership Academy (LET(s)Lead) was born out of the efforts of Yale PRCH staff, most of whom identify as leaders with lived experience. Yale PRCH faculty created a course that provides emerging leaders with lived experience knowledge about and opportunities for leadership skill development, including a mentorship with a current leader(s) in the field.

Potential Fellows enter the program with an idea for a transformational change project that targets the community in which they live or with whom they work or the behavioral health system itself. Through knowledge acquisition and mentorship, these emerging leaders are able to strengthen and enhance their projects before bringing them to their communities.

Topics of study include:

  • Transformational leadership, a style of leadership that seeks to inspire others to enact a shared vision towards change
  • Appreciative Inquiry, a strengths-based approach to organizational development with a four-step affirmative choice process: discover, dream, design, and deliver
  • Healing racism and cultural humility, especially how intersectional identities and power dynamics affect our abilities to lead with the heart
  • Courageous Conversations, a framework to compassionately guide conversations about racial equity
  • Organizational change strategies to support transformational change
  • Advocacy, grassroots, and activism in behavioral health, including a history of the role of people with lived experience in the field, as well as the influence of grassroots movements and organization with other civil rights organizations to advance the role of leaders with lived experience
  • Critical perspectives on leadership, mental health, and other systems, including the role of leaders with lived experience in behavioral health organizations, boards, committees, and activist organizations
  • Use of story in leadership and our stories’ abilities to influence decision-makers

Yale PRCH Contact

Chyrell D. Bellamy, PhD, MSW
Associate Professor/ Director of Peer Services and Research
Yale School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry
Program for Recovery and Community Health (PRCH)
Erector Square, 319 Peck Street, Bldg. 1
New Haven, CT 06513
Cell/Text: 203-444-2219

Maria Restrepo-Toro, MS, BSN
Project Manager, Education & Training
Yale School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry
Program for Recovery and Community Health (PRCH)
Erector Square, 319 Peck Street, Bldg. 1
New Haven, CT 06513
Cell/Text: 339-223-2409

LET(s)Lead Overview

The LET(s)Lead Curriculum is designed to provide students (called fellows) with a general education on becoming a transformational leader. There are 10 weekly, 2-hour virtual learning sessions. Each session includes an educational component and experiential learning exercises: group discussions, and other opportunities to practice and develop leadership qualities.

Starting with the Why?

So why is there a need to do LET(s)Lead for people with lived experiences of recovery from mental illness, substance abuse, and trauma?
This work began about 2014, with a meeting of people with lived experiences at Yale University Program for Recovery and Community Health (Yale-PRCH) from around the globe, organized by the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership. We met to discuss the need for developing people with lived experiences as leaders.

Many spoke of the lack of opportunities available for people with lived experiences to take on leadership roles, to acquire leadership experience, or to receive mentorship and guidance in these areas. In 2015, an international survey was conducted (via IIMHL and Yale-PRCH) asking people with lived experience what they would want in a leadership initiative. We then conducted nine qualitative interviews with international leaders with lived experience to get more specific feedback on the benefits and challenges of a leadership initiative.

The results indicated that people were in support of an initiative with a focus on leadership and systems and social change.

Leadership based on humanistic and engaging qualities is called transformational leadership. These qualities are similar to values within the research and practice of recovery oriented care and peer support. Transformational leadership has been defined by its proponents as a leadership approach that causes change both in individuals and in social system (James McGregor Burns, 1978).

This curriculum was developed to assist in developing transformative knowledge, skills and abilities of emerging leaders with lived experience.

Goals of LET(s)Lead

  • To assist emerging leaders in gaining an understanding of the critical and emerging issues in mental health and other systems of care.
  • To learn and put into practice the key elements of transformational leadership.
  • To develop a project that combines the knowledge and skills they are learning in class in a practical way, either by, for example, developing a project focused on systems or social change or by developing a change initiative specific to their own personal or organization’s vision.

Course Deliverables

  • Planning and preparation
  • 10 Weekly 2-hour virtual training sessions
  • 4-6 months of virtual sessions with mentors. Individuals will meet at least once per month with mentor;
  • 4-6 monthly online field seminar sessions with the full fellowship cohort.

Basic Structure for Each Session

Each 2-hour session will have basically the same structure; however, the overall lecture content varies. Depending on style, the speaker will want to touch on some of the more salient features of the review slides sent to fellows prior to the session. Integration of stories and examples work well to engage fellows. Discussion can also be encouraged throughout the class if that works for the faculty. However, it is also a good to have a designated time to hear responses and address specific questions raised by the fellows in response to the presentation. Here’s an example of a session 10:00 am-12:00 pm:

  • 10:00-10:15: Welcome back (and introductions of fellows to guest)
  • 10:15-10:45: Review of readings and homework materials
  • 10:45-11:15: Lesson/Practice Exercises
  • 11:15-11:45: Discussion
  • 11:45-12:00: Review of the day, Assignment & Evaluation


Participants are required to:

  • Meet as instructed above (online class, mentoring and check-ins).
  • Complete required homework assignments and readings.
  • Start developing a project over a 6-month period, understanding that it does not have to be completed during the course.
  • Read virtual training materials posted (via videoconferencing).
  • Have access to a computer, reliable internet access, web camera capable of video web conferencing Zoom.

Attendance, Policies

  • Class attendance is a symbol of solidarity with the fellow members of your cohort. Meaningful education requires a shared cultural experience and the readings, writings, and discussions that take place in this class serve as precisely that.
  • Faculty is open to scheduling phone or virtual meetings if you have any questions related to the course.
  • To promote deep engagement with the course content, we encourage you, at any time, to stand up, walk around, or readjust your monitor in the virtual classroom.

Certificates and Graduation

Certificates from the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health will be delivered to fellows that have met the goals outlined above at the end of the 9-month period.

Hispanic/Latine Lived Experience and Peer Support Leadership Academy

The Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health, in partnership with the New England MHTTC, will launch the first Hispanic/Latine LET(s)LEAD Academy. The academy will start in January 2024 with the first phase running for approximately 11 weekly sessions followed by a 6-month second phase where fellows work on leadership/community projects with support from a mentor.


Please complete the survey or return the form to by November 17, 2023.

After we review the applications, we will invite candidates to attend a virtual interview in early December 2023.