The Karate Kid…by Lori Ashcraft

Lori AshcraftLast Christmas my brother, whom I love dearly, gave me a membership to a karate club.  Yes, I was as surprised as you might be to hear this. I’m sure the karate instructor was equally surprised when he read the application my brother sent in.  It probably read something like this: “My sister is getting older and I want to make sure she can protect herself if the occasion arises to do so. Enclosed is her membership fee.  Please teach her self-defense maneuvers.”

I was moved that my brother wanted to protect me, especially since he STILL occasionally brings up how I used to punch him when we were little.  Honestly, I don’t ever remember punching anyone, ever. So a few weeks ago I trotted off to my first karate self-defense class. I sat in the parking lot for about 15 minutes before going in, feeling too old to do this; too slow, to creaky, too unwilling.  Then I got out of the car and went into the karate gym. The rest of the class were people in their teens and twenties.  They all had their little karate outfits on, black pants and shirts and so forth.  Quite unstylish if you ask me.  Oh Yes, and of utmost importance were the belts.  They had different colored belts on, all of which meant something significant to all but me who didn’t have a clue.

I might just be projecting this on to the instructor, but he seemed perplexed to see me. I thought he must be thinking the same thing I was – “oh no!” Anyway, he politely showed me around before the class and then said the worst thing imaginable. He said, “Now, you don’t have to keep up with the class.  Just do what you can.”

“humph!” I thought.

After class on my way home, I remembered all the times the peers I’ve had the pleasure to work with would say, “I don’t want any special accommodations.  Hold me to the same standards you hold the other employees.” After “the excuse” the karate instructor gave me, I really understood what they were saying and why they were saying it. I didn’t appreciate the instructor assuming that I couldn’t learn the moves. I didn’t want permission to be a slacker. If I was going to put myself through the agony of showing up for a class where everyone one else was young enough to be my grandchild, where we learned to fend off attackers; where we learned to “pop kick”, role on the floor, escape a bear hug – If I was going to do all of that, I certainly didn’t want to be assigned to the role of someone who probably couldn’t make the grade.

The second class felt much like I know it feels when a peer goes to work for the first time in a clinical setting.  Everyone else seems to know each other. They have their short-cut language filled with “trade” words that meant nothing to me. They were all dressed alike (except for me who wasn’t going to buy one of those black baggy outfits). They all seemed to know what to do and went about doing it. They knew I was there but didn’t quite know what to do with me. I was different. The instructor counted us and said, “Oh good, ten of you, an even number so we can pair up.” Actually there was elven of us, counting me, whom he did not count. Once everyone got in pairs, I shrugged and looked at the instructor and he assigned one of the staff to work with me.  I wanted to go home so bad.

Fast forward a couple classes, and yes, I am still going back. The instructor does not know my name yet, but he will. I’m getting pretty good at some of the moves. I pay close attention to the demonstrations, which is more than I can say for my teenage counterparts. I have no delusions about being the star student or teacher’s favorite, but I’m going to keep going back until my membership runs out.

If any of this sounds familiar to you – if it sounds like your work situation, know that you are not alone.  This is part of what it takes to evolve a new profession like peer support. My resent karate experience reminds me just how hard this can be. So let’s just all keep going back, day after day, class after class, until we are recognized as a serious contributor and force to be reckoned with. And then we will politely bow to the others, like we do in the karate class, an honor the spirit that lives and breathes within each one of us.




Creating a culture of compassion….

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When someone really hears you without passing judgement on you, without taking responsibility for you, without trying to mold you, it feels damn good….

When I have been listened to and when I have been heard, I am able to perceive my world in a new way and to go on. It is astonishing how elements which seem insoluble become soluble when someone listens.”

~~ Carl Rogers


“Investigate kindness then love.
I’m still working on kindness.”
~~ Pat Hayes



He who wants to do good knocks at the gate;
he who loves finds the gate open.”
~~ Rabindranath Tagore


“It isn’t difficult to make a mountain
out of a molehill,
just add a little dirt.”


“Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers
but to be fearless in facing them.
Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain,
but for the heart to conquer it.
Let me not look for allies in life’s battlefield,
but to my own strength.

Let me not cave in.”
~~ Rabindranath Tagore


“When I stand before thee at the day’s end,
thou shalt see my scars and know
that I had my wounds and also my healing.”

~~ Rabindranath Tagore


“He who is too busy doing good
finds no time to be good.”
~~ Rabindranath Tagore


“There are days when you seek
the company of your solitude, and your
solitude just wants to be left alone.”
~~ Robert Brault


We may not have it
all together, but together we have it all.

~~ unknown


Quote on Recovery to Practice X

“Recovery-oriented practices are based on an appreciation
of each person’s right to determine, to author, his or her own life
[and of] the central role that choice plays in defining who and what we are …

Implementing high-quality and effective psychiatric rehabilitation
and other evidence-based practices is not enough
to accomplish transformation if the status and role
of people in recovery is not also dramatically transformed
from that of a passive ‘mental patient’ to that of an empowered citizen.”

~~ RTP Project Director Larry Davidson, PhD

About this page of quotes….

Words of wisdom, humor, and deep meaning can inspire us to find hope and overcome challenges. This page is devoted to encourage you and others to move beyond mental health issues toward a better life.

Share this page with others.
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Steve’s Blog

This is the blog of Steve Harrington, NAPS’ executive director. While Steve is extremely passionate and serious about peer support, he is much less so about himself. Here, you will find an intermittent rambling of news, updates and sometimes irrelevant information.


If you have suggestions or comments, please contact Steve at:



      Wow! We really shook things up in Raleigh! That little earthquake we felt had everyone’s attention for a few minutes. Thank heavens we had a participant from southern California who put our minds at ease regarding safety issues. Then we had to worry about hurricane Irene. Good thing we had Katy Castro from Puerto Rico (where hurricane’s are relatively common) who provided wonderful travel and safety advice. Hmmm. It seems natural disasters are following us!

Despite those disasters, the conference went very well. Our presenters were well-received, new friends were made and plans are already underway for next year’s event.

I am sitting in my living room in Boston listening to the wind howl and rain smatter against my windows. The worst of Irene is supposed to hit in a few hours but, so far, she isn’t posing much of a threat. I spent most of yesterday preparing for the big storm that is likely to be just a whimper. Oh, well. At least the waves on the ocean are bigger than usual. I wonder if now would be a good time to take up surfing?

Some exciting things are on our horizon! We have begun a wellness initiative, thanks to support from Lauren Spiro and Wanda Finch from SAMHSA. In addition to the presentations and line dancing at the conference, we are launching a series of informational endeavors that will tie in nicely to the Recovery to Practice project. Lyn Legere, training director at the Transformation Center in Boston, has agreed to be our “point person” for the wellness initiative.

Although the Recovery to Practice Project will take me away from the Alternatives Conference (the first time in many years), I will have the opportunity to foster collaboration with psychiatrists at a conference in San Francisco. And I must say that I remain optimistic and hopeful that the project will result in long-term collaboration with not only psychiatrists but psychologists, psychiatric nurses and social workers as well. Yes, this is indeed a great time to be part of this profession!

The wind is picking up and my buddy, Zack, is calming his hamster, Kiki. I guess I should batten down the hatches and prepare for Irene. What’s next? Locusts? Forest fires? Volcanoes? Oh well, challenges are opportunities for learning. Right now, I’m learning to be flexible and change plans on a moment’s notice!



Between a trip to Spain to help that country establish a peer support program and an urgent family emergency, I’ve been pretty busy! Spain was tremendous. The scenery and people were great and, of course, so was the food. I presented at a symposium and met with various government officials. There are a handful of peers working in support positions in that country but, by and large, it is a new concept. They seemed especially interested in my little story of recovery. The audience was primarily psychiatrists and I’m not sure if they really grasp the reality of recovery. After the symposium, I took some time to visit Madrid. Really impressive architecture and art galleries. Now, it’s back to catching up with conference details! While I was away, I managed to write a little article about acting on one’s plan to immprove his/her life. It may appear in a future NAPS newsletter. But writing it made me think about my many friends who have goals but do not go beyond their comfort zones to pursue them. It also made me think about how I have or have not challenged fears about changing my life for the better. Yeah, I guess we all could do better! Hope your week is a good one! Steve



     Whew! It has been a busy month! In addition to planning for the annual national peer specialist conference, I have been traveling the country helping organizations learn about recovery and adopt recovery practices. Jacksonville, Florida was the most recent recipient of my “wisdom.” Soon, Delaware will hear my words of recovery. I often joke around but spreading the word of recovery is really most serious. And it is an honor to be asked to help organizations start peer specialist programs or adopt recovery practices and policies.

The recent annual conference for the U.S. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association (USPRA) was held in Boston, where I now live. I found myself incredibly busy but had time to meet new peer supporters and learn about what others are doing. One of the tasks I performed was presenting a poster session at the conference. I was responsible fo explaining the Recovery to Practice (RTP) project. In this endeavor, five mental health professions (psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, social workers and peer specialists) are coming together to spread the word of recovery. It is a most exciting project. Funded by SAMHSA, it is indeed a heavy responsibility to represent peer specialists.

At the end of this month, Bill Anthony, director of Boston University’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, will be retiring. Bill is generally regarded as the “father” of recovery. In the mid-70’s, when others still believed persons with psychiatric conditions could not overcome them, Bill was busy learning about the reality of recovery and spreading hope. Through research and writing, Bill was a powerful force in the recovery movement. We all owe a great debt of gratitude to Bill for it is through his work that we have established the reality of recovery and moved so far so quickly.

Bill is world reknown for his expertise and is highly respected. But he is a very humble person. He usually munches on peanut butter sandwiches washed down with Pepsi for lunch. Although Bill says he will not “disappear” from the psychiatric rehabilitation field he largely founded, his constant presence will be missed. I am so very fortunate to call Bill my “friend.” And the times when I dropped in at his office down the hall for an impromptu chat will be missed. But we have plans to meet periodically for lunch. You’d better believe I’m going to be sure those plans actually happen!

I leave for Spain in a few days for ten days of meetings and sight-seeing. Then, it’s back to conference planning. And, right after the conference, a delegation of mental health professionals from Italy are coming to the U.S. for a coast to coast tour of psychiatric rehabilitation programs. I have volunteered to co-ordinate the Boston leg of that visit. Will I ever learn to say “no?” But when you find what you do so rewarding, it is difficult to step aside.

Have a great couple of weeks. I’ll blog again when I return from Europe! ~~Steve



         As we near our conference, life just gets busier and busier! With each conference, word about peer support and NAPS spreads. That means more memberships and requests for information. We try to do our best providing information and we have plenty of it. The problem often arises when we get a request that simply asks: “Send me everything on peer support.” Sorry, but we really can’t do that because we have SO MUCH! If anyone needs information, it would help greatly if the request was more focused on a particular topic. Of course, if someone is looking for basic information, there are great sources online to refer people to, such as the SAMHSA website ( as that government agency has an excellent report, “What is Peer Support” available as a free download.

NAPS and peer support is becoming well-known around the world. We have helped peer support programs form and develop in Japan, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. Next month, I’ll be traveling to Spain to do the same. In the U.S., speaking engagements will take me in the next few months to Florida (twice) and Delaware. It continues to be an exciting time to be involved in peer support!

But I am reminded by friends that life is about much more than peer support. Sometimes we must stop to smell the roses. Last week, I had a chance to do that with my friend, Zack. We were in California for a conference but found time to visit wonderful Vietnamese shops and restaurants and bicycle along the beach. We enjoyed squadrons of pelicans and a hot tub with a group of fellow peer supporters.

Stay tuned! Although the times are challenging, there a many great things coming our way! ~~ Steve



         It’s been a very busy few weeks! Requests for membership information are increasing and conference planning is in full swing. And the Recovery to Practice project appears to be going well as we have completed a second draft of our situational analysis. SAMHSA staff and the staff of the Development Services Group, which is the primary contractor, are all very helpful and supportive. They (as are we) fully dedicated to bringing more recovery knowledge to mental health professions.

We continue to spread the word about peer support. In June, I’ll be in Spain for a week-long series of meetings intended to bring a peer secialist program to that country. Japan appears to continue to make great progress in developing a powerful program. Here, in the U.S., Indiana peer specialists are gear up for their first-ever conference to be held in Indianapolis on April 15.

Everywhere we turn, it seems, great progress can be found–even in these difficult economic times.

If you have not yet done so, I hope you will complete the 2011 Compensation/Satisfaction survey found on this website. This information will help us advocate for better pay and workig conditions so please help us out!

Spring is just around the corner–I know it is! With the change of seasons comes new hope and energy. Thanks for all the wonderful work you do! ~~ Steve