THIS IS YOUR LIFE! CREATING YOUR SELF-DIRECTED LIFE PLAN
Prepared by Jessica A. Jonikas, M.A., and Judith A. Cook, Ph.D.
With consultants: Suzanne M. Andriukaitis, MA, LCSW; Mary Ann Beall; Joan Nobiling, MSEd; and Suzanne Vogel-Scibilia, MD
Determine Your Destiny
What is this Workbook?
This workbook can help you figure out what you want out of life and how to get there. It will help you make \plans for your own life, with supports of your own choosing.
Some common goals are:
– to make a friend,
– to find a better place to live,
– to get a job or a better job, or
– to go to school.
If you have a life goal like this, use this workbook to see what you have, what you need, and what action steps to take to reach your goal.
If you don’t have a life goal right now, and would like to pick one, you can get started with our tool, “Express Yourself: Assessing Self-Determination in Your Life.” To find this tool, visit our website at http://www.psych.uic.edu/uicnrtc/self-determination.htm#tools or call us at (312) 422-8180, ext.
You also can use this workbook to choose a personally meaningful life goal (as described in more detail in Step 4, starting on page 25).
This workbook can help you accept that you are a WHOLE PERSON, with many ideas and goals. This is true no matter what hard times you’ve had or are still having.
Who Should Use this Workbook?
This workbook is for people who have a mental illness or a psychiatric disability, have been hospitalized for psychiatric reasons, and have found it hard to do certain things in life because of mental health problems. Other people certainly may find the workbook useful, but it is directed toward people who are in mental health recovery.
Many people with emotional problems or psychiatric disabilities feel like large parts of their lives are no longer their own. They may even feel like they have become their illness or diagnosis, and that few people see the other important and interesting things about them. Too often, people in mental health recovery face poor treatment and discrimination in their communities and their service systems. If you feel like this, then this workbook is for you. It can help you start believing that there really is more to life than your illness. It can help you begin to see that you are a capable person, worthy of respect and love. You will start to see that you can set a goal and reach it, even when you make mistakes.
Why do we believe this is possible? Because research shows that PEOPLE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS CAN AND DO RECOVER. This is true even 20 or 30 years after first having mental health problems or being diagnosed for the first time!
There are many things that recovered people have in common. We will talk about these things throughout this workbook. You’ll learn that one of the most important recovery or self-determination strategies is:
having a goal or sense of purpose in your life.
Pat Deegan, Ph.D., a well-known psychologist with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, calls this a “survivor’s mission,” or something around which to organize your recovery*.
This is why a workbook to help you make a Self-Directed Life Plan is important in your recovery.
What is a Self-Directed Life Plan?
A Life Plan.
To explain this idea, let’s start with what a Life Plan means.
A Life Plan is basically just that – a Plan for what you would like to do in your life. It helps you look at areas
where you want to set new goals or make some changes. Some of these areas are:
– where you live,
– who you spend time with,
– where you get services and supports for your needs or problems, and
– where you work or go to school.
It may seem too hard to think about all of these things when you first read this workbook. It helps to remember that nobody makes his or her life changes all at once. Most people pick one area to work on at a time, which is what makes success possible.
It also helps to remember that most people, with and without disabilities, complete at least some goals every day. Think about it like this. Most days, you probably do a lot of things like shower, eat breakfast, read the paper, go to work/school/a program, watch a favorite TV show, and so on. We don’t usually think about these things as goals, but they can be. So, you already have at least some history of setting and reaching goals! Remember most people’s Life Plans are built on small goals to reach a larger goal.
A “self-directed” life plan means that YOU are in the driver’s seat. You choose what goals you want to work on and how to achieve them. You call the shots and set the pace. But, this doesn’t mean you won’t have help. We all need advice and support to succeed and to cope with disappointments. But, you are responsible for this plan and for your own decisions about it. This is your plan to make, break, change, or scrap. This is what it means to be self-directed. It can be liberating, but also a little scary.
If taking control like this makes you nervous, try to find people who have been where you are and have succeeded at a life change. Also, work at a slower pace that allows for small steps. Give yourself time to think and change your mind or plans.
Remember, just because you’re the driver doesn’t mean you have to go from 0 to 65 miles per hour before you’re ready. To stretch the analogy, plenty of us start out by joining Driver’s Ed, getting our permit, and then driving only the back roads, long before we take to the highway.
What Does this Mean for Me?
At this point, you may be thinking, “Get real! What’s a Self-Directed Life Plan really mean? Is it just another fad? Will I have to do things I don’t want to do or can’t do? Is it just another way for someone else to tell me, everything would be better if I’d just get it under control and help myself more?”
Frankly, the answers to these questions are yes and no. Self-direction, self-determination, recovery – these are the latest trends in mental health. But, it’s also true that a new fad isn’t necessarily a bad fad. Actually, in this case, it’s very good. It means that more people think that individuals with mental illness can be in charge of their own lives, with good supports and services focused on hope, recovery, and valued life roles.
Will you have to do some things you don’t want to do? Sometimes! But, we all do things that are hard, scary, or feel risky when trying something new or changing our lives. That’s why throughout the workbook you’ll see that you must have support from family, friends, peer supporters, mental health professionals, and others as you make your Life Plan.
Will you have to take responsibility for your goals and help yourself along the way? Yes. But this does NOT mean you won’t have help. You will have to help yourself by setting and working towards your own goals. But part of this involves getting help from trusted people in your life. Also, you can always change your mind, slow things down/speed things up, or take breaks when you’re not feeling well. You set the pace because this is your Plan.
How Do I Use this Workbook?
This workbook will help you pick one area in your life to set new or different goals. You can work on more than one life area at a time, but most people find it easier to succeed by choosing one area.
This is your workbook and your personal journey. You can go through the workbook in order or you can skip sections that aren’t for you. You should use the workbook in whatever way is most comfortable for you. But, here are some steps you might want to take when starting out, based on what has worked for other people:
1. Read the whole workbook before you start writing down your goals and tasks. Reading the whole workbook before you begin will help you see the kinds of information and exercises it offers. But, you can skim through it, if reading the workbook all at once is too much for you.
2. Choose at least one person who will support you in this process. This person should believe in you and stick with you through ups and downs. We’ll talk more about this in a later section.
3. Set aside time each day to go through the workbook, to make plans, and to review how you are doing. Try to pick a time when you are most rested and focused. Once your goals and tasks become second nature, you may only need a few hours each week to review your plans, self-care strategies, and progress.
4. Pick only one or two pages to work on at a time, especially at first. If you try to work on a lot of sections of this workbook at one time, you may become discouraged or overwhelmed. This isn’t a test, and there are no time limits. You can work on this at a slow or moderate pace, so you don’t burn out or give up.
5. Talk with your providers (both peer and traditional), if you have any, about how this Life Plan fits with your treatment plan and other goals for your life. You can certainly use this workbook alone, without your providers and peers. But, many people find it’s better to have someone to talk to when they can’t decide on a goal, want to change one, feel things aren’t going as planned, or want to celebrate success.
To see the workbook, go to http://www.psych.uic.edu/uicnrtc/sdlifeplan.pdf