Experience Transforms Practice:

A Course on Liberatory Mental Health Care

Offered: Fall 2018 - Spring 2019

At the Institute for the Development of Human Arts, we support holistic health, self-determination, human connection, advocacy, and honor lived experiences. How? By ditching the “medicate and separate” paradigm, applying a critical lens to what we consider mental illness, and teaching the most supportive, liberatory, and transformative practices out there.


We are offering a comprehensive course series That will enable YOU to:

✓ Discover frameworks that combine human rights perspectives with peer work, empowerment, and new practices that liberate rather than separate

✓ Learn from experts, authors, leaders, and individuals with first-hand experience about how to practice transformative mental health care

✓ Become a change-maker in your field


We value lived experience as highly as professional training, so each course will be led by both a mental health clinician as well as a someone who identifies as a survivor, a mental health service user, and/or someone who has experienced a mental health crisis. This means you receive holistic and nuanced perspectives from experts by trade and experts by experience.

Who is this Course For?

This course is for mental health professionals, including but not limited to: clinicians, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, peer specialists, recovery support specialists, housing specialists, nurse practitioners, students, and others who work or plan to work with and around people who experience mental health-related issues.

Do you offer Continuing Education Credits? 

Yes! We do offer Continuing Education (CE) credits to individuals with certain credentials FREE of charge. To receive CE credits you must enroll in at least one class (4.5 CE HOURS PER CLASS) and email us at contact@idha-nyc.org with your credential and license information. Click here to find more details on CEs.

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How long is the course?

The course is comprised of 7 sessions, with 5 hours of instruction per session. The sessions take place once per month on Saturdays (one class is held on a Sunday), and  will take place from October - April.

What’s the Daily Schedule?

Each session will present you with both new frameworks and easily implementable skills that will critically transform the way you provide mental health care. Each session will follow this schedule:  

10:00- 12:30: Morning Session

12:30-1:30: Lunch Break

1:30-4:00: Afternoon Session

Do I have to sign up for the full course/all 7 sessions?

No. You may sign up for the full training or pay per class. You will save 30% if you sign up for all 7 sessions. 

Where are the Sessions located?

17 Battery Pl. 13th FL New York, NY 10004

Are you live streaming or offering online versions of this course?

Although we will not be live streaming the sessions, we will be offering online versions of these class topics throughout the season. If you live outside of NYC, stay tuned for online class opportunities! Sign up for our mailing list to get notified about online class opportunities in 2019.

Are you Offering Scholarships?

Yes, however, the deadline for scholarship applications has ended.

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The History of the Mad Movement & Alternatives to Biomedical Approaches

October 20th 2018:

Celia Brown, NYCPS,
Lauren Tenney, Ph.D, MPhil, MPA,
Brad Lewis, MD., Ph.D,
Sascha Altman DuBrul, MSW
Issa Ibrahim
Jonah Bossewitch, Ph.D
Jazmine Russell, NYCPS
Peter Stastny, MD

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Time: 10:00am-4:00pm
Location: 17 Battery Pl. New York, NY 10004

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Mental health in New York City -- and the United States at large -- is in a state of crisis. Contemporary practice is driven by a dated paradigm that reduces mental health conditions to disorders of the brain, while erasing the numerous other factors that impact our mental health (e.g. trauma, adverse life experiences, socio-economic status, social exclusion, discrimination, and lack of access to important resources).  As a recent report by a UN Special Rapporteur indicates, the prevailing biomedical model has contributed to the exclusion, neglect, coercion, and abuse of those who experience mental distress, while showing few positive results to justify its measures.


For at least three decades, organized movements led by current and former users of mental health services have played a critical role in calling attention to the failures of traditional mental health services to meet their needs and secure their rights. However narratives driven by those of us lived experience have not yet reached a critical mass. Today, many researchers and clinicians are beginning to understand the complexity of factors that influence mental health outcomes, and are calling to reform the way we diagnose and treat individuals.

There is a push to promote an overall narrative of mental health that addresses contextual determinants, empowers rights holders, fosters independence, eliminates stigma, and gives a voice to current and prior mental health service users. As we apply a critical lens to the “medicate and separate” institutional model, and promote new frameworks for understanding mental health, we create the potential to produce a mental health system that will truly make a difference in the lives of those it seeks to serve.

This class will explore:

  • An overview of the political and social landscape that bolstered the biopsychiatry model from the 1980s until now

  • The widespread impacts of big pharma, the marketing of psychotropic medication, and cultural reforms in response

  • Alternative frameworks for understanding mental health (e.g. social, trauma-informed, and generative)

  • A brief history of the mad movement and human rights reform in mental health

  • The power of lived experience and listening to the voices of survivors of trauma and adversity.


Trauma, Growth, and Resilience: Redefining Trauma-Informed Practice

November 4th 2018 

Dr. Noel Hunter, Psy.D,
Marie Brown, M.A., Doctoral Candidate in Clinical Psychology

Time: 10:00am-4:00pm
Location: 17 Battery Pl. New York, NY 10004


What do we mean when we use the term “trauma-informed”? Trauma and the PTSD diagnosis are used to distinguish mental health concerns that stem from adverse life experiences from those that are considered a biomedical disorder. However, current research suggests that trauma may play a bigger role in mental health than previously known. In addition, the term “trauma” may not fully capture the diverse range of  life experiences that can result in extreme mental and emotional states.

This class will provide a diverse overview of trauma alongside actual stories of lived experience and practices that survivors have found helpful in their own healing processes. The class will also serve as an exploration into current research as it pertains to rates of adversity and trauma in people diagnosed with mental illnesses (especially those considered “serious mental illnesses”) and substance-use; findings within the neurological and psychological research on the cognitive and neurocognitive effects of trauma; and concrete guidance around how mental health professionals can practice better trauma-informed care.

By the end of this session, you will learn:

  • Which types of trauma are legitimized and which are “hidden” and unrecognized in society

  • How trauma relates to systems of oppression and violence such as racism, homophobia, sexism, institutionalization, poverty, and others.

  • The ways in which psychological distress often arises an adaptive reaction to trauma, as can be seen by documented rates across diagnostic categories (including the “serious mental illnesses”)

  • How peer-led services can empower and heal trauma survivors

  • Non-invasive trauma informed skills and interventions to bring into your therapeutic practice to provide more holistic support

  • Post-traumatic growth models and the ways in which healing from trauma is related to personal expansion

The workshop will include various practical approaches to working with trauma, including the hearing voices, psychodynamic, and cognitive-behavioral perspectives.


Making Meaning from Visions & Voices: How To Support People Through Altered States and Finding Solid Ground

December 1st 2018

Facilitators: Nev Jones, M.A., M.A., Ph.D, Katrina Michelle, LCSW, ACMHP, Ph.D, Jazmine Russell, NYCPS

Time: 10:00am-4:00pm
Location: 17 Battery Pl. New York, NY 10004


In our current mental health system, being diagnosed with a ‘psychotic disorder’ or ‘schizophrenia’ is akin to a life sentence of medication and/or inpatient treatment. However, extreme and altered states of consciousness (experiences such as visions, trance states, unusual beliefs, altered realities, voice hearing, intense elation, etc.) have not always been pathologized and labeled as serious mental illnesses to be treated with intensive medical intervention. Altered states can be ecstatic, blissful, and peaceful; they can also be traumatic, disruptive, and frightening. Almost always, extreme states have the potential to be revolutionary, generative, and meaningful for individuals and mark profound effects for one’s life, well-being, and future.

Current treatments for what is often labeled ‘psychosis’ are invasive and often cause further harm and isolation to both the individual and their family. Although evidence-based support (including psychotherapy) for individuals who experience altered states are virtually non-existent in the U.S., early interventions do exist and have proven radically effective for supporting individuals in leading full and autonomous lives. Such interventions are generally delivered in community settings, and engaged both the family and social networks to address the experience holistically.

This session will introduce participants to alternative frameworks for understanding altered states and experiences often labeled 'psychosis' through the lens of lived experience and network-based therapies. We offer a variety of strategies for providers to support others through the often difficult process of navigating these experiences, engaging with the personal and cultural narratives attached to them, and the process of making meaning from these experiences.

We will explore:

  • Generative and non-pathologizing models, such as spiritual emergency, post-traumatic growth, and human potential

  • Strategies and tools for working with individuals who are experiencing altered states to help them feel safe, supported, autonomous, and capable of wellness.

  • The complex intersections of culture, race, history and mental health, as they intersect with altered states and the diagnostic categories of 'psychosis' and 'schizophrenia' 

  • Learning strategies for collaboratively navigating the cultural embeddedness of support, diagnosis, and explanatory frameworks used to describe altered states.


Working with Dangerous Gifts: Reframing Bipolar Beyond Symptom and Cure Mentality

Jan 12th 2019

Facilitators: Sascha Altman DuBrul, MSW & TBA

Time: 10:00am-4:00pm
Location: 17 Battery Pl. New York, NY 10004

Defining ourselves outside convention, we see our conditions as dangerous gifts to be cultivated and taken care of rather than as diseases or disorders needing to be ‘cured’ or ‘eliminated.’
— From the original Icarus Project Vision Statement
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Language is incredibly powerful: it can leave us imprisoned in labyrinths build by others, or equip us with the tools to liberate ourselves and those we aim to support. For many people who are diagnosed with “mental illness,” clinical diagnoses can feel like a trap within a story that is impossible to escape.  There is an incredible lack of imagination in contemporary mental health discourse. This session seeks to re-imagine our language in the service of liberating not only ourselves and those we seek to serve, but also our larger society.

By the end of this session, you will learn:

  • What do we gain or lose by referring to ourselves as “mentally ill”?

  • How does the current movement in mental health towards “recovery” and “anti-stigma” both distance us from the medical model and keep us thinking in a framework of “mental illness”?

  • How does the use of psychiatric drugs fit into a framework of Dangerous Gifts?

  • Are there potential dangers of using this metaphor irresponsibly that mask serious conditions?

This class is for mental health workers who are interested in creative ways of exploring experiences that are often labeled “mental illness” outside the medical model framework, and who want to put their visions of change into practice.  This session will provide the opportunity to respectfully explore the complexities of personal identity with regards to traditional medical labels, as well as new and meaningful language. You will walk away with a framework for thinking about mental health experiences through the emerging lens of Dangerous Gifts, and be able to reference a growing community of creatives who are bravely re-imaginging the contemporary mental health landscape.

We will also speak explicitly about self and community care and how it relates to the Dangerous Gifts framework by using T-MAPs (Transformative Mutual Aid Practices). T-MAPs are wellness tools loosely adapted from psychiatric advance directives, and can be used as a strategy to share personal and collective strategies for taking care of ourselves and our greater community.


Supporting Those Affected By Suicide: Myths, Challenges, and Collaborative Approaches

February 9th 2019

Denise Ranagan, LMHC, CPRP, NYCPS,
Peter Stastny, MD., Carrie Ruby-Geiger
Sera Davidow and Caroline Mazel-Carlton,
Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community (WMRLC)

Time: 10:00am-4:00pm
Location: 17 Battery Pl. New York, NY 10004

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This will be followed by a panel composed of trainers representing one of the most advanced and empowering approaches to understanding suicidality:

  • The Alternatives to Suicide Group Training (Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community) with Sera Davidow & Caroline Mazel-Carlton

These approaches are informed by personal experiences and have had profound results training hundreds of individuals in their respective models. This will be followed by a panel discussion with audience participation.

Denise Ranaghan and Carrie Ruby-Geiger will then present their work with a group of persons struggling with suicidality in Ulster County called "Live for Today.", a cutting-edge peer-run a group in a traditional mental health setting without professional oversight. This experience can be seen as a catalyst for further activities in New York State engendering mutual support and a more courageous engagement with this topic.

Suicide and self-harm are issues that has been vexing humanity and the helping professions for ages. The mainstream 'risk-management' approach to suicide intervention is often ineffective or even harmful, and and leaves people struggling with suicidality with hardly anywhere to turn without fearing such restrictive interventions.  Over the past 20 years, a number of personal accounts by survivors and professionals have surfaced, declaring suicide not as a symptom of mental illness, but an essential aspect of the human condition. These insights are spearheading new approaches to supporting persons who are struggling with suicidal ideas and who may have survived past attempts. Rather than pathologizing these experiences, we believe that empathic understanding and mutual support will enable us to find new meaning in life, without rejecting the possibility of taking ultimate control of one’s life.

This class will begin with a presentation by Denise Ranaghan LMHC, CPRP, NYCPS, Peter Stastny, MD. about various personal and philosophical approaches to suicide, from their perspectives as a survivor, and a psychiatrist learning to cope with suicide personally, and with clients.


Applying Drug Positivity and Harm Reduction to Human-Drug Relationships

March 9th 2019

Facilitators: David Levine, JD, Karen Rosenthal, NYCPS, CPRP, Director of Training at Community Access

Time: 10:00am-4:00pm
Location: 17 Battery Pl. New York, NY 10004


For many years society has reduced problematic drug use and addiction to a moral failing or a biomedical disease. These prior approaches have increased stigma and shame while alienating individuals seek support, but may not feel that total abstinence is the right choice for them.  Harm Reduction is a leading approach to substance use that empowers individuals, increases connection to support, and represents a much-needed departure from previously models of understanding problematic drug use. Harm Reduction practitioners understand that people have unique and wide-ranging relationships with drugs that are as diverse and complex as interpersonal relationships.

Using the biopsychosocial paradigm, we will explore how drugs of any kind – legal or illegal, prescribed by doctor or self – can be beneficial or harmful depending on the complex realities of those relationships.

We will explore how a harm reduction approach to psychiatry offers a much wider range of options for mental health treatment and goals than previous paradigms.

By the end of this session, you will learn:

  • The concept of decision-making capacity, how it is utilized, and what it tells us about the rights of drug users and people with psychiatric diagnoses to take or decline various psychoactive substances.

  • How the attitudes of service providers can either perpetuate or abate the wide ranging stigma faced by drug users.

  • The use of psychoactives as an ancient human behavior seen in all human societies throughout time.

  • The use of psychoactive technologies as generally adaptive by users’ intentions.


The Future of Our Movement: Communities Coming Together

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April 6th 2019

Facilitators: Sascha Altman-DuBrul, Angel Serrano, Lupe Family, Hearing Voices Network: Dmitriy Gutkovich, Tami Gatta, and Jessica Arenella, Emily Allen, Elan Cohen, Jay Stevens

Time: 10:00am-4:00pm
Location: 17 Battery Pl. New York, NY 10004

Many of us are drawn to working in mental health or supportive practice because of our personal experiences. Whether we’ve experienced emotional pain and trauma personally, or collectively, or have helped a family member through a crisis, we know that without support, compassion, and necessary resources it’s challenging to navigate the depths of our pain and come through the other side with hope for a better life. Many of us come to this work with the vision of changing the system, but often find that it can be challenging to work in an environment that often doesn’t acknowledge lived experience and collective traumas. In fact, it can be incredibly difficult to challenge oppressive systems without community, support, and a movement of people who are fighting for change.

There have been a myriad of successful survivor-led movements that have fought for the human rights and autonomy of those who receive services, made peer support and mutual aid more accessible, and built community around sharing and learning from personal experiences. These movements have enabled the voices and narratives of those of us with lived experience to be heard and necessarily valued in efforts to bring about meaningful change in the mental health system.

In order to bring about change, we recognize the experiential knowledge must be valued as highly as academic training.

This class will bring together individuals and organizations who exemplify the idea that "experience transforms practice" that has guided our entire course series as a means to guide us into the future.

We will explore:

  • How various structural issues (e.g. institutionalized racism, incarceration) inform our lived experience, and how those personal experiences can inform our practice

  • How to challenge a system that does not always validate lived experience of mental health

  • The communities, movements, peer-led initiatives, and support systems that exist to bring us into a better future for mental health

  • How "lived experience" is presently undervalued in clinical training, and methods of shifting this paradigm

  • The importance of connecting with one's own personal story/subjectivity/humanity as a way to induce empathy in clinical practice

  • How staying connected to others who hold our vision enables us to challenge the systems we work within


Terms & Conditions

All course payments must be made before attending the class session. Full or partial refunds will processed only if requested at least 7 days in advance of the class session. All classes missed or not cancelled within this time frame will be charged in full. Please do not hesitate to contact us and inquire.