The Arc Jacksonville?s Psychosocial Rehabilitation Program (PSR) provides therapeutic education in a group setting for individuals with an intellectual or developmental disability that have also been diagnosed with a mental health concern.The program also provides services for adults without I/DD.

Participants take part in group therapy sessions that provide the opportunity for open dialogue with their peers to discuss what?s happening in their community and how they fit in.?During these sessions counselors stress independent living and social skills. The utilize role playing to give participants practical application of the various skills.

Participants are also taught the different signs and symptoms of their own diagnoses as well as other common mental diagnoses. Armed with this knowledge participants learn how to better manage their own behavior as well as be able to help others who may also have mental diagnoses.

?Mental Health is probably one of the most misunderstood issues in society,? said Lisa Austin, PSR Program Manager. ?Many (participants) are afraid to let people know they have mental diagnoses. They are afraid of how they will be treated when overall they want to be treated like everyone else,? she said.

Participants work with counselors to set goals on an annual basis and these goals are evaluated every six months. These goals are based on the individual?s needs and range anywhere from forming positive relationships with others to finding employment to living more independently.

The program strives to make everyone?s experience unique, based on individual strengths and goals. The aim of PSR is to help participants live an independent life in society. ?I hope that they?re able to grow within the program and do better than society expects them to,? said Austin.

Success Stories

? The PSR program helped a gentleman land a steady volunteer position with The Jacksonville Zoo. Through his experience in the program he learned social and communication skills like speaking more slowly and clearly and how to handle confrontation. Initially he attended the PSR program three days a week. Due to his success in the program he now only attends once a week and volunteers with the zoo four days of the week. He hopes that volunteering will eventually lead to a paid position.

? A woman came into the program battling depression and substance abuse. As her time in the program came to a close, she was able to secure employment and use the skills she learned to continue to address her substance concerns through meetings. She checks in regularly with the Mental Health staff, and they proudly enjoy seeing the increase in her self-confidence.

Written by: Alexandra McClain, AmeriCorps Development VISTA