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For over twenty years, Another Way has operated a community center in Montpelier that offers peer support, advocacy, resources, and crisis response to psychiatric survivors and people at risk of psychiatric intervention. Our homelike atmosphere is a place for people to relax and connect with others, learn how to live in community, share meals, attend support gatherings and educational workshops, create art and music, garden, build support networks, and access phones, computers, and other vital resources. We also provide information about benefits and services, and we maintain a small library with alternative and critical perspectives on mental health and psychiatric treatment. We are open every day of the year with special celebrations on holidays. We see about 80 unique adults in a week and about 30 in a day.
At Another Way, relationship is our prime service. We consider peer support an informal process – not something "given" from staff to non-staff, but rather an expectation amongst everyone who visits our space. We have lots and lots of conversations. People get involved in one another's lives in meaningful and often lasting ways, and there are as many ways of support as there are needs and personalities.
There is not a context of "mental health" at Another Way, though we do speak of the place as being "for psychiatric survivors." People are not working out "mental health issues," but rather being in relationship with one another, using resources, relaxing, creating art and sharing meals, challenging one another to think in new ways, and giving and receiving wisdom.
This is a crucial distinction between Another Way and traditional service providers. In traditional mental health services, there is the implication that something is "wrong" with users (mental illness) and that "help" should be provided to them (treatment). While that context may be useful for some individuals in some ways, we do not start with the assumption that anything is "wrong" with people at our center, and people are free to act how they act without threat of being labeled, denigrated, or prescribed an intervention.