Jan Waters integrates 16 Guidelines at Kawartha Lakes branch of Canadian Mental Health Association

I became aware of the 16 Guidelines beginning in October 2008 when I began to attend courses at the Centre for Compassion and Wisdom in Burlington, Ontario.  At the time, I was unemployed and looking for work.  I have a Master’s Degree of Science in Counseling Psychology and am a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor.  I was very impressed by the curriculum and the ideas it contained.  Further, during that time of my life which was very difficult, I found an inspirational and positive home at the centre and learned a great deal from Dekyilee Oldershaw through taking a variety of classes.  I was truly blessed through these experiences and feel I grew as a person.

I was hired by the Canadian Mental Health Association in May of 2009 and started work as the Program Manager in Kawartha Lakes, Ontario.  I was very eager to find ways to introduce the 16 Guidelines to the community.  I moved to Canada with the hope of working in a rural or remote community and to work towards uplifting the community through the promotion of positive mental health within the community at all levels and all ages.  I feel as though the 16 Guidelines provided an excellent framework for this sort of a project. 

Last summer, I had the opportunity to attend some more intensive training on the 16 Guidelines at the centre in Burlington which was led by Dekyilee.  I went with the intention of learning more so I could bring the guidelines to the Canadian Mental Health Association.  

In July, I held a Self Esteem workshop for the community of Kawartha Lakes at the local library.  Instead of using the usual curriculum, I spoke about the first wisdom focus on how we think and we discussed the four guidelines about how we think.  This workshop was very well received.   

On September 24th, I held a day long training with all of the agency staff where I used the format that was taught by Dekyilee and introduced the guidelines to the agency staff.  It was a smashing success.  Agency staff members were incredibly enthusiastic about the guidelines.  Staff members themselves came away saying they felt they had experienced personal growth and that they wanted to delve deeper into the guidelines.  During the day long training, we discussed ways to integrate the guidelines into our work, ways our clients could benefit from the guidelines, and ways that the community of Kawartha Lakes, Ontario, could benefit from the guidelines.  We came up with a number of ideas that we hope to pursue.  Last week, I approached the mayor of the City of Kawartha Lakes and set a meeting with him.  My hope is to bring the 16 Guidelines training to the city personnel and then to use their enthusiasm to bridge it out into the community as a whole.  Our staff were hoping to create billboards about the 16 Guidelines that people would see on their way into the City of Kawartha Lakes.   Our branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association is posting the 16 Guidelines on our website.  We also plan to approach the local radio station, Bob FM, about doing short radio spots about the 16 Guidelines for the community.  We will continue to review the guidelines at our staff meetings as well.  We are planning an drop in group which will be based upon the guidelines, where one guideline will be introduced each week followed by an open discussion time.  We also plan to hold coffee shop sessions about the 16 Guidelines in a community coffee shop. These are just a few of the hilghlights.  We generated many more ideas.

As I mentioned before, I am currently running a Dialectical Behavior Therapy group.  There is a section in Dialectical Behavior Therapy regarding meaning making.  In this section of the Curriculum, for this group, I dispensed with the traditional slides and worksheets on meaning making and, instead, I discussed the Fourth Wisdom section on how we find meaning and encouraged the group to explore the four wisdom guidelines with one another.  This resulted in an excellent dialogue with group members and seemed to go a long way to building group cohesion.  I think the positive focus was part of success.  I think it was really vital because the group is composed of individuals who struggle with severe anxiety and depression and we could really see the individual’s countenances change as they spoke about, read about, and saw stories and videos about aspiration, principles, service, and courage.  Individuals who are mired in anxiety and depression tend to have very narrow, tunnel vision and the world tends to condense around their problems.  This format was a wonderful way to expand their focus and open their worlds.  It was quite effective. 

I am also using the 16 Guidelines in conjunction with a behavioral concept that I use quite frequently in my work.  The behavioral model is quite simple…it is the concept that our Thoughts, Actions, and Emotions are all linked and any change in one will impact the other two.  Further, they are shaped by our overall belief system.  Drawing this out in a triangle is a tool I use frequently in helping people see connections and effect change.  I am now overlaying the 16 guidelines on this model so that we can always be aware that we can effect change on two levels, immediate change as well as deeper change.  So, now, when I talk about people’s beliefs, I encourage staff to tie the belief systems into the four ways of finding meaning: Aspitation, Principles, Service, and Courage.  Then, in my triangle model, I add the “How we Think” to the thought point, the “How we Act”, to the “Behaviors” or “Actions” point, and “How we Relate to others” to the Emotions point.  This is sort of a working model and I just only started toying with it over the past few weeks.  But, in consultation with one of my staff members today, it really helped her to frame the work she is doing with a couple of her clients.