Experts By Experience: NAMI Provider

This fall, NAMI Wisconsin is excited to bringing the NAMI Provider program back to Wisconsin!

Wisconsin was one of the early roll-out states of the Provider Education Program when it was originally developed. Dr. Joyce Burland, PhD, the author of NAMI’s evidence-based Family-to-Family education program developed the Provider program to bring the ‘experience of mental illness’ to health providers. Dr. Burland, a psychologist, and a parent and sister of an individual living with schizophrenia, developed and authored the course.  

The magic of NAMI is the depth of knowledge and understanding that all our trainers at every level (national, state and local) bring to the training experience from the perspective of lived experience. Teaching the NAMI Provider Program puts us in the role of “experts of our own experience”.  As a mental health professional and a person living well in Recovery I am passionate about this program.  The 3-5 person teaching team consists of 1-2 family members, 1-2 individuals living well in Recovery and a mental health professional who is a family member or living well in Recovery.  

NAMI Provider is a unique program in that at the time that it was developed all NAMI’s education programs were focused on the individuals that we serve, persons living with mental health conditions and their family members.  We were, for lack of better terminology, teaching “our own folks”.  NAMI Provider took our peer approach a step further.  NAMI Provider is taught to people who may or may not have lived experience with mental illness, but have a role in providing services to individuals with mental health conditions and their families.  The mental health professional role on the teaching team is a peer to the providers taking the course, they also share a common lived experience, that of provider.  The NAMI Provider program honors the role of the provider by having a peer representative on the teaching team. This also offers the participants the opportunity to see mental health conditions from all three perspectives (families, individuals with mental health conditions and providers) as each course topic is covered. There is no role on the teaching that is more valued than another and the team works together as experts in their own experience, sharing their own stories and raising awareness.  During the 5 sessions, which can be done in a variety of formats, healthcare staff are:  introduced to the emotional stages people affected by mental illness experience on the journey to recovery, gain an understanding of ,and empathy for, the individuals lived experience during treatment and encouraged to promote collaboration between individuals, families and providers to achieve the best level of recovery possible.

NAMI Provider is typically attended by: therapists/counselors, Social Workers, Nurses, Direct Care Workers, Psychologists and Administrative Staff who have direct contact with people affected by mental illness (in person or by telephone).  The program has also been offered to other professional groups who work with those affected by mental illness such as:  Law Enforcement personnel, Judges and Court staff, District Attorneys and office staff and Clergy.

The program is presented in 5 sessions organized into short lectures, discussions and group exercises.  The 5 sessions are 2.5 hours in length and can presented one session per week for five weeks or one session per day for five days or all 5 sessions in a two-day period (two or three per day).

The training for NAMI Provider Teachers is an intensive 2-day training, typically offered on a weekend.  If you are an “expert” in your own experience and are ready to share your story with mental health service providers, NAMI Provider may be the program for you.  Contact your local NAMI affiliate or NAMI Wisconsin for more information about NAMI Provider.

Written by: Luann Simpson, MSW, CPS, NAMI Provider State Trainer