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Changes 12 Steps Philosophy

"Although by no means a comprehensive account, the following hopes to give a flavour of Changes philosophy..."

CONTENTS  A more accurate and positive view of mental health | We Are User-led | Changes works with, rather than on, its users | Take Action | Changes is hands on | Holistic | The ultimate goal of Changes service is self-reliance | Get on with your life | Empowerment | All different, all equal | Optimism concerning members | Users are listened to and taken seriously | Users are treated like ordinary people | Cooperation | You're a person not a label | Nature/Nurture | There are no quick fixes

For Changes recovery is a process, an attitude, a firm belief, that, through use and development of personal resources, you can overcome the symptoms of mental distress. 

Thus, embracing 'recovery' promotes independence, personal autonomy and development, raises self-esteem, confidence and personal aspirations, enabling you to lead a more fulfilling and purposeful life.

A more accurate and positive view of mental health

According to official statistics, 1 person in 4 will experience emotional and mental distress each year. Consequently, mental distress affects us all, either directly or through those we love.

Therefore, suffering from mental distress is a very ordinary and human experience.  We ask you to think of mental health and mental ill-health as a continuum, and that everyone slips from one to the other, (for some, it is simply a question of degree).

Rather than being ashamed or stigmatised by your mental distress, Changes asks you to try and integrate the experience into your life, to understand and make sense of what has happened.

depressed man at work

We Are User-led

Changes is a truly democratic organisation, with users having access and input into all areas.

You can nominate yourself to join Changes Executive, and become part of the management body responsible for decision and policy making.

Your knowledge, opinions and needs will be taken into consideration regarding the development of Changes services.  Changes firmly believes that the only way to improve it's service is to listen to and act on the comments of those who use it.

As well as having a role in devising Changes service, you can become involved in it's delivery. During group meetings the emphasis is on mutual help  you are both the helper and the helped. Often it is ëthe messenger not the messageí  there is nothing more effective than being offered guidance, encouragement and support from someone who has had similar experiences to yourself  someone credible and sincere.

Changes works with, rather than on, its users

Rather than being infantised and dictated to, Changes users are treated as partners in their own care and treatment.

· The emphasis is on mutual help, with users working in partnership to help each other, and acknowledge the value of each others contribution.

· There is direct participation and contact between Changes users and staff.

· As well as reference to Changes programme during group meetings, users are encouraged to draw on their personal expertise - particularly as someone who has had to live with a mental health problem.

Take Action

Rather than being a passive recipient of treatment, Changes effort and commitment on your part, i.e. for you to become actively involved in your own recovery.

Mental Health Charity

Changes is hands on

As well as enabling you to find your own solutions, Changes service is directive.  With reference to Changes 12 step programme and the shared experience of fellow group members, you will be offered guidance, encouragement and support.

Often this involves saying 'This worked for me, why not try it yourself?'.


The Changes programme addresses the whole person, i.e. it adopts an holistic approach - working with your physical, emotional, social and spiritual well-being

The ultimate goal of Changes service is self-reliance

At Changes the emphasis is on recovery and personal growth.  Through following the programme your will develop your personal resources to the stage where you are able to cope (and ultimately thrive) on your own.

As a follow-on users generally attend for what has been termed 'mental maintenance'  that is to
stay in recovery and to retain their mental fitness. Some users go on to train as Co-ordinators and run their own group.

Get on with your life

One of the main aims of Changes is to enable you to get on with your life.  Through following Changes programme you will gradually recover from mental distress, enabling you to maintain relationships, sustain a home, have a social life, stay in or return to work, and to participate more fully in your community.


When you experience mental health problems you are often confronted with powerlessness - the feeling that you have no control over a situation.

Changes programme is empowering - for it enables you to use your own abilities to regain (or retain) control over your life, including managing your problem and taking responsibility for your own decisions and actions.

Thus, rather than being powerlessness, you gradually get the power to :

· manage your problem and so ease our distress

· gain some control as a user of the mental health services

· gain some control as a citizen of a wider society

All different, all equal

The ethos of the Changes service has always been one of equal opportunities, as reflected in our equal opportunities policy which underpins our entire organisation.

It ensures that no one is discriminated against in terms of gender, age, sexuality, race, disability, religion and so on.

In Changes we respect each others views and lifestyles, no one judges or gives you a lecture, you're accepted for who you are.

Changes is aware that users often experience simultaneous discrimination  i.e. where discrimination through poor mental health is extended due to gender, age, sexual preference, race, disability etc.  Being treated as an equal in Changes community encourages you to have similar expectations in the wider society.

Optimism concerning users

At your Changes group there is a sense of excitement regarding using the programme and pooling users skill and expertise to promote individual recovery.  Sadly, within other services this is not always the case, where pessimism and being treated as inferior can be so disempowering.

At Changes there is optimism:

· having a label slapped on you, being told that you have a chemical imbalance/will never work again etc are disempowering blows.  In contrast, Changes helps you to realise that it's not all over, asks you think about possibilities for change and recovery, encourages you and shares in your aspirations.

· you are reminded that you are the same person you were before your problem surfaced - and that learning to manage your problem will enable you to do everything you did before plus more!

· you are encouraged to credit yourself with staying in recovery, in spite of symptoms, problems with medication, occasional hospitalisation, social stigma, low income etc.

· you are encouraged to credit yourself with progress in particular to acknowledge your own efforts in achieving recovery i.e. that it's not all down to tablets or experts.

Users are listened to and taken seriously

Having a mental health problem often leads to traumatic experiences (due to symptoms and/or treatment) it is empowering to have them listened to and taken seriously.

Anything discussed at a Changes meeting - symptoms, treatment, emotional matters, problems with relationships or where we live etc - is listened to and reflected in the response and advice given.

Likewise, any comments, compliments or complaints are taken seriously, there are no token gestures, the Changes organisation is truly user led.

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Users are treated like ordinary people

By treating users as ordinary people, Changes enables them to realise that they are ordinary people! and that their problem is only a small part of who they are.

· enabling members to have a cup of tea and a chat either before of after a meeting

· making room for discussion of 'everyday things' in the meeting

· encouraging attendance at Changes social events where users are able to talk and interact as people, rather than people with problems,

These are all important parts of our recovery.


Whenever possible Changes works in partnership with other organisations - particularly those working in the field of mental health.

Changes works alongside other organisations regarding the planning and provision of mental health services.

As part of Changes programme, users are signposted to other relevant services.

You're a person not a label

Labelling means attaching a psychiatric term to a person experiencing a mental health problem.

Changes encourages you to see yourself as a person not a label. Whilst labels can be useful for psychiatrists, providing a common language for research, diagnosis and treatment, the effects on the individual are predominantly negative.


Rather than the neuro-psychiatric model, which states that mental disorders have a physical cause, Changes adopts the view that who you are results from a complex interaction of both your nature and nurture, (i.e. your genes and the environment in which you live and were brought up).  Simply, there are learned as well as genetic components of any form of mental distress.  By definition, what has been learned can be unlearned, this forms an important part of the recovery process.

Also, you are taught that the genetic components of your problem can be controlled or compensated for through use of reason and free-will.

There are no quick fixes

Changes appreciates that long term problems often require long term solutions.  For that reason, Changes service is open and open-ended, i.e. no referral is necessary, and you can attend for as long as you want to.

Whilst medication can sometimes play a part in
recovery, it can only do so much. 

As a user of Changes service, you will learn to understand and value your own efforts in recovering from
mental distress.

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