A Historical Development of Recovery, Inc.
A Dialogue between Treasure Rice and Phil Crane
The following is a blast from the past: a conversation between Treasure Rice, past president, and Phil Crane, former Director of Leader Training. Both Treasure and Phil worked with Dr. Low and were trained by him to fill the roles they played so well for so many years.
PHIL: Why don't we go back to the very beginning! For me, that would be at the Psychiatric Institute of the University of Illinois Medical School in 1941. I was showing improvement as a mental patient of Dr. Low's, and I was able to be a part of his project at the Institute.
TREASURE: As you know, I didn't join Recovery until 1947. I've heard and read about those very early days, but I'm anxious to learn more about them. Did Dr. Low conduct many group meetings at the Institute?
PHIL: Oh yes, in fact for six and one-half months, as I continued to improve, I regularly attended the weekly meetings that he conducted.
TREASURE: What year was that?
PHIL: That was in 1941, but Dr. Low had been conducting his classes at the Institute for several years before that.
TREASURE: What kind of meetings were they?
PHIL: Well, they were completely under Dr. Low's direction every minute of the time. What impressed me so much about those meetings--and still does--was that Dr. Low was constantly encouraging members of the class to participate in the discussions. Always, as he was interviewing one member, he would ask questions of the other members. In this way, he brought out the group viewpoint; an average point of view of what was being discussed. Also, to bring out the self-help effort of as many members of the class as possible.
TREASURE: That reminds me of when I joined Recovery in 1947, and attended the Tuesday night classes Dr. Low held at headquarters. I remember how he asked questions of the class, or an individual member, about the member that he was interviewing.
PHIL: Yes, that's right. His method of questioning kept all of us on our toes and encouraged us to respond to questions he might ask. For instance when he was interviewing a patient at the Tuesday night class, he might ask, "Is this man trying to control his feelings?" The answer might be something similar to "Yes, he is, when instead he should be spotting that he cannot control feelings, they're passive responses."
TREASURE: I wonder how many of those reading this can answer that question?
PHIL: I would imagine quite a few! There is a chapter titled, The Will Says Yes or No, in Mental Health Through Will Training that deals with this question.
TREASURE: There's another chapter in the book that offers additional insight--"Temper and Symptoms-Passive Response and Active Response". I remember how well that chapter helped me get out of the set-back some years ago. I was under the tyranny of some rather severe symptoms and had been in the vicious cycle for several weeks. Now, I know that I was trying to control the symptoms. Then, it wasn't until I was reading that chapter and came across these words, "Do you understand now that your belching cannot be cured unless you control your temper and the latter can only be checked if the brakes are applied to thought and muscles?" that I realized where I had to begin the control. Not with the feelings and sensations, but with the muscles and thoughts. Once I applied this insight, the symptoms soon ran their course.
PHIL: Yes, it is hard to ignore the discomfort of the feelings and concentrate on what we really can control. But, let's get back to the Tuesday night classes.
TREASURE: Essentially then, the meetings at the hospital and the Tuesday night classes were the same, in that they both encouraged self-help effort and were professionally supervised by Dr. Low. I suppose the classes that Dr. Low conducted at the Psychiatric Institute were supplemented by other self-help activities. What else did Dr. Low initiate at the hospital?
PHIL: From my own experience, what I particularly remember about those hospital days was The Retriever. Dr. Low encouraged four of us, who were improving mental patients, to originate this weekly self-help publication right there on the wards of the hospital. We, the four-member staff, wrote, edited, mimeographed and distributed the paper. We even raised a little money to pay the expenses of our publication. I had been co-editor of the college humor magazine at the University of Michigan, and had worked for the Chicago Sun-Times. I really enjoyed working with the others on the staff, writing the news and poking a little fun at ourselves. It was a healthy thing. Let me give you an example of the type of thing we published. This article appears in Vol.1, No. 6 dated June 4, 1941. It was a report of the group psychotherapy class of June 2, and was titled, "Monday Meeting."
TREASURE: You mean that this excerpt is an actual reprint from that issue of The Retriever?
PHIL: Absolutely! "The old one about the patient who never stops bragging about his operation should be revamped to a new one about the patient who is proud to having recovered from a mental illness. Saying that the recovered mental patient has at least as much reason to be proud of himself as the guy who laid down on an operating table. Dr. Low pointed out that the mental patient faces both the obstacle of recovering from the illness and the possible stigma he may meet on the outside. A patient who has successfully overcome both of these obstacles is justified in having a feeling of pride in his accomplishments. "Dr. Low was ably assisted in his discussion by Mike Ruggio, (another member of the staff of The Retriever ), who gave a very high percentage of correct answers to questions asked. The one important point on which
Mr. Ruggio showed mild hesitation was the query, 'What does a recovered mental patient do to stay well?' The answer is, of course, 'join the Recovery Club'."
TREASURE: Why did you use the work "club", Phil? Recovery certainly isn't a "club" and we never think of it that way today.
PHIL: While we were hospitalized, and for a short time thereafter, we formed what we called "clubs." We called ourselves "club-members," and had special names for our clubs. For instance, one was called the "Fortnightly Club" and another one was known as the "Companion Club". Dr. Low called these self-directed" projects, in contrast to "hospital directed" endeavors. We elected officers and planned our own social activities. Dr. Low let us know that he was pleased with our self-help efforts. Later, as Recovery matured, we realized that we were not just a "club," and eventually the term was dropped completely as the self-help aftercare techniques were developed and were made available to those who were not patients
of Dr. Low's.
TREASURE: Yes, of course, it really had to be changed once our self-help organization was available to everyone. But, let's get back to your paper at the Institute. I can tell from that article in The Retriever that you were probably beginning to view your illness in a new way--with respect. By the way, how did the paper get that name?
PHIL: It was the idea of one of our staff members, Mary West. Recovery's first publication--almost entirely written and edited by Dr. Low--was called LOST & FOUND. So, Mary reasoned that if improved mental patients could be thought of as "lost and found," they could also be thought of as having been "retrieved." Consequently, The Retriever !
TREASURE: What an appropriate name! I'm sure the paper played some part in retrieving" many of the patients. I'll bet Dr. Low was pleased with it.
PHIL: Dr. Low wholeheartedly approved of our creative self-help efforts. He said that as far as he knew, it was the first weekly newspaper ever published on the wards of a psychiatric hospital by improving mental patients.
TREASURE: I realize that there were many different types of activities at the hospital--dances, physical therapy, occupational therapy, sleigh ride parties, etc. Also I realize that someday Recovery's history will be published and all of this will be included. However, right now, I'd like to know what other activity or activities had a direct bearing on our organization as we know it today?
PHIL: There was what I consider a very significant development in July of 1941. It was just a week or two after my discharge from the hospital when Dr. Low asked me to participate in a panel demonstration at Chicago State Hospital. Dr. Low conducted the panel and the other members were recovered patients, as I was. My participation was relating my own experience in overcoming mental illness through cooperating with Dr. Low and his staff at the Institute. It's as clear in my mind as though it happened yesterday. How well I remember mingling with the audience after the panel and shaking hands with many of them.
TREASURE: Then that, I suppose, would be the forerunner of the demonstration panel as we know it today? Since the stigma was a real problem at that time, that demonstration of former patients who viewed their illnesses in an entirely different manner must certainly have been impressive.
PHIL: Yes, it was. Recovery was really a pioneer against the stigma of mental illness.
TREASURE: Wasn't 1941, the year we've been talking about, the year that Recovery left the Institute to become an independent organization?
PHIL: Yes, in that year we established Recovery's first office at 64 East Lake Street, in Chicago's Loop. It was there that Dr. Low began having his private classes interviewing patients and also, where the Saturday afternoon panels began. You remember, don't you Treasure, those Saturday afternoon panels were an entirely different type of meeting?
TREASURE: I sure do! When I joined Recovery in 1947, Dr. Low would give a short talk on a specific topic chosen by him. Then there would be four or five Recovery members who would give examples of their Recovery practice.
Dr. Low didn't take part in the example portion of the meeting at all, but would sit in the audience.
PHIL: That's right, and then after the example period, Dr. Low would give another talk, which he based on something that had been mentioned by the panel members in their examples. Then he would elaborate to make very clear just what it was that he had chosen from the examples to discuss. By the way, these pre-panel and post-panel talks, made in 1953 and 1954, are the tapes we play at our meetings now.
TREASURE: I hope you'll forgive me, Phil, if I practice just a little vanity. I was one of several who were constantly urging him to make those tapes. Those of us who could not be in Chicago knew that we were missing a very valuable part of the Recovery program. We envied the members who lived in Chicago. I came to Chicago just as often as I could, and was fortunate to be there for quite a few of those Saturday panels. Everytime I attended the Saturday panel, Dr. Low would ask me to speak on the panel, and each time I refused. I was much too fearful in those days. As I listened to those members who did give examples before an audience of 75 to 100 people, I would marvel that they could do it. Immediately after the meeting was over, I'd blame myself for not having the courage to participate, and promise myself that next time I'd accept Dr. Low's invitation. But then, when the next time came, I'd refuse again.
PHIL: Didn't you ever take part in a Saturday afternoon meeting?
TREASURE: Eventually, about 1950 or 1951, I agreed and Dr. Low chose my example to discuss. Then I realized how much more I was involved when it was my example he talked about. I remember at one point, he said, "So, Treasure was a failure!" How my heart sank! Then he added, "But, she turned that failure into success when she decided to practice the sense of humor." After that, I felt much better!
PHIL: That's an excellent example of why it's so important to participate in Recovery meetings. When you give an example yourself, you're just naturally more involved. Needless to say, I attended hundreds of both the Tuesday night classes and the Saturday afternoon meetings. I had almost unlimited opportunities to talk with Dr. Low, along with other Recovery members, about what was taking place. I'm sure you remember that we had very informal get-togethers every afternoon at Recovery headquarters.
TREASURE: Yes, I do remember. Those informal afternoon meetings were my first exposure to Recovery. My husband had taken me to Chicago to consult with Dr. Low about my psychiatric problem. I had about two years of psychoanalysis in Michigan when I read about Recovery in a national magazine. I saw Dr. Low in his office at 30 North Michigan Avenue and, after taking my history and talking to me for quite a while, he asked me to walk over to 185 North Wabash, where Recovery headquarters was then located. He assured me that I would be well received. Well, when I arrived, quaking and trembling with fear, I saw you, Phil, and eight other people laughing and talking and looking so relaxed. I just knew I must be in the wrong place! Surely none of those people could possibly have been nervous or former mental patients!
PHIL: I remember that day very well, but I guess that I was too busy working on The Recovery News to notice that you were quaking. The Recovery News, by the way, was a sort of continuation of The Retriever . Tell us what happened next, Treasure.
TREASURE: Gertrude Beres saw me standing hesitantly at the door. She came over and invited me to come in. I told her that Dr. Low had sent me. Well, within five minutes, Gertrude had sold me a membership and a whole raft of paper covered articles. Mental Health Through Will Training had not yet been published, or I'm sure she would have sold me it, too! I handed over my seven dollars, and began to suspect that this was just a moneymaking outfit, fronted by Dr. Low.
PHIL: I'm surprised that you stayed! How come you didn't leave?
TREASURE: Just about that time, you all gathered chairs in a sort of semi-circle, and I heard you begin to talk about heart palpitations, fear, fatigue. When I heard you mention your own symptoms and fears, I began to think that maybe this was the place for me, after all. After the meeting, I went from person to person saying, "Why are you here? One woman smiled and said, "Because of my temper." I had visions in my mind that she meant she did things like throwing dishes and was violent. It wasn't until much later that I knew the kind of temper she meant--the kind we all have--fearful temper!
PHIL: Weren't there others present, besides yourself, who were also new? We had a steady stream of newcomers most every afternoon, most of whom were private patients of
TREASURE: I remember that there was a man from Ohio who was also new to the group. He was undergoing treatment at a hospital and
Dr. Low had him attend the afternoon sessions. I'm sure that there were others who were new to Recovery. However, the ones who really caught my interest were those of you who had obviously made some improvement. All of you impressed me as having knowledge that I needed to acquire. This seems like a good place to pause in our reminiscing, but let's continue in the next issue of The Reporter. Okay?
PHIL: Okay! Say, wouldn't it be great if some of the "old-timers" would read our series and write to us about their memories of those days?
TREASURE: It certainly would! I hope they'll write and share their memories with all of us.
PHIL: In our last "conversation," Treasure, you said you would like to discuss the problem of the STIGMA. I can tell you that when Recovery first came into being, there was plenty of it around! Our early literature mentions stigma more than any other subject. In fact, I automatically capitalize every letter in the word because that was the way we always wrote it in those days.
Our motto in the early days of Recovery was, "Nobody shall be held responsible for the kind of illness he has contracted." Obviously, it deals directly with the idea of STIGMA. It occurs to me that in our yellow pamphlet (ed.note: an earlier version of our informational brochure ) we mention STIGMA only once. I think it's good to bring the subject out of mothballs and remind present day members of the pioneering efforts of Recovery to combat stigma when it was a real fact of life.
TREASURE: Even choosing the name of our organization was influenced by the STIGMA, wasn't it?
PHIL: Yes, and some of the names suggested at that time seem very amusing now. Because many of us had undergone shock treatment, some suggested we call ourselves "Shock Troops." Other names suggested were: "A-Stigmatism," "Sunrise Club," "Resurrection," "Stay Bright," "The Reconditioned," etc. Finally the name RECOVERY was adopted. It was felt that this was not too revealing, and yet, said very well what really happens to our members. In all correspondence, only the word "Recovery" appeared on the outside of the envelope. However, we did use the full name, "Recovery, Inc., The Association of Nervous and Former Mental Patients," on our letterhead.
TREASURE: It's clear just how far we have traveled in overcoming the STIGMA. Now, we boldly include the entire name of our organization on the cover of our yellow pamphlet while only mentioning STIGMA once. What a difference the years have made!
PHIL: That pamphlet cover has meant a lot to me. I think it definitely demonstrates that we now have respect for our former illnesses, rather than the shame and fear we once seemed to have.
TREASURE: Did Recovery do anything else in those early days to fight the STIGMA?
PHIL: We came up with many ideas which Dr. Low encouraged. One of our ideas was to try to get the commitment laws for mental patients changed. We carried out quite an extensive campaign. But, I guess we were ahead of our time--we were not successful. During our campaign, we had a speakers squad headed by Dr. Low that presented many talks before groups of people in the community. And, I think, we were successful in proving to ourselves and many others that the idea of the STIGMA was someday going to be passe. It was at this time that the demonstration panel, then conducted by Dr. Low, came into being.
TREASURE: I remember Dr. Low saying that if we would only speak frankly about our fears and symptoms in the Recovery group, we would demonstrate to ourselves that we have courage and would cease indicting our character. Also, that we would notice that no one is blaming or criticizing us for having weaknesses and shortcomings. He said that if we did this repeatedly we would be practicing the habit of fearlessness and would discard our habit of fearfulness.
PHIL: Yes, he pointed out that it would take only a minimum of courage to do this among Recovery people. Having taken that step, we could later transfer this practice to members of our own family and finally practice the same thing in wider and wider circles. The way he put it was that we would become conscious of a "self" that could be "displayed" without causing us embarrassment or a sense of shame, knowing that our fears are innocent symptoms rather than lack of character.
TREASURE: This is definitely another form of the STIGMA--the sense of shame that Recovery members often feel within themselves because of their illness. Very often, the family is also "infected" and this may contribute to this feeling of inner STIGMA. In our early literature, Dr. Low said that the patient has to be "immunized" and the family "disinfected." He added that systematic self-help brings immunity to the patient who can then often "disinfect" his own family.
PHIL: That's one of the real values of the Recovery method. Our self-help meetings provide the opportunity to speak frankly about having been in a mental hospital or having received psychiatric treatment. We can talk openly about our difficulty in holding jobs because of our illness, or our failure to take care of home and family and other obligations. Even the simple matter of stating our full name at a meeting may be practice for some of us to face the fact that we should not be ashamed of our illness.
TREASURE: Perhaps the hardest things to talk about are those symptoms which to us seem unique and even bizarre.
PHIL: Of course! This is basically what we have learned to recognize as fearful temper--the feeling that I AM WRONG--my body and my mind are wrong for being in disorder.
TREASURE: When we speak about these feelings with absolute frankness, and see that other Recovery members are not judging us as being wrong or different, we begin to exchange the belief, "I AM WRONG," for the belief, "I AM AVERAGE." Sometimes this change in beliefs can be very subtle--we hardly realize ourselves that we are changing. I recall an example given by a business executive that illustrates this point.
He was having a cup of coffee with some Recovery members and telling them that he had no STIGMA whatsoever. He said that he had always spoken frankly about his illness to anyone and everyone. Just as he was saying this, he picked up his coffee cup and noticed that his hand trembled. Quickly, he placed the cup back in the saucer so that no one would notice the tremor. As he did so, he spotted that he was trying to hide the nervous symptom--he did have STIGMA!
PHIL: Dr. Low, in the last paragraph on page 385 (ed.note: of the original edition of MHTWT) of Mental Health Through Will Training , brings out the fact that to feel stigmatized means to be tense, and that this tenseness creates pressure on the nervous system which may produce or revive symptoms. So, there is no question but that we must become aware of the various forms of STIGMA we may have, and that we must practice to bring about immunity through self-help and self-leadership.
TREASURE: In this article, we have tried to bring out the fact that Dr. Low felt that self-help and self-leadership are a good part of the answer for the nervous or former mental patient. In our next one, I would like to discuss with you just how Dr. Low developed the idea of self help.
PHIL: That sounds good to me, Treasure. Before we close this conversation I suggest that all of us endorse ourselves for the part we have played in helping to overcome the idea of the STIGMA that formerly surrounded nervous and mental disorders.
TREASURE: I second that motion! Just one more thing before we say goodbye for this time. Recently, at our meeting in Brighton, a member told the group that taking out membership in Recovery and reading The Reporter had helped her to overcome the feeling of isolation and uniqueness she formerly had because of her illness. The very fact that thousands of people all over the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico belonged to Recovery to improve their mental health, gave her a sense of freedom from the belief in the STIGMA.
PHIL: Isn't that great. It's just what we've been saying! Well, I guess that's it for now-- be "talking" with you in the next issue.
PHIL: In the July-August Reporter you mentioned that you would like to talk with me about the development of the self-help panel. I think that's a great idea, and it occurs to me that we might divide this topic into three parts: (1) the historical development leading up to 1952, when Dr. Low finally constructed the first completely self-help panel; (2) the years 1952 to 1954, when the self-help panels were established completely separate from, but closely cooperating with, the professional care offered by Dr. Low; (3) the years from 1954 to the present with self-help panels established through the United States and Canada, cooperating with the professional community in all areas of the country, but operating independent of professional guidance under the auspices of the Recovery organization.
TREASURE: Sounds like an excellent idea to me, Phil. I know you were in a position to watch the self-help panel develop on a day today basis during the years from about 1948 to 1952. It's difficult to pin-point the time exactly but, in 1947 when I first came to Chicago and was sent to Recovery by Dr. Low to learn how to conduct a group, the group procedures were not outlined as we know them today. Wasn't it about 1948 when he started dropping in almost every afternoon while you and other Recovery members were meeting at headquarters?
PHIL: Yes, it was about that time. He would demonstrate how he wanted the meetings to be conducted.
TREASURE: Did he actually say that he was training you to be the original self-help panel leader?
PHIL: No, Treasure, not at first. It was a very gradual process. Undoubtedly, he was still working out the group procedures as he wanted them to be constructed. However, as the months went by, this daily training in leadership began to take shape and it became more and more apparent that there were some definite ideas he was trying to get across to me and that he wanted me to practice when I led the panels.
TREASURE: As you know, Phil, I made many trips to Chicago after that first visit, and I remember very well being at headquarters when Dr. Low would put in an appearance, sit down at the table with us, and motion us to continue. Then, he would begin to participate himself.
PHIL: Yes, that's the way it was. Sometimes he would have a cup of coffee with us. It was quite informal.
TREASURE: I remember one afternoon when a panel member started to write down what another member was saying. Dr. Low stopped everything and pointed out that he wanted no note taking. To this day, there are members who can't understand why notes may not be taken during a panel. Of course, notes may be taken during the playing of Dr. Low's tapes, but that's because he was an authority and can be quoted. Example-givers aren't authorities and, consequently, cannot be quoted. But, Phil since you were the one being trained as the self-help panel leader, I'm sure you watched Dr. Low demonstrate time and time again just which procedures were to be allowed and which were not.
PHIL: Yes, and I suppose it is difficult for members today to realize just how much Dr. Low supervised the self-help activities during those years when he was slowly, but surely, developing the Method and the group procedures so they could some day stand alone without professional supervision. The self-help panel is the result of his professional expertise and research with his patients in the group during the early years of Recovery.
TREASURE: Perhaps we're getting just a little ahead of ourselves, Phil. I have always been particularly inspired by what Annette Brocken accomplished in Recovery's formative years. Wasn't she mainly responsible for seeing that Recovery became an independent association? And, didn't she supply the leadership that was needed to bring about the organizational development under Dr. Low's guidance?
PHIL: You're right! The importance of Annette's contribution can't be overemphasized! She was the one who worked most closely with Dr. Low as Recovery evolved into an independent organization. That was way back in 1941; and she continued to lead the organization through subsequent years during which important research and experimentation was carried out by Dr. Low. For instance, the first regular meeting held in the community was organized by Annette in 1942, and led by Dr. Low at the Lake Shore Field House, just a few blocks from his home. We sure would be ahead of our story if we didn't lead up to the self-help panel by bringing out this important history.
TREASURE: Was this meeting at the Field House the forerunner of the so-called "home" groups?
PHIL: Right! Except Dr. Low never attended the home groups. Although, he did reserve the right to make an appearance at any time. Only patients of Dr. Low attended, and each group was led by a leader selected by Dr. Low. Of course, he supervised even these groups through his contact with the leaders on a regular basis. He not only received reports from them, but also gave help and guidance to the leaders as to how they were to handle certain situations, etc.
TREASURE: The fact that he did not attend the meetings held each week in members' homes put them on their own resources, and aided the development of the self-help idea. But, at the same time, he had an opportunity to observe indirectly what was taking place.
PHIL: You remember, Treasure, Dr. Low said the finest training in self-leadership and self-help is offered when the professional person is not present.
TREASURE: I remember attending one of those home groups during the week of my first visit in 1947. The leader seemed to be more of an authority than we find today. But, I also remember how free we felt to discuss our difficulties. Didn't they call those who led the home groups "seniors"?
PHIL: That's right. The "seniors" were members who served on the Saturday afternoon panels at headquarters. Dr. Low would give a brief talk on a Recovery topic. Then, the four or five "seniors' would present a panel, giving examples of Recovery practice. There would be an audience of anywhere form 50 to 100, composed of patients, relatives and friends. Following the panel, Dr. Low would talk again on the selected topic, relating to the examples that had been presented by the panel. He never used notes.
TREASURE: As the years went by, there were increasing numbers of people like myself from other cities and states who wanted to learn more. Dr. Low invited me to attend those sessions. I also attended several of the "senior" meetings which Dr. Low held monthly with the leaders of the home groups.
PHIL: The purpose of those monthly meetings was to provide more training in group leadership. You might say that they were the forerunner of the "prospective leaders' meetings" now held in our Areas throughout the country.
TREASURE: Yes, but with one important difference--Dr. Low led those senior meetings. In spite of all of the self-help development, Dr. Low had not yet set a cut-off point between himself and the self-help activities.
PHIL: Exactly! For instance, in the year 1948 absolutely everything in Recovery was professionally supervised by him. Including the out-of-town branches in existence at that time: yours in Brighton, Michigan (1947); and Muscatine, Iowa (1946).
TREASURE: Yes, Dr. Low and I were almost constantly in touch, either by telephone or in writing. And, of course, I was able to get to Chicago frequently. It was a great experience for me to be able to be a part of all the activities there. Once, at one of the "senior" meetings, he talked about how well our group had done in Michigan. As he spoke about it in glowing terms, I began to feel proud and exceptional. After all, these branch groups were a new development. Then, he went on to say, "What Treasure has done as a leader can be done by others. After all, she is not performing acrobatics!"
PHIL: Pardon me for chuckling! Really, I'm laughing with you, not at you. Although Dr. Low trained me as the original self-help panel leader, he made it very clear to me again and again that what I did as a leader, any other average Recovery leader could do!
TREASURE: That goes right to the heart of the principle that the leader is not an expert or an authority, but an average member of the group!
PHIL: Very true! But Dr. Low also reminded me repeatedly that I was the leader, and that it was my responsibility to remind the members what the group procedures are. Also, of course, that I must demonstrate my use of the Method.
TREASURE: What a fine experience that must have been, to serve your apprenticeship as a leader--day-after-day for more than four years--under Dr. Low's tutelage! Can you give us a few examples of just how he trained you?
PHIL: Of course, I could give you dozens of examples, but let me mention just a few. For instance, if a member was asking the group for help with some difficulty he was experiencing and perhaps only presenting a list of the symptoms he was having, Dr. Low would remind him that he must put it in the form of an example. He told us repeatedly that only then could we demonstrate how we would practice in a given situation.
TREASURE: Did he stress that the example-giver relates only one example?
PHIL: Yes, he did and that strikes home! I remember that he reminded me numerous times that I was making my examples too complicated. He would point out that I was talking about several examples at the same time. He was very emphatic about this--only ONE example should be given at a time, in order to demonstrate the proper application of the Method.
TREASURE: You've mentioned two ways that Dr. Low trained you to keep Recovery simple--the way he wanted it. Before we run out of space again, what else did you learn from him along these lines?
PHIL: That everything in the Recovery principles can be brought back to temper!
TREASURE: Could you explain that?
PHIL: Well, Dr. Low said over and over again that we come to Recovery to learn about temper. Mainly, the fearful temper, but also the angry variety and self-diagnosing which immediately leads to temper.
TREASURE: You mean that when we self-diagnose we immediately go into temper?
PHIL: Sure, because we don't usually diagnose securely. When we make a diagnosis of danger we then have thoughts such as: "I can't stand this, I'm hopeless, how can I ever get well? No one has any use for me, etc., etc., etc." Self-pity, self-blame, and uncontrolled feelings enter the picture.
TREASURE: So, all of the principles of self-help can really be brought back to temper! I guess this really does simplify the method if we think in those terms.
PHIL: Many times Dr. Low told us that in order for the self-help method to be effective it must be kept simple. When it's kept simple, the member has the self-help method at his fingertips and can immediately put it into practice 24-hours a day, whether it's 10 o'clock in the morning, 5 o'clock in the afternoon, or waking up at 5:00 A.M. with severe symptoms.
TREASURE: I can testify to that myself! All the intellectual exercise of talking about complicated examples at the meetings wouldn't help me when I was in a panic alone in those early days or, if I should be in a set-back now. Only the simple procedure will do the trick when symptoms really bring on their tyranny. So, if we care about the person who is having difficulty, we would do well to remember Dr. Low's admonitions about keeping it simple and learn just how we are to accomplish this simplicity.
PHIL: Absolutely! Over and over Dr. Low stressed simplicity!
TREASURE: I really think we've covered some very important points in this article, Phil. There's so much to talk about, it's hard to stop but let's save some for next time.
PHIL: Right you are! Adios, until the next issue.
TREASURE: Of all the important milestones in Recovery's history, no doubt the most significant one was the establishment of the self-help panel procedures by Dr. Low in 1952.
PHIL: Yes, this was a long sought after goal. It was the culmination of many years of patient work by our founder and medical director. Finally, he was able to leave the panel meetings completely to the members, with no professional supervision whatsoever.
TREASURE: Frankly, Phil, I approach this subject with a lot of respect for what is involved. We're not in a position to speak for Dr. Low, and we have often said that none of us really know exactly what happens during a panel meeting, that is, as Dr. Low knew. All we can hope to do is to tell what happened during those years from 1948 to 1952. Most of all, it should become clear to our readers just how painstakingly Dr. Low went about developing the procedures we all take so much for granted today.
PHIL: The validity of Dr. Low's work becomes more and more apparent as the years go by. His self-help procedures for our meetings have enabled us to expand. Professional interest has been engendered by their recognition of the good results obtained by patients participating in our self-help panel meetings. I certainly do share your healthy respect for our discussion of something so important. How can we best set the scene?
TREASURE: First of all, I'd like to mention that our branch group in Michigan was not really exposed to the training you had from Dr. Low. At least not until 1952. Even though I visited Chicago frequently, and attended the panels, I was not aware of what was happening. I conducted our one small group in Michigan just as I had seen the home groups in Chicago conducted. Can you give us some idea of just how our training came about?
PHIL: As you know, Dr. Low's office, where he maintained his large private psychiatric practice, was at 30 North Michigan Avenue, just a few short blocks from Recovery headquarters. Starting in 1948, almost every afternoon about 3:00 or 3:30, Dr. Low would leave his office and walk down to join us around the table at headquarters where we gathered every weekday. This was after my third hospitalization. I was earning my living as a musical instrument salesman at the time, and worked mornings and evenings. I attended the afternoon sessions at headquarters regularly. Sometimes, Dr. Low would be there for about half an hour, sometimes a little less, before returning to his office where his private patients were waiting to see him.
TREASURE: I'm sure that Dr. Low didn't suddenly announce, "Now, I'm going to train you as a leader for a completely self-help panel!" How did he train you? Exactly what did he do?
PHIL: He trained me by demonstrating and, of course, through repetition. He constantly stressed certain things. For instance, he would be listening to what we said about our difficulties and someone would be rambling on with a discussion of Recovery. Then, Dr. Low would stop us and ask that we give a specific situation. He would remind us that Recovery principles must always be illustrated with an example . There must have been dozens of times that he drew this to my attention, until it made an indelible impression on me that this is what Dr. Low, the medical director developing the techniques we were using, wanted from us. Then, as the leader of the panel, it soon became my own conscious habit to remind the members of this when he was not there.
TREASURE: We have to keep in mind that this training took place over a period of at least four years. That it was a gradual process. I can see that this topic is going to provide us with enough material for several issues. It dovetails with the Recovery Method we practice away from the panel meetings, and undoubtedly will lead us into other subjects as we go along. What else can you tell us about your training by Dr. Low, Phil?
PHIL: Well, after a specific example had finally been given by a member, Dr. Low might make a few brief statements about the particular difficulty mentioned. Then, Dr. Low would usually ask the person who gave the example if he had spotted his symptoms as "distressing but not dangerous." Sometimes, he would point to another member and ask what progress he or she was making in overcoming the habit of self-diagnosing. Most of all, I became aware of the great stress Dr. Low put on controlling the fearful and angry temper. As the months and years of my apprenticeship went by, I'm sure he asked questions about temper hundreds of times. Another thing that he stressed was the improvement different individuals had made in Recovery. He would point out the great difference between before and after their Recovery training in their ability to control angry and fearful reactions.
TREASURE: It's plain to see how the structure for the panel gradually developed, with you taking your cue from what Dr. Low demonstrated and stressed as important. After this structure became more clearly defined, we have the four steps of the example, don't we?
PHIL: Sure, that's just the way it evolved, and then Dr. Low wrote it down just as it's read at the start of each panel meeting today. By the way, you know that the example that he used on the example form sheet was taken from page 183 (ed note: page number from original edition of MHTWT) of Mental Health Through Will Training. Not only do we follow this four- step procedure at the panel meetings, but it is the same four steps we are to follow in our own practice on the street, at home, in our place of employment, etc. It is essentially the Recovery Method. (ed. note: the example sheet was changed slightly during the 1990s to delete the references to the specific example referenced above ).
TREASURE: I'm sure that many Recovery members don't understand this, and they wonder why we read the form before the first example at our meetings. Last year, during a visit to an area in the south, Doug Elbert gave the simple explanation that the four steps of the example are the Recovery Method. Afterward, one member told me it was the first time she realized why the four steps were important. Prior to Doug's explanation, she had questioned the necessity of reading the example sheet before the first example at each meeting. Now, she had a whole new understanding of what Dr. Low had fashioned for us in the self-help method. Phil, can you sum-up what we have tried to bring out in this article?
PHIL: I'll be glad to. First--that the Recovery principles must be illustrated with a specific example. Second--that we should stress the spotting of our symptoms as distressing and not dangerous. That is, we are not to indulge in self-diagnosis. Third--that we are to spot the temper, both the fearful and the angry varieties, and to control our reactions. Fourth--that we should notice the comparison with before we had any Recovery training. In fact, the control of temper is not complete unless there is self-endorsement, which leads to self-approval and self-respect.
In those years when I was being trained as the leader of the self-help panel, I would say that these were the points most stressed by Dr. Low. Of course, there are many, many more things that we'll bring out in future articles.
TREASURE: You also mentioned how Dr. Low helped the members of your panels to participate by asking questions of them. This was the panel technique that made such a lasting impression on me when I attended a panel you led in 1952, at Recovery's headquarters. I knew there were some important differences in the way you led the panel on that day from what I had previously observed. Do you remember how I collared you after the meeting that day?
PHIL: I sure do! You asked to meet with me at headquarters the next morning to explain to you just what was so different about the panel from the way you were used to seeing it conducted. Maybe, this would be a good place to begin in the next issue.
TREASURE: Yes, I think it would be a good place to start because it was those self-help procedures that were responsible for the expansion that took place in Michigan in the following two years. See you in the next REPORTER.!
TREASURE: Well, Phil, I'm eager to get on with our discussion of the development of the self-help panel. You recall that in the last issue of The Reporter, you mentioned that I had asked you to meet me at Recovery headquarters because I had noticed a change in your leadership of the panel.
PHIL: Yes, we were discussing that I really was not aware of any abrupt changes because it had been such a gradual process of development under Dr. Low's supervision. Was there something specific that you noticed?
TREASURE: There were several things, but mainly it was a shift of emphasis that caught my attention. My training in leadership had taken place during the very early development of Recovery and, at that time, the leader was considered more of an authority--deriving this authority directly from Dr. Low. In those days, Recovery was still professionally supervised by him. For instance, most of the members of the Brighton, Michigan group, which I started in 1947, had either seen Dr. Low in his Chicago office or, I had asked him questions concerning their training in Recovery.
PHIL: As I recall, you had only one small group in Michigan, and it remained fairly static with mainly the same members for several years.
TREASURE: That's right, our meetings were very informal; we were a close group, meeting in my home. We related our examples to one another and discussed the Recovery literature. Then, the Detroit Free Press, which has a large statewide circulation, published a full-page feature on our little group. Overnight, we were swamped with letters from people wanting to join Recovery. In fact, 36 people showed up at our next meeting; one of them a minister who offered his church parlor as a meeting place. Forty people attended the following meeting.
PHIL: As the leader, what was your reaction to this sudden influx of new people?
TREASURE: I was at a loss to know how to conduct this meeting with all those "strangers". I gave an example, and someone else bravely gave kind of a testimonial. Then, a newcomer started to ask questions--how long had it taken me to get well--how did he know I was well--how long would it take him to get well? The nervous symptoms I was having right then made me wonder how long I would have to suffer before that meeting would end! I phoned Dr. Low the next day and bombarded him with questions--"what if this takes place--what if that happens--what will I do if...?"
PHIL: What did Dr. Low have to say about all of this?
TREASURE: He laughed and said, "From what you tell me, Treasure, you are now in touch with hundreds of people who need Recovery. Your 'what ifs' can best be answered if and when the problems take place, then, we will take care of it. In the meantime, can you come to Chicago and attend more of Phil's afternoon classes?" I said I could--and I did--shortly thereafter. Perhaps, it was our needs in Michigan which made the changes in the panel seem so significant.
PHIL: Just exactly what were the changes, and how did you feel these changes would help you?
TREASURE: Well, the panel, as you led it, had taken on much more structure than I had seen before. The emphasis now had been shifted from the leader to the members of the group and to their interpretation of how the Revovery principles could be applied to the example. By then, 1952, Dr. Low had developed the panel into the self-help panel as we know it today, with the emphasis on the group, rather than the leader. As I observed the technique, I noticed that every once in a while you would ask a question about fearful temper or self-diagnosing. And, I noticed you glancing at your watch and reminding them when their five minutes for giving the example had come to an end. The one thing that helped me most was what I called the "questioning technique". As a leader, I could see that it wasn't necessary for the leader to expound on any particular Recovery principle. It was far better to ask a question and then allow the group to think it through for themselves.
PHIL: Yes, those were the fundamental leadership techniques that I picked up from Dr. Low's demonstration as he trained me in self-help panel leadership. But, perhaps, it still isn't clear how you felt this would help Recovery in Michigan. Can you elaborate just a little?
TREASURE: With the emphasis shifted from the leader to the group--and with a definite structure to follow--I knew that several of our Michigan members could be trained to help the group follow the procedures Dr. Low had developed. New groups could be started and each member could then participate in an atmosphere of self-training and mutual aid. The leader's responsibility would be to demonstrate his own practice and to help the group stay within the structure.
PHIL: In actual practice, how did it work?
TREASURE: The rest is history, Phil. Recovery in Michigan grew and grew and, I'm proud to say, is still growing. But, let me point out some other important results of that particular visit to Chicago. While I was there observing your leadership techniques, Dr. Low pointed out to me that each member would have to rely on his own physician for professional help and, that the authority for self-help would be in Recovery's literature and the group procedures. He comforted me by saying he was extremely pleased with developments in Michigan. He also said that he would be sending you to help us train leaders so that we could form groups for those on our waiting list.
PHIL: He was as good as his word--I believe I made seven or eight trips to Michigan for training sessions that year!
TREASURE: You sure did! It all sounds so much easier than it really was. You really have the patience of Job with us, Phil, reminding us again and again of the group procedures as you had learned them from Dr. Low. Actually, we fumbled and blundered a lot before we found the solution to training leaders. Maybe, in a future article, we could bring out some of those experiences and you can tell us about the developments in Chicago and other parts of the country.
PHIL: Sounds good to me! This is an important part of Recovery's history. It was during this time that Dr. Low finally turned the organization over to its members. I'll be looking forward to getting together with you in the next issue!
TREASURE: This time, I'd like to discuss a subject that is always difficult to talk about in our organization. Since Recovery is completely self-help, many of our members find it difficult to even bring up the subject of professional help.
PHIL: We should realize that because Recovery stands for self-help, and nothing more, there are services that our organization is not equipped to offer in matters of mental health. Diagnosis, treatment, medication, counseling, advice, etc., must be provided by professionals. And, it is well to remember that Dr. Low, who founded and developed the self-help method, was a psychiatrist.
TREASURE: Having been trained by Dr. Low, and having worked so closely under his supervision, as we mentioned in our last articles, Phil, you would naturally have a great deal of respect for the professional.
PHIL: It really goes deeper than that, Treasure. Having been a mental patient under Dr. Low's professional care, I know very well that had it not been for his professional treatment, I would never have been capable of availing myself of the self-help training offered by Recovery. You see, as I have mentioned so many times, prior to my Recovery training, I was taken to a psychiatric hospital against my will on three different occasions for treatment of mental illness. It was not until after my third hospitalization that I began attending the group meetings at headquarters every afternoon. In addition, I continued to see Dr. Low for professional treatment once a week.
At that time, I was still subject to delusions, though I was not aware that my thoughts were delusional. One afternoon, when giving an example, I began to discuss some of these ideas, not realizing that I was out of touch with reality. Someone on the panel said that they wouldn't know how to apply Recovery principles to the things I was talking about. The group then refused to allow me to continue with my example.
TREASURE: That was really a good way for the group to handle it, wasn't it?
PHIL: Yes, you might say, they handled it by refusing to handle it.
That afternoon when Dr. Low dropped in, someone told him about the example I had tried to give. He took me aside, and asked me to see him in his office that afternoon. Later, in his office, he told me that I should not attend the Recovery meeting the next day, but should meet him at the hospital for treatment.
TREASURE: By that time, you had some Recovery training. Did it help you in this situation?
PHIL: It certainly did! First of all, I understood my need for professional help was not a triviality; I willingly cooperated with Dr. Low. And, I had learned that my self-diagnosis of hopelessness; my prognosis that I would continue to return to hospitals for the rest of my life; and my fearful temper concerning treatment, were all nothing but discomfort. Finally, it had become my belief that the discomfort I experienced was a triviality. In contrast, the fact that I needed treatment was not a triviality, and I had to accept the authority of a professional regarding that need.
I guess you've heard me say it countless times, but it was then I learned to become a legitimate patient able to cooperate in taking care of my mental health; just as everyone should look after their physical and mental health. As you know, Recovery people tend to make their own diagnoses. It is important that we understand that this is sabotage. We are stepping into the physician's role. His part is to supply the field diagnosis--our part is to accept that diagnosis.
TREASURE: Can you tell us just a little more about how Recovery's self-help training aided you while you were under treatment? Specifically, how did you cooperate with Dr. Low?
PHIL: Well, for instance, I learned that by simply moving my muscles, I could go get the treatment I needed without working myself up. I learned that I could reject my previous belief--"once mentally ill, always mentally ill". I could experience the memories of past hospitalizations, and endorse myself for bearing the discomfort of those memories, without the fear of permanent handicap. When the thought came to me, I simply did not have to accept the belief that I would continue to be taken back to hospitals for the rest of my life.
TREASURE: At that time, did the stigma still bother you?
PHIL: Not really, you see by that time, I had learned to deal with the stigma through my Recovery training. I had learned to reject the ideas of self-blame and shame in connection with my mental illness. Instead, I could exchange that old belief for one I heard from Dr. Low at Recovery meetings. He told us that mental illness should be thought of in the same way that we think of pneumonia, or any other physical illness. It also helped me to do my part, to take responsibility for self-leadership in the trivialities of my everyday life.
TREASURE: I'm so glad that we have the opportunity to bring these important Recovery techniques into focus. Recovery is receiving more and more referrals from professionals who provide for their referred patients the type of help you received from Dr. Low. It is important for us to keep our efforts strictly within the realm of self-help at our group meetings. We must continue to remind ourselves, and others, that it is good practice to seek professional help for those conditions that are not trivial with regard to our mental health.
PHIL: As you said, this is a difficult topic for discussion. It involves distinguishing between what is trivial and what is not, and the realization that when needed-as my personal experience taught me--professional help is not a triviality!
TREASURE: Well, we've run out of space again. See you in the next issue.
PHIL: Okay, see you then!
TREASURE: Phil, I have become very interested in Recovery's first self-help publication, "The Retriever". Since we mentioned it in a previous article, I've done some research and I'm sure our readers would like to learn more about the beginnings of what we know today as The Recovery Reporter.
PHIL: Yes, I really think they would find it interesting. Writing this series has recalled to me how excited we were about our creative efforts in gathering the news, editing, writing, mimeographing, and distributing our little paper on the wards of the Psychiatric Institute when I was a patient there in 1941.
TREASURE: From what I've read, Dr. Low was also pretty excited about this self-help development, wasn't he?
PHIL: He sure was! He was so pleased that we had the initiative to go ahead with the project and he felt it was quite an accomplishment that we were able to involve nearly every patient, even if they only said a few words that we could print in The Retriever. Four of us acted as the "news gatherers"--my title was, "head news gatherer". We did our news gathering at breakfast, lunch, dinner, when movies were shown, and at the social gatherings when members of our families would visit us. And, of course, we did some news gathering right on the wards talking with individual patients about things we thought might be of interest to our readers.
TREASURE: I'm simply fascinated with some of the articles I've read in The Retriever, and particularly with the humor. I just can't resist sharing this one with our readers. It was called, "Approved Etiquette For Guests Attending the Friday Teas".
Stand by the door with a cup of tea in one hand and a sandwich in the other so the guests can see at a glance that there are free eats.
In winding up the greeting a variety of facial expressions can be used such as arched eyebrows, friendly smile, homely grin, or glint in the eye-depending upon how charming the guest is.
Guests bringing their own food must share with other guests. Do not let guests take home the dishes. Suggest that we want the dishes to welcome them with next week.
If guests spill tea, don't make them clean the floor. Just call Mike R. and he will be glad to do it, (we are using initials for last names since we cannot get permission from these individuals on such short notice to use full names).
Always remember to make sure that nurses have enough to eat. Miss M. and Miss J. especially are shy after about the third and fourth helpings.
From Vol. I, No. 8, 1941 of The Retriever
TREASURE: I loved the tongue-in-cheek approach of this little sample. Of course, there were also more serious articles.
PHIL: Yes, often they dealt with one of the meetings conducted by Dr. Low-we would sum-up the concepts he had emphasized at the meeting.
TREASURE: Before we use up all of our space again, Phil, let's share with the members Dr. Low's thoughts about The Retriever. In some of his writings, he mentions so many of the self-help ideas that he connected with the publication of The Retriever.
PHIL: One of the articles he wrote about it appeared in "Lost and Found", Vol.4, No.4 which was the official publication while Recovery was still with the Psychiatric Institute of the University of Illinois. It's a fairly long article so we won't be able to include all of it in this issue, but will continue it in the September-October issue of The Reporter".
TREASURE: I'm sure Recovery members will value Dr. Low's basic concepts as he brought them out in these articles. To me, it's like touching home base when we go back to our origins as an organization and hear what our founder thought about some of the things we take for granted today. In the next issue, I would like to continue our discussion along this line.
PHIL: Fine with me, Treasure. See you then!
PHIL: We'll have to cut our article short again this time, Treasure, to leave room for more of Dr. Low's article about our first self-help publication called The Retriever.
TREASURE: His views are most interesting, especially his comments about how this activity was helping the patients on the wards.
PHIL: Of course, to get a clear picture everyone must understand that what we did was completely separate from the professional treatment all of us were getting at that time. I was very much aware of the fact that I still needed treatment, if I was going to continue to improve and possibly be discharged from the hospital. We were not allowed to instruct or teach our fellow patients. We simply demonstrated.
TREASURE: Exactly how was this done?
PHIL: Probably the most important principle we demonstrated was averageness; that it is still average to have a mental illness, just as it is average to have pneumonia, asthma or any other physical illness. For instance, on the wards, talking directly to patients I would tell them how I was beginning to accept my mental illness as average and beginning to look at my delusions with more objectivity, that is, more the way Dr. Low and the resident physicians might look at them.
TREASURE: You were demonstrating something to yourself too, weren't you? I've noticed that when we discuss a Recovery principle, we listen to ourselves as we say the words. This fortifies our own beliefs, but did the other patients always accept what you said?
PHIL: Of course they didn't. We were told not to try to influence them in any direct way, but because we were newsgathering for The Retriever we would encourage them to say a few words. Let's say a woman patient might say that her husband was coming to the movies to be shown that night in the Activities Room, and that she was going to try to look real pretty for him.
TREASURE: I see, so you would put that statement in The Retriever that "she was going to try to look real pretty". This would demonstrate that she was probably making some effort to get well.
PHIL: That's right! This "news".."in Print" somehow helped us to demonstrate not only to her but to the others, that she was improving. It helped her to look at her illness a bit more objectively.
TREASURE: I think I see more plainly than ever before how we help ourselves and others as we do some of our organizational work. This paper called The Retriever was brought into being as a means of self-help . Just think of the opportunities if afforded this woman: She would have a chance, first to say it, to listen to her own words, then to read it in The Retriever, (we all like to see ourselves "in print"). No doubt there would be even some discussion among all of you after the paper came out about the contents. And certainly there was realistic pride that such a publication could be started, and managed by patients.
PHIL: Dr. Low brings this out in his article, I believe, so let's stop here and leave plenty of room for his words on the subject.
TREASURE: Very good. In the next issue, Phil, I would like to find out a bit more about those relatives who did visit the activities at the hospital and then also how you were finally able to demonstrate this healthy attitude towards mental illness outside the hospital during those days when there was much more stigma attached.
PHIL: Find with me. I'll talk with you then.
NOTE: Following is the completion of Dr. Low's article, "The Self-Help Spirit Enters the Wards". The first part of this article can be found in Dialogue Part VIII .
TREASURE: In our last conversation you were about to tell us how you were able to demonstrate the Recovery principles to relatives who visited patients on the wards of the Psychiatric Institute where Dr. Low was beginning to formulate the Recovery self-help method. It was in your capacity as news-gatherer for the little self-help newspaper called The Retriever.
PHIL: Well, two or three times a week, afternoon teas were given and the relatives were encouraged to attend. It would have been very easy for each patient to simply sit at a table with his own relative, somewhat in isolation from the others who were gathered for the teas. But Dr. Low encouraged those of us who were working on the newspaper to circulate. So we made it a point to sit, for instance, at the table of a newer ward patient whose relative or relatives were present. After a few amenities we would bring out the fact that, although Recovery didn't tell us to shout it from the house-tops that we have been mentally ill to everyone who would listen, it did definitely make it clear to us that it was of great importance that we should not BLAME ourselves for our illness; that there was no disgrace in being an improving mental patient still in the hospital. We were able to demonstrate to the relative, to the other patient AND to ourselves that we should not feel stigmatized, one of the most important of the Recovery principles!
TREASURE: You news gatherers provided help for Dr. Low in reaching these relatives. Would this be written up in The Retriever?
PHIL: Well, sure, the afternoon teas were often a subject we wrote about. In fact there is a humorous side of it brought out in My Dear Ones, where one of the writers poked some fun at one of the nurses in attendance. In the case of the relatives we probably would mention that one of the patients had said he sure enjoyed the afternoon tea and the friendly spirit there was on the wards, and that he had learned to think of his illness as being average, after meeting other patients who spoke about their mental difficulties without shame.
TREASURE: I know Dr. Low was on the right track, Phil. Every time you folks talked about the sense of shame attached to mental illness, and brought out the Recovery principle that no one must be held responsible for an illness he has contracted, you weakened your own stigma and strengthened your own belief in the realistic fact that it is an illness, the same as pneumonia or asthma are illnesses. In the final analysis that's what we discover, as we get our training in Recovery. . . . most of the sense of shame resides right within our own thinking. Once WE lose that sense of shame, then we are much better able to handle any residue of stigma that may still be left in this world.
PHIL: The talking about it and writing about it in The Retriever certainly helped me to also be indifferent to the stigma when I finally was asked to accompany Dr. Low on a demonstration panel before the members of the staff of the Chicago State Hospital, and the relatives and friends of the patients there. This took place within about a month of my discharge from the Psychiatric Institute. It was much easier to demonstrate averageness because I had learned to speak fearlessly about my illness.
TREASURE: How did you demonstrate averageness at the panel demonstration?
PHIL: By not only giving an account of how I had improved but also by walking up and shaking hands afterwards with many in the audience. They were all strangers to me but I demonstrated that I considered myself an average member of the group, and not as a person who thinks of himself as exceptionally undesirable because he has been mentally ill.
TREASURE: But, Phil, you are such an outgoing person anyway, this was probably easy for you.
PHIL: At that time, I can assure you, it was not at all easy for me! I had never spoken in public and especially into a microphone. I remember in The Retriever it was written up something like this: "Phil spoke out at the Chicago State Hospital in a voice loud and clear about his own recovery from mental illness." As a matter of fact I recall that my voice came through a little TOO loud over that speaker. But Dr. Low reminded me that my loud voice was a triviality and that I should be giving myself credit for my good effort in demonstrating the Recovery stand against the stigma.
TREASURE: I can see how much leadership Dr. Low gave in this matter of the stigma. But also, Phil, you patients were the ones who had to speak out bravely and demonstrate again and again, in order to dislodge your own sense of stigma. In that day and age this was a rarity. You folks blazed the trail for the rest of us and we're grateful.
PHIL: It seems to me we have dealt with this idea of stigma in several of our articles. Next issue we'll go on to other matters where Recovery principles are important. But I agree with you on the vital importance of ridding ourselves (and as much as possible our relatives) from the stigma. It is a basic point.
TREASURE: Next issue, Phil, I would like to discuss My Dear Ones by Neil and Margaret Rau -- we both have been receiving mail from all parts of the country about it.
PHIL: Fine. No question about the impact that book is having and will have--and it certainly ties in with the history that you and I have been discussing. See you then.
TREASURE: The book My Dear Ones (Ed. Note: My Dear Ones was published in the fall of 1971) continues to cause quite a stir in Recovery, Phil. Just last week, I received a long distance call from a person who no longer attends meetings. He was reading the book on his lunch hour and felt he just had to talk with someone and share the profound feelings of gratitude and wonder the book had aroused in him.
PHIL: This has been a common experience. We have received many letters as well as phone calls. There is no question about it...the book has had an impact on our entire membership, both past and present!
TREASURE: Many of the Recovery Reporter readers may not have been present when the authors, Neil and Margaret Rau, appeared at our national conference last November, shortly after the book was published. When they were asked to come forward to the podium to say a few words, they walked down the aisle to thunderous applause from the several hundred Recoveryites in attendance and the spontaneous standing ovation continued for some time after they had been standing quietly facing the audience and ready to speak. I looked around and noticed through my own tears that quite a few others were experiencing a similar response. Neil passed away shortly after their return from that trip to Chicago. But he knew how Recovery folks felt about the book.
PHIL: Probably the best evidence Neil and Margaret had, that they had authored a sensitive book, were the admiring letters they received from Dr. Low's own family, including his two daughters, Phyllis and Marilyn.
TREASURE: As we view the future, knowing this book will continue to be in focus both inside Recovery and before the public at large, I can't help but think how differently it could have turned out. Supposing it had turned out to be a book that did not accurately portray the character and goals of our organization?
PHIL: Well, it sure would have been a different story! As it is, our 35th Anniversary will feature My Dear Ones as its theme this coming November. That's because we are proud of the book and want to take it to the very heart of our organizational life. I've already mentioned, also, that I sent copies to 38 of my relatives and friends. I think the book will awaken in all people who read it, their own desire to help those suffering from this ailment.
TREASURE: I've tried to figure out the reasons for its remarkable success, Phil, especially with our membership. I think one of the reasons is the fact that Neil and Margaret attended our meetings for three years, they listened to all of the tapes and records, interviewed dozens of members, attended all of our national conferences and their local leaders' training meetings. They actually became one of us.
PHIL: That's true, but even more than that I feel the success of the book can be attributed to the fact that My Dear Ones revives in our minds the great cause Dr. Low established when he founded Recovery.
TREASURE: Right! I believe it is this great cause that makes that book live. First the Raus captured the strong character of Dr. Low, albeit a human being, and painted very vividly the picture of this great man struggling against heavy odds to help the unfortunate patients who could not speak for themselves.
PHIL: I wonder if all the Recovery Reporter readers understand fully what we speak of when we mention this great cause?
TREASURE: Why don't we let Dr. Low spell it out himself, Phil? We can quote from an article he wrote in 1954. Not only does it bring out the close feeling between Dr. Low and his patients, which inspired the title of the book, My Dear Ones, but he gives a very definite charge to Recovery's leadership on the direction expansion should take.
PHIL: O.K. Here are pertinent excerpts from the article -- then let's see how we're doing with direction!
PHIL: We have made good progress with this direction only in the past few years.
TREASURE: Here I must bring out, Phil, that you, more than anyone else (and sometimes as a lone voice) kept this issue alive in the minds of Recovery's leadership! Now My Dear Ones revives and underlines for everyone what you have spotlighted for us all these years. We owe you so much, Phil.
PHIL: Well, thank you. I am very gratified with the way we are moving in this direction. Of course, we've had to bide our time until the entire mental health movement began to catch up with Dr. Low's ideas.
TREASURE: That's true. But we have now instigated programs and geared ourselves to work in cooperation with the work only the professional can do. The combination of professional help and self-help is what is needed to prevent relapses -- which was the objective Dr. Low mentioned in this article. Our leadership is being trained to carry this out.
PHIL: Yes-- again, of course, it is the local person who must do the work at the group level. Dr. Low turned this expansion over to the membership, as you will remember. He removed himself as a participant, but said he would help us if we needed him.
TREASURE: This brings up the concept of "our work", the efforts of the volunteers. Next issue let's explore this subject.
PHIL: Fine, Treasure. It is a subject close to my heart.
PHIL: It occurred to me, Treasure, that instead of discussing the volunteers in Recovery (as we announced in the last issue) we ought to talk about the vitally important fact that Dr. Low constructed the completely self-help panel in 1952 as separate from the book Mental Health Through Will Training.
TREASURE: You meant to say, "Dr. Low constructed the self-help panel completely separate from the book", didn't you, Phil?
PHIL: No! That's exactly the point I wish to make. The word "completely" belongs in front of the words "self-help". Until 1952, all of the panel discussions were supervised by Dr. Low - both in Chicago and in the out of town branches.
TREASURE: Yes, I see what you mean now. Even the so-called "home groups" here in Chicago, which Dr. Low did not attend, were supervised by him and therefore not completely self-help.
PHIL: That's it, Treasure. As you know most of the members were Dr. Low's patients. All of the leaders were personally selected by Dr. Low and authorized by him. The leaders reported regularly to Dr. Low and he reserved the right to attend the meetings anytime, although he did not do this.
TREASURE: This was true also in our branch group in Michigan. We patterned our only group after the "home groups" in Chicago and perhaps my experience, as a leader, being supervised by Dr. Low, will illustrate what took place even in a group almost 300 miles from Chicago. Of course, most of the reporting that I did was by phone or by letter. But I should start by saying that nearly all of the Michigan members traveled to Chicago to see Dr. Low in his office. Then he would write or phone me about them and instruct me about them. I saved all of his letters to me, beginning in June of 1947. His last letter to me was dictated from his hospital bed shortly before he passed away in 1954.
PHIL: These letters from him certainly would show how he carried out some supervision of the members in the groups.
TREASURE: Let me quote from one letter: (about a woman from Brighton) he said: "With her the main problem is to stop her from self-diagnosing . This is the predominate factor which keeps her from relaxing." Needless to say, at the meetings I tried to emphasize this point with her in her examples. But, Phil, as you well remember, the examples at that time were not nearly as well structured as they became in 1952 when Dr. Low finally settled on the four steps, which he published at that time. We often had just rambling discussions about Recovery principles.
PHIL: That's right. In reading Mental Health Through Will Training this becomes apparent. Some of the examples don't really follow the four steps. But can you give another quote or two from Dr. Low's letters?
TREASURE: Well, another member I had written about had some symptoms which seemed different to me. Dr. Low wrote back that I should ask him to be examined by a physician since the symptoms could be neurological. Here's another quote which was interesting: "I hope to have results with ___________ but it is decidedly an uphill affair. I think you will be in a better position to get results than I am." He believed very strongly in the self-help system that was emerging, Phil. Of course, even though we are writing in this issue about the completely self-help panel being created separately from the book, Dr. Low did stress the literature in his letters to me. Do you think he did this because it was the main link between him and the patients so far away seeking help? Did it provide information that they could get in only this way?
PHIL: No, I don't, Treasure. He often stressed the importance of the book, and other literature, in Chicago too. And I hope we are not giving the impression that I want to de-emphasize the importance of Dr. Low's writings. The literature is a written exposition of the Recovery principles but is NOT the panel. It was after he had developed the panel which required no professional supervision that he was able to relinquish his control of Recovery.
TREASURE: That certainly is true. Since the self-help panel came into being, instead of leaders having to be selected by a professional (Dr. Low), all leaders have been selected by other leaders and authorized by our Board of Directors, all of these people being former patients themselves and definitely not professionals! Going back to those letters from Dr. Low to me in Michigan, it was about 1953 that he began to stress the importance of the panels at Headquarters. He called them "Phil's classes" or "Phil's training course". He would urge me to have certain members who were having a lot of difficulty to come to Chicago to attend those meetings every afternoon at headquarters. It was not for leadership training in this case. He had seen the excellent results that were being obtained by patients who had the advantage of the completely self-help training.
PHIL: I remember some of your Michigan people being in Chicago from time to time.
TREASURE: Well, Dr. Low was careful not to play down what they received in Michigan in the way of help, but he did stress the Chicago panels. He said, in one letter, "Generally speaking the patients seem to have derived a great deal of benefit from your training but I have no doubt that attendance at Phil's training course is invaluable for any patients coming for consultation." And in another letter: "Remember: Patients should be made to realize that the Chicago training courses are of the utmost importance! It should be a two week period whenever possible." He made many references like his in his letters, Phil, but he showed the most satisfaction with the completely self-help feature when he was in the hospital and not able to be at Headquarters at all. In his last letter to me he said: "Here in Chicago the patients don't by any means fall by the wayside (because of Dr. Low's illness) instead they cling more tenaciously to the panel meetings. This has, of course, been a source of great satisfaction to me.
PHIL: Yes, Dr. Low was extremely pleased when he saw that Recovery could continue without his personal supervision. But we also know that he began to relinquish control of Recovery with the express understanding that the self-help procedures he had developed and refined in 1952 would be followed by all those who would be authorized by Recovery, Inc. to start groups. He naturally would not want the organization he founded to take responsibility for procedures he had not included in his self-help aftercare system.
TREASURE: We have always been aware of this in Recovery, Phil, but perhaps never more than we are at present. Recovery is getting an unprecedented amount of professional acceptance and cooperation, which means we are now dealing with many more patients in the first stages of after-care. Many of them are brought to our community groups before they are released from the hospital. Leaders in Recovery everywhere must make absolutely sure they are following self-help procedures established by Dr. Low. With this in mind we are placing leadership training in a first priority capacity. We will put more emphasis on this than ever before in our history.
PHIL: Which is all very gratifying to me. And it brings us right back to our topic for this article. The book and other literature written by Dr Low are very important because they contain information about the Recovery principles. But many of those attending Recovery may still be too preoccupied to read more than a few sentences a week. As long as they make some sort of effort to read and to practice Recovery, then they should be able to take part in our panels. And it becomes especially important for leaders to ask questions in order to bring out the four steps of the example and the simplicity of Recovery. In the spotting, the leader must not allow different members to just recite long phrases from the book, because the book cannot be the guide to all members practicing self-help. The PANEL is a demonstration of what to do and how to do it in a given example. The FOUR STEPS ARE THE RECOVERY METHOD. In other words the book, as important as it undoubtedly is, is still not the living example of what to do and how to do it. The panel is!
TREASURE: Does this mean that you are saying, Phil, that you don't approve of members quoting from the book and other literature?
PHIL: It's not really a matter of approving or not approving, Treasure. Of course, members will quote from the book, or a tape perhaps. And there is no question about it, if they quote accurately then they are Dr. Low's own words and therefore good Recovery. But if the leader doesn't make sure that the simplicity of the Method is brought out in each example, then it becomes simply an exercise in showing how much the members can recite from memorized phrases. By the time six or more panel members have brought out six or more principles, there will be too much for the new member and especially the severely preoccupied member to digest.
TREASURE: Out leadership program is concentrating then, Phil, on bringing Dr. Low's procedures for the completely self-help panel to every group Recovery authorizes. Much of this will be done through the leaders, of course, but I hope in our series we can also let the members of the Recovery groups know what those procedures are.
PHIL: This will be a great benefit to everyone, I'm sure, because it definitely is the way to learn about SELF-leadership 24 hours a day. See you next issue.
TREASURE: It won't be long, Phil, until we'll be celebrating Recovery's 35th Anniversary and YOU will be the guest of honor!
PHIL: It will be a very meaningful occasion for me. When we all gather at The Palmer House we will see how widespread Recovery has become. We expect a large turnout.
TREASURE: Not only have we grown in size - we have also grown in stature as a respected institution in our own right giving responsible service within our self-help status. But getting back to that guest of honor business - it's about time we really officially told you what you have meant to all of us. You have contributed inspiration, encouragement and continuing good demonstration of Recovery practice to every single area in the country.
PHIL: Well, it has been an inspiring occupation for me.
TREASURE: It has obviously been good for you, Phil. I believe you are even more full of life and energy than when we first met 25 years ago. Do you feel that the work in our organization has been a help in improving your mental health?
PHIL: Yes. This job has provided me daily contact with other Recoveryites in learning the application of the Recovery Method and it has given me a golden opportunity to meet and deal with all kinds of situations that have developed my own self-leadership. As a former mental patient I feel this has all been of great help in improving and maintaining my mental health.
TREASURE: I've had the same experience. My own efforts in the organization work have helped me in the same way. I suppose as we happily celebrate our 35th birthday as an organization it would be good for us to keep in mind the seriousness of our purpose...mental health...that's what Recovery is all about.
PHIL: It may sound trite, but I agree...it is a good time to get back to basic Recovery.
TREASURE: Basic Recovery...those are good words! I am reminded of an article published in Volume I of Selections from Dr. Low's Works, entitled "The Philosophy of Recovery, Inc., Order, Beliefs and Convictions". On Page 56 (Ed. Note: of the original volume), he states: "Strange as it may sound, the philosophy of Recovery is based unqualifiedly and unreservedly on this matter of belief. All its techniques have for their aim the intention to plant in the patient's mind the correct beliefs (about nervous health) offered by the physician and to purge it of the false beliefs held by himself. The reason for our almost fanatical preoccupation with the subject of beliefs is that it is they, which either order or disorder the lives of human beings. With us in Recovery it is an axiom that while a nervous ailment is not necessarily caused by distorted believes, nevertheless, if it persists beyond a reasonable time, its continuance, stubbornness and "resistance" are produced by continuing, stubborn and "resisting" beliefs."
It seems to me Dr. Low capsules a great deal in that one statement and makes a strong statement from which we all can profit. This is basic Recovery.
PHIL: As you know, Treasure, Dr. Low said we suffer from our beliefs.
TREASURE: Ask any Recoveryite, at least early in his training and he will tell you he suffers from symptoms, not beliefs.
PHIL: Well, of course, we have the discomfort (which Dr. Low often called torture) of symptoms but it's what we believe about that discomfort that spells the difference. Our own self-diagnosing beliefs that our symptoms are dangerous as opposed to the physician's diagnosis of a harmless imbalance is what is hard to give up. We cling to the beliefs that we can't stand it, that we will never get well, etc. Distressing but not dangerous.
TREASURE: We've heard it so often in Recovery it sounds very simple, almost trite.
PHIL: Nevertheless, I think the 35th Anniversary is a great time to renew this old but ever new basic philosophy of Recovery. Dr. Low never ceased to emphasize this matter of beliefs, along with temper -- both the fearful and angry. Self-diagnosing and temper -- they will always be basic to Recovery and they were included in the four steps of the example as constructed by Dr. Low in 1952.
TREASURE: Temper always brings us back to beliefs . . . the belief that someone has to be right or wrong in the trivialities of daily life, or that we are wrong to have a nervous condition. Dr. Low brings out in the article mentioned the fact that we form convictions as well...not only beliefs.
PHIL: Our conversation about the organization's 35th Anniversary has led us along a path that deals with the Method. You just can't separate the organization from the Method and our purpose.
TREASURE: As we approach our 35th birthday a rededication to the basic philosophy of Recovery is a good idea. See you next issue, Phil.
Expansion in the State and Veterans Hospitals
TREASURE: Well, Phil, as we approach Recovery's 35th Anniversary celebration what's on your mind for this issue?
PHIL: What I have in mind is the goal Dr. Low set for Recovery, of offering our Method to all who have need of it...including, of course, offering it to the patients from state hospitals so they will have a method to show them how to prevent relapses.
TREASURE: We state it in our pamphlet as "making Recovery available to all who have need of it."
PHIL: True. But I think we need to do more than make it available. We need to offer it. In a brief article written by Dr. Low (an excerpt from which is republished in this issue, entitled "Reflections on the Expansion Drive") (Ed. Note: The portions of this article are part of the 11th Historical Dialogue) you will note that Dr. Low uses the word "offer," not "make available".
TREASURE: In other words you are stressing Dr. Low's use of the word "offer." As I think of it, I realize that you are not just splitting hairs. I think you are correct! We can make it available from now 'til doomsday, but if we don't actively offer it to the state and veterans' hospitals, we may very likely be by-passed because we have failed to do all we can to cooperate with them. How can we offer it, Phil?
PHIL: Well, at the present time some areas are or have been approaching those professionals who are in charge of state and veterans' hospitals for the purpose of offering our Method to discharged patients. We have been giving demonstration panels for both the staff and patients (in many locations for several years now). But the most encouraging indication to me that we are beginning to really offer our Method to the state hospitals is the fact that several groups have now been started either directly across the street from the hospital, or in a nearby location. There are arrangements made with the hospital for them to take responsibility for seeing that patients, about to be discharged, get to a Recovery group meeting. Some of these groups are led by people who were formerly patients in the same hospital.
TREASURE: We are encouraged by this development and you have clarified for me a very important point. There has been confusion about what we mean by cooperation with hospitals. Some have felt that groups must be started within the hospital itself. But with the groups mentioned above, Recovery stays in the community, as a self-help after-care method, as it was intended by Dr. Low. And with the excellent cooperation we have been getting from professionals, I think we have found a way to offer AND make available our Method through a mutually cooperative effort with professionals.
PHIL: Those professionals who have seen this arrangement work out are certainly in agreement that Recovery should keep its base in the community. They feel we can best serve their patients there. Those areas which have had this experience are quite satisfied that this is the approach to use.
TREASURE: I'm sure it is only a matter of time until all areas will follow the lead of those who have started projects, Phil. When this happens then we will certainly be offering Dr. Low's method to the state and veterans' hospitals all across the country and in Canada.
PHIL: Of course, as this program develops it will become even more important for leaders to be thoroughly trained in the group procedures that Dr. Low insisted on. Our Leaders' Training Committee is hard at work developing our plan of action to see that this is carried out.
TREASURE: Recovery's Board of Directors is completely backing this program, as the Leaders' Training Committee works closely with you, Phil. All Recovery members will hear more about it as we make progress with it.
PHIL: As we plan our 35th Anniversary get-together, I'd say this is probably the best news we can think of. The fact that Recovery has grown; that we are having success is being recognized by professionals -- these are both items of good news, of course. But even more gratifying to all of us is the fact that we are accomplishing the direction which Dr. Low mentions in the article we are reprinting in this issue.
TREASURE: Thanks, Phil, for making it clearer as to what Recovery has to do to follow Dr. Low's wishes on this. As he says in the article, "We have the method and we are eager to offer our services to the hospitals." We now have the experience of having those offers accepted by state hospitals, which cooperate in sending patients to our Recovery groups established nearby.