Relationships and the Work Ordered Day

Relationships and the work ordered day are the central focus of a healthy Clubhouse.  While they seem like two separate entities, they are intertwined, going hand in hand.  As Robby Vorspan wrote in Why Work Works, “The most common question asked when meeting someone new is inevitably, “What do you do?”, and having an answer to that question gives you immediate entry to the normal flow of life.”  By providing opportunities for meaningful work throughout the day, we offer members the opportunity to participate in conversation with people in their day-to-day lives.

Work can be just as much, if not more, of a tool to combat mental illness than any other therapy, and it is a great way to reintegrate into society after hospitalizations and other struggles have led to isolation.  In a successful Clubhouse, members and staff participate side-by-side in meaningful work.  When the work has a purpose, and that purpose is important to both the members and the staff, it becomes meaningful.  If you don’t have enough work of this caliber, members spend more time on Facebook or just don’t come in.  Robby Vorspan defined the work-ordered day as “A day that gets its momentum, meaning and life from the work that structures it”.

At the same time, we want to make sure that we are always upholding the voluntary nature of Clubhouse work.  It’s just as easy to make work too much of a focus (by making it a requirement or condition of membership) as it is to not focus on it enough.  As the standards state, "members choose the way they utilize the Clubhouse, and the staff with whom they work.  There are no agreements, contracts, schedules, or rules intended to force participation of members."  If a day comes that a member is unable or chooses not to do a task for any reason, they have the option to walk away from it.  All work in the Clubhouse is designed to help members regain self worth, purpose, and confidence, and everything members participate in should be by their own choice to help their rehabilitation.

The other half of the equation, relationships, develops out of the sense that we have to rely on each other to get the work done.  We need each other.  While getting the work done side-by-side we are making meaningful friendships and relationships; those relationships, in turn, make our work even more enjoyable.

It is essential that both staff and members welcome and start forming relationships with new members right from the very first day they enter the Clubhouse.  People will come back if they feel that they fit in - if they feel wanted, needed, and expected.  This can be very different than how they feel in the rest of their lives because of their mental illness.  The culture of the Clubhouse is very important, and it can be a challenge to ensure that all the pieces are in place..  But, as Susan Omanski of Fountain House said, “You can’t befriend a person into wellness”.  Relationships and the work-ordered day truly have to go hand-in-hand to have a successful Clubhouse.



Vorspan, Roberta.  “Why Work Works”.  Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal, Vol 16, No 2.  2 October 1992.