Social Responsibility: The Key to Wellbeing

We want mental health care to address the problems that face whole communities through social action.  Thinking about mental health in terms of community wellness supports the underserved to advocate for better conditions, greater access to resources and care, and more influence in policy decision-making.

About You

Organization: The Relational Center Visit websitemore ↓↑ hide↑ hide

Section 1: About You

First Name

Mark

Last Name

Fairfield

Country

United States

Section 2: About Your Organization

Organization Name

The Relational Center

Organization Website

Organization Phone

(323) 935-1807

Organization Address

5486 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036

Organization Country

United States

Is your organization a

Non‐profit/NGO/citizen sector organization

Your idea

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Name Your Project

Social Responsibility: The Key to Wellbeing

Country your work focuses on

United States

Describe Your Idea

We want mental health care to address the problems that face whole communities through social action.  Thinking about mental health in terms of community wellness supports the underserved to advocate for better conditions, greater access to resources and care, and more influence in policy decision-making.

Innovation

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What makes your idea unique?

We consider mental health to be a function of how beneficial the relationships are between individuals and their environments. We define mental health care as a set of strategies to address the quality of fit among the multiple relationships that make up a person’s whole life space. Because we believe that what actually contributes to and sustains emotional challenges is systemic, we will not focus on changing behaviors. We believe that people behave in ways that reflect the quality of the relationships in their lives. Problematic behavior points to problematic relationships in the broader context. Extinguishing disturbing behavior without addressing the systemic problems they highlight puts the burden of responsibility solely on individuals. This only compounds emotional suffering.
We do not offer a medical model of care. Medicine is practiced to cure illnesses. While it is true that many problems that compromise mental health are due to organic or biological imbalances, the human suffering that accompanies those imbalances is not adequately addressed when treated as a sickness or a symptom. We believe in the power of medicine to support overall general health. But we do not believe that medicine alone will achieve health. We believe that health is a function of quality of contact. So our care services are aimed at supporting our participants to retrieve or create improved contact in the relationships most critical to their well-being.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

No

Impact

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What impact have you had?

The results of our 2008 consumer satisfaction survey yielded very positive results. Of the participants responding to the survey questions (25% of surveys administered in both English and Spanish), 33% agreed their experience at The Relational Center was very positive, while 58% strongly agreed. The majority of respondents were minorities (58%). The responses to the surveys included questions pertaining to how timely participants were contacted in response to their requests for service, how culturally sensitive their counselors were, the quality of listening their counselors demonstrated, how aware their counselors were of their needs, how much counselors encouraged them to take an active role in their care, and how well counselors addressed their main concerns. Additionally, the survey addressed issues related to how open counselors were to receiving feedback, how caring and transparent counselors appeared, and whether problems improved significantly within the time they had been working with their counselors. Across all of these domains, the average scores indicated a response midway between agreement and strong agreement. This provides a basis for concluding that the services at The Relational Center are very likely to successfully impact our participants in the way we have intended.

We conducted a similar survey among our trainees, requesting feedback about how effective the training has been in fostering higher levels of cultural competence, clinical skill and increased capacity to think in more complex ways about culture, class and context. We also asked trainees to comment on the quality of their experiences with trainers and supervisors. Again, across the board, the responses indicated a high probability that trainees are receiving the quality of training that we have intended to offer at The Relational Center.

Problem

The problem we are addressing is the lack of attention to systemic, cultural and environmental contextual conditions in the course of designing programs and services for underserved groups. In the area of mental health, interventions tend to be overly focused on individual issues. The result is a care plan that ignores community-wide challenges that, if unchanged, will continue to maintain individual human suffering. A medical model of mental health care--the standard model in our country--will always run the risk of distracting us from the more pressing contextual problems and challenges we must address.

Actions

In addition to individual counseling, The Relational Center offers a Community Action Group model for developing strategies that address the systemic problems leading to human suffering. By providing opportunities for our participants to collaborate with others with shared concerns, we are changing the conditions we believe are sustaining agony and suffering in underserved groups--disaffection, alienation, isolation, disempowerment, oppression. Creating opportunities for individuals to participate in community action is our approach to developing a culture of belonging, social responsibility, political activism and mutual care.

Results

The result of this model is a continuum of relatedness, a communal context in which a very diverse range of participants with a variety of challenges and disabilities can connect, get support, work together, develop projects, exercise their voices, make a difference in their worlds. As outlined above, our consumer satisfaction and trainee self-assessment results were very positive. While they do not guarantee that we are always hitting our targets, they do show a trend that we are heading in the right direction. Meanwhile, we will continue to encourage honest feedback, criticism and suggestions from our care services participants and our clinical trainees and organizational apprentices about how we can revise and refine the systems and processes on which we rely to carry out our mission.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

The Relational Center is headed in the right direction. We are about 75% self-sustaining through program generated revenues and rely for about 25% of our budget on development funds. We do NOT accept government funding or health insurance reimbursements because we believe depending on these funding streams ultimately disempowers are participants and leaves us vulnerable to catastrophic economic changes (leading to contracts being pulled or policies reshaping the eligibility criteria for receiving further funding). What we need to be successful over the next 3 years is the capacity to preserve this funding philosophy--a culture of self-sustaining development. So far, we have seen that his is possible.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

What would prevent this project from success is the failure of our organization to sustain itself. Barriers to fund development and board development stand as threats to the successful implementation of our programs and services. Nevertheless, these are the very areas of vulnerability we are most focused on addressing over the next 3 years.

How many people will your project serve annually?

101‐1000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$100 ‐ 1000

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?

Yes

Sustainability

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

In what country?

United States

Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Yes

If yes, provide organization name.

The Relational Center

How long has this organization been operating?

1‐5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?

Yes

Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?

Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?

Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?

Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

The Relational Center has Memoranda of Understanding with three critically important community partners: 1) El Rescate; 2) Antioch University Los Angeles; and 3) University of Southern California. In every case, the agreements we have developed with our partners leverage their resources and wide support bases to contribute more to the communities we serve. In particular, our commitment to diversifying the mental health workforce and influencing care models to strive toward more community-driven, relational principles could not be achieved as widely and successfully as it now can as a result of collaborative projects with our partners. Sharing resources and building on synergy are resources just as important to our well being as our developed funds.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

1) Identification of at least 3 well-connected candidates (with ties to high net worth individuals/corporations) appropriate for membership on our board of directors; 2) One or two sizable multi-year foundation grants for core operating support; and 3) Continued success with program implementation, development of community partnerships and solid evaluation outcome data.

The Story

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What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

The defining moment for me was when I realized that we are not slaves to the status quo. When we work together--as a community--it doesn't matter how much money we have or who will give us permission to try something new or different. What matters is that we are creative, that we have potential, that we can think outside the box. While it was daunting to imagine starting an organization with our professed mission, with no financial support to speak of and very little foundation other than the passion and dedication of a small group of people, I could see it. I could see the vision of something happening in spite of a lack of resources. I could see how reusable human energy could compensate for a lack of money.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

Mark Fairfield, LCSW, BCD, (Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work), holds an MS in Social Work from Columbia University and has completed four years of post-graduate clinical training leading to certification in Relational Gestalt Therapy. He has served as a faculty member at the Pacific Gestalt Institute, Clinical Director for Common Ground in Santa Monica, and is currently the Executive Director for The Relational Center. Mark’s private practice is in two locations, one on the West side and the other in the Miracle Mile area. Mark has trained and presented internationally and has published in journals and books primarily on the subject of groups, dialogue, harm minimization and deconstructing individualism.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Web Search (e.g., Google or Yahoo)

If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company

258 weeks ago Mark Fairfield said: Thank you for your contribution to the conversation...  Yes, peer support is crucial to a systemic shift.  And beyond helping ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
258 weeks ago Eve Sullivan said: When you write, "Extinguishing disturbing behavior without addressing the systemic problems they highlight puts the burden of ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
260 weeks ago Mark Fairfield said: Hello, Thank you for your interest in our model. Volunteers are an integral part of our program. Actually, nearly everyone can be ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
260 weeks ago Naveen Shakir said: This is a really creative initiative, and incorporating volunteer opportunities is very intriguing. We’re interested in ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
265 weeks ago Mark Fairfield said: Thank you for your thoughtful response.  My interest is in organizing a "movement" among social service providers that ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
265 weeks ago Andrea Halverson said:  Your words strike a chord with me. It seems very plausible that people with mental illness are the objects (and perhaps the ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
267 weeks ago Mark Fairfield updated this Competition Entry.
267 weeks ago Mark Fairfield updated this Competition Entry.
267 weeks ago Amelia Forrest Kaye updated this Competition Entry.
267 weeks ago Mark Fairfield updated this Competition Entry.