Let’s Talk About It

By Alysha Clark & Eric Peterson

In the Thursday, March 26th Chrysalis Staff meeting, we discussed the “Let’s Talk About It” book that seeks to preserve protest that was created in Madison as a response to the murder of George Floyd.  This book opened the door for Chrysalis Staff to create their own response art after watching videos that highlighted the recent acts of hate, stemmed from racism and misogyny, against the Asian American Community.  Here are some words from Vocational Peer Specialist Eric, as he went through this process. 

 “Invisibilize; eyes made invisible, that not seen is not known in our shutdown lockdown breakdown we become aware of both our humanity and also how separated we are by modern culture/modern nature into our cubicle lives–for a vast global culture, modern man is still separated by the original fears.  Made more evident, painfully clear by this pandemic of isolation, we see everything on our digitized screens as we all see our lonely disconnect selves along side, crying inside to be released and join the multitudes out in the sun….one day soon, to reach for a new idea..to indivisibilize…” -Eric Peterson 

Sharing Big in The Big Share

By Jenny King

Chrysalis participated in the Community Shares of Wisconsin Big Share fundraising event on Tuesday, March 2nd.  We started out with a goal of raising $6,000 for our #AntiStigma Programs and by 10am had exceeded that goal ended up with a total of $10,813!  Read below to hear some feedback about the event, including Dani who jumped in the Yahara River and KZ who shaved her head because we hit some massive fundraising goals!

“It was so incredible to participate in The Big Share and feel such a strong sense of community even over a virtual platform. I thought the Chrysalis staff and community engagement was amazing. I even had a friend who is a professional in communications reach out to ask how we were able to pull it off. It was super cool to let her know it was a true team effort and everyone played a part. It’s incredible to get to work alongside so many passionate, creative, and fun people. A huge shout-out to the Chrysalis community and all our supporters. THANK YOU!!!!” 

~ Dani Rischall, Chrysalis Executive Director 

“One moment, I’m muttering “I’ll shave my head” during a Big Share planning conversation with my Social Butterfly committee colleagues, and the next moment, I’m sitting in my kitchen, with the dog grooming tool getting dangerously close to my hair. I really had no idea what to expect from this year’s Big Share, but was pleasantly surprised how fun it was to build such a sense of community during this virtual event. I thought we set a rather ambitious fundraising goal with some very creative ways to showcase our fun-loving and playful sides. Despite my “hair grows” thinking, I was feeling a bit nervous about actually losing my locks, but with the support (and banter) from the Facebook live folks, it was way more fun and interactive than I imagined.  Two things I learned from this experience are: there are many different interpretations of “shaved head” and be careful what you mutter under your breath! And finally, the thing I always knew but was reminded of during this year’s Big Share, my Chrysalis colleagues and the supporters of Chrysalis are an incredible bunch of humans.”

-Kathy Zeigert, CCS Supervisor/Clubhouse Director

Chrysalis loves their pets!

By Kurt Stapleton

Black History Month: Centering Black Mental Health

A Q&A with Tara Wilhelmi

Q: What brought you to the field of Mental Health? 

A: I have always had a “counselors heart”.  Even as a youth I often played the role of conflict mediator.  Talking with new people, having brave and authentic conversations has always come naturally to me.  In 2018 I was invited to attend a peer specialist training hosted by a local start up organization focused on interrupting community/gun violence.  As I sat in the training learning about what it meant to be a peer specialist I remember thinking “WOW! I have been doing this for most of my life & you’re saying I can make a living doing it??”

Q: What do you think are some of the systemic barriers for black people within the mental health system?

A: Generations of white supremacy & anti black ideology and practices in healthcare & educational systems specifically have created a pool of mental health providers and administrators who engage Black people on a spectrum that ranges from awkward to oppressive.  White supremacy upholds practices and ideals that strip Black people of their humanity – how can you understand and empathize with people who subconsciously you have been programmed to view as subhuman or “other”?   Even when providers are Black/BIPOC their “white washed” eurocentric education often forced them to internalize the same white supremacist concepts and ideals about Blacks in America as their non Black colleagues. 

Q: Can you share more about the work you are doing with Chrysalis to create a Certified Peer Specialist Learning Community?

A: My community recovery and wellness organization, EOTO, has been partnering with Chrysalis over the past year.  After meeting Dani & Alysha we quickly discovered a shared passion for expanding and supporting the peer movement in Dane County and throughout Wisconsin.  We had several lively conversations about siloed peer specialists, challenges for non peer or clinical staff to provide supportive and reflective supervision to those peers when they often lacked a true understanding of the peer role, and the lack of diversity in Wisconsin’s current peer workforce.  We also discovered that we shared both solutions based and social justice focus outlook on these issues.  The planning for our current collaboration began almost organically from those conversations and now we are ready to launch our Certified Peer Specialists Learning Community.  Our cohort based, collective learning curriculum highlights best practices to support organizations who are interested in integrating new peer support programs or expanding existing ones while also providing a sense of community and professional support to peers in the workforce.

Q: Why is this work important to you?

A: Peer Support has allowed me to continue my own personal journey of recovery and wellness, it has provided me with bankable skills that combine (among a list of other things)  my “counselors heart”, my own lived experience and resilience, and my entrepreneurial spirit with the ability to share those things with others.  As a Black woman in Wisconsin I am deeply impacted by our state’s continued status as “the worst place to raise a Black family” and other sadly familiar narratives about racial disparities in our home state.  As a mother to Black children I have to do everything I can to impact change – everything to help them heal and belong to a community that is healing- from generations of racialized trauma and internalized white supremacy ideologies.  As a member of the extended village that is the African Diaspora I feel obligated to use my voice and the lessons I have learned to support others on their own journey to healing and wellness.   Partnering with an established and respected organization like Chrysalis – working side by side with impressive, knowledgeable and passionate women like Dani & Alysha – feeds the fire of hope for our future that sustains me when fighting for equity, equality and systems change starts to weigh too heavily on my mind & soul.

Q: What can the community do to support this work?

A: The community can connect with us and other organizations to learn more about what peer support is and how it impacts long term recovery.  Individuals who would like to join an email list to receive our Certified Peer Specialist Learning Community Newsletter can click here to do so. We’ll share updates about free training opportunities, information on how to support Certified Peer Specialists within your community, and more.

You can donate here to EOTO LLC to support Tara’s amazing work: https://culturallyrooted.wedid.it/

The Role of Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals in Our Lives

By: Andrew Lopez, CPS

People seem to be becoming more aware of the role of service animals and emotional support animals. While it is good that many business owners and employers are becoming more aware and tolerant of their use, unfortunately there is still a lot of misinformation about the roles and rules of these animals.  I’m writing today to provide some useful information on these supports to clear up some misconceptions.

First of all let’s outline what a service animal is and what an emotional support animal is. They have very important differences.

A Service Animal is either a dog or a miniature horse and can be no other animal. This animal has to be trained to do a specific task and used by a person with a disability. The task that the service animal does must be done in order to overcome a barrier created by the person’s disability. Service animals have rights in the general public as well as housing. Their protections are covered under both Americans With Disabilities Act and fair housing law. A business owner or manager of a location may ask if the owner of the animal is a service animal and what task does it perform for the individual. If the individual states that the animal is not trained to do any specific task the owner or manager can treat the animal the same as any other normal pet. The training that was given to the service animal could come from a service animal training academy but may also be done by the owner themselves or other entities. There is no official license or identification card for service animals at the current time. An owner may choose to carry a card provided for them by a training Academy to make this conversation go smoother.

An Emotional Support Animal (also referred to as a therapy animal) can be many different types of animals.  These animals need not be trained to do any specific type of task. Emotional support animals are protected under fair housing law but are not protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Their rights extend to a person’s own residence but not to public accommodation.  In order to claim an animal as an emotional support animal the tenant must communicate with the landlord or building manager and provide a letter from their doctor or therapist verifying that the individual has a disability and that the animal is necessary for the individual to overcome challenges created by their disability within the residence. Ideally this should be done before the animal moves in with the resident. Service animals have the same rights and requirements as emotional support animals within residences.

Some things that are common between both service animals and emotional support animals are that it is illegal for a landlord to charge an extra rent or security deposit for the animal as it is not a pet but instead a tool used by the individual with a disability. There are limitations on both service animals and emotional support animals. Both animals must be well behaved and can lose all of their rights under ADA law or fair housing law if they harm other people are intrusive or destructive. A service animal may not bark or bite or otherwise pester other individuals and if it does so the owner manager is well within the rights to require the animal and its owner to leave.  Reputable service animal training academies understand this and socialize the animals that they train to be comfortable around  other humans and do not interfere with the business of other people. Similarly an emotional support animal may not cause damage to the residence, harm other residents of the building or make intrusive noises that affect the well-being of others in the residence.

We are fortunate to have two members of the Chrysalis community who have experience living with the aid of emotional support animals. Below are their statements about what the Emotional support animal brings to their life.

“Three years ago my life changed for the better. It wasn’t just the new apartment that I moved into–it was the fact that my doctor sent a letter to my new landlord citing that I qualified to have an emotional support animal according to Fair Housing Law in order to live independently.

I adopted a black cat from a shelter and my life changed for the better. Theo (the cat) seems to know and understand how to calm me when my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms flare up. He lays across my lap at such times until I can calm down. He also helps with my depression. When I want to give up on life and living independently he will want fed or attention and the thought comes to me “he needs me, I need to pull through this pain”. I rescued him from the shelter and now he is rescuing me from the dark hole of mental illness. He has been a positive force in my life–I rescued him and now he is rescuing me.

I believe that emotional support animals are the new necessary. Anyone who suffers from mental illness can testify to the fact that more and more medication although sometimes necessary, doesn’t always provide a better quality of life. Animals provide an alternative to a massive amount of medication that doesn’t always work.  I am grateful for a doctor who realized this fact and prescribed me a different kind of therapy.”- Tina Turvey

“Emotional support animals provide support and comfort to so many people in many ways, and I have been fortunate the last 7 years to have my dog by my side supporting me in all the ways he has. I have struggled with my mental health since childhood, and like for many who have experienced similar, it was extremely rough for me during my teen years. I have also had a profound love for animals since childhood, and at the age of 15 I started working at kennels, vet clinics and dog daycares. In these jobs, I always found an immense sense of tranquility and self fulfillment in providing care and forming relationships with those animals; this sort of healthy outlet and relationship did not exist elsewhere in my life. I struggle with forming and keeping relationships with people, and I had tried many forms of treatment and support to help manage my symptoms, but was still regularly struggling. So before my 17th birthday I asked my dad if I could get a dog for my birthday. It had already been a suggestion for me by therapists and others that were familiar with me and my struggles, so thankfully he also thought it was a good idea and agreed I could handle the responsibility. I think my best choice as a teenager was asking for that help, because he has saved my life more times than I can count since then. 

He gave me a reason to get out of bed everyday, I had something to live for and someone that lived for me, I had someone to embrace when I was struggling without judgement or question. When I struggle with my anxiety or depression or self harm urges or anything I could go to him. Often, I need that change of scenery and fresh air to help emotionally regulate, but often find myself paralyzed within myself. Having my dog be there to encourage me to keep regularly getting up to stretch my legs and out for some fresh air really helps me make sure I get that. In caring for him I was reminded and able to care for myself more, and that has built over the years. 

When I left my dad’s home, my psychiatrist made sure I had the paperwork showing that he was an ESA that was needed to make it possible for me to find housing with him. I have lived without people many times over these years but thanks to him, I never had to be alone. I had this unconditionally loving ball of fluff that needed me as much as I needed him. I had someone that looked at me with only love, that I could curl up with and cry into, that I could stroke and scratch to help me ground myself, a reason to live and feel love when struggling with suicidal ideation, a safe person to go to when battling components of my PTSD. 

A few years ago, I started facing some medical issues that expanded, I was diagnosed with EDS, an incurable genetic condition that causes chronic pain and a whole slew of other problems (varying widely person to person). I became overwhelmed by medical appointments and testing as well as trying to cope with my new diagnosis and how it drastically affected my overall quality of life and day to day passions. My mental health has taken quite the strain and many blows through this process, my feelings of helplessness, suicidal ideation and thoughts of self harm became more persistent, the world became heavier again and I was regressing.  But my dog was there for me, as difficult as my medical things made it to take care of him sometimes, my love for him fought my will to give in to the world that seemed to be suffocating me. I would come home from doctor’s appointments feeling scared and hopeless and don’t know what I would have done without my dog to be there for me to cry and to have space to feel those feelings. Having that support makes it possible for me to cope the best I can with the medical things I am enduring as well as even make it to that next step like calling to make an appointment with a specialist. My love for him has encouraged me to keep pushing to take care of myself and to get up everyday and do the things I need to in order to take care of both of us. 

When he came into my life I knew I needed him, I didn’t know just how much. I know this may sound cliche, but I would not be here today if it weren’t for my dog. There is nothing in the world I appreciate more than him and what he has done and been for me without even knowing he was doing it. There are a wide variety of reasons someone would benefit from an emotional support animal, and I know I found many I didn’t even expect in my own experience with mine.”
-Darby Gregerson

Below are some more resources from authoritative sources on service animals and emotional support rails. I’ve also included a few links to local service animal training academies.

“Service Animals: Disability Rights Wisconsin”

“Emotional Support Animals: Tenant Resources Center”

Custom Canines: Service Dog Academy

Occupaws: Guide Dog Academy

Wisconsin Academy for Graduate Service Dogs (WAGS)

My Valen-Time

By Darby Gregersen and Hilleary Reinhardt

Many of us this month will be celebrating Valentine’s Day and if you are a fan of Parks and Recreation, you have probably adopted some form of Leslie Knope’s “Galentine’s Day” into your traditions. So often in February we focus on our relationships with others. While our relationships with our partners, friends, family, and loved ones are important, it is also crucial to show ourselves love during the month of February.

February can be a difficult month. February brings below zero temperatures to Wisconsin, limited daylight, and lack of desire to bundle up and leave your warm home. February 2021 also marks a full year of the COVID19 pandemic and all the emotional, financial and physical stressors that have come with it.

This February, we hope you dedicate [Valen-]time to recommit to yourself. Show yourself the love and care that you show to others. This looks different for all of us. Your self love will look different than the self love your friend practices and that is okay–this is your [Valen-]time to do what your mind and body needs. If you are having a hard time thinking of ways to practice your own self love, the crossword puzzle above has some great examples!

We hope this month you can begin to recommit to yourself, take [Valen-]time, and show yourself the love it deserves.

What’s in a Name?!?

By Mike Rasumussen and Kathy Ziegert

We are delighted to formally announce the name of our new Clubhouse! Drum roll, please…Chrysalis Clubhouse!

While this name may seem obvious, it actually took a considerable amount of time and discussion to come to this decision. Consensus model decision making is a hallmark feature of the Clubhouse model. While it may be faster and easier to vote, Clubhouse communities use consensus in order to take the time to respectfully hear every person’s opinion. Taking the time to listen to other points of view develops relationships and understanding among Clubhouse colleagues. While a decision may not be everyone’s first choice, consensus generally means everyone’s voice was heard and everyone can “live with” the decision at hand.

During our Clubhouse program meetings in the fall of 2020, we talked about the need to name our Clubhouse. Thanks to our supporters within the larger Chrysalis community, we had a very creative list of around 30 possible names. We narrowed the names down to 10 by developing and using a survey via Survey Monkey. It was important to us to check availability of domain names so as not to inadvertently use a trademarked name. After these steps we decided to evaluate the overlap of the top 3 names for Clubhouse and we came up with the following: Cultivate Clubhouse, Collective Clubhouse, and Chrysalis Clubhouse. There was significant overlap and support among using the Chrysalis Clubhouse name. We came to consensus to move forward with discussing pros and cons of this name. Colleagues  mentioned the following pros: simple, descriptive, succinct name, alliterative, “I can visualize it”, “Chrysalis has a good reputation in our community”. The only con mentioned was around working to both be a program of Chrysalis while also having a distinct identity.

We worked with Chrysalis executive team, Dani and Alysha, who helped us to purchase the domain name, ChrysalisClubhouse.org and set up a sub-domain under the Chrysalis G-suite account. This will allow us to have shared access to Clubhouse documents while building our virtual Clubhouse community. Now we just have to get the word out about our name, which is the purpose of this blog. Thanks for taking the time to read it. We hope you learned a little something about how things work in the Clubhouse world.

My role as a peer support specialist.

By Kurt Stapleton

The peer support role takes on many shapes. You are a trusted confidant, a safe place, a mentor, a listener, a resource, a last hope…

I never envisioned myself to be in this role, yet I am here today and I am loving it.

My journey began many years ago and I didn’t have any knowledge of what recovery looked like and I was lost. I had the help of my wife, who also struggled with substance use disorder early in life and had some knowledge of what was out there. She was my peer support without knowing it. As I navigated through the murky waters of recovery and substance use disorder I always had her to talk to, share my success with, cry with, and just talk to when I really needed to talk to someone.

That is the reason I became a peer support specialist. To be able to walk with someone who is going through those difficult times and guide them and give them hope. To help empower them and inspire them to become independent and successful. It is an indescribable feeling.

The most rewarding part of this work is when that person you’ve been working with looks at you and says “Thank you so much for being there. Having you here is the only way I could have made it through.” I don’t take this lightly. I understand full well what they are saying and the meaning behind it. I have cried with people, I have laughed with them. Not everyone is successful unfortunately. And that is nothing I can control. I take the good with the bad and just be there if they reach out again.

I do this work because nobody should have to go through it alone. I do this work because I am here today because someone was there for me when I needed them the most.

Leadership at Chrysalis

By Alysha Clark

If you work for Chrysalis, you will hear the leadership at Chrysalis being referred to as the “Leadership Team.”  Chrysalis has five women in leadership positions including Dani Rischall-Executive Director,  Alysha Clark-Assistant Director , Amy Holste- Human Resource Director, Amy Yonker- Supported Employment Supervisor, and Kathy Ziegert- Service Facilitation and Clubhouse Supervisor.  

This group of women are dedicated individuals, and you can immediately see that Chrysalis is not just a job for them, it is part of who they are.  Chrysalis asks this team weekly, to think deeply about the past, present and future of this 40 year old organization.  With this team’s focus on courage, honesty, humility and vulnerability, we are confident that our organization is in the right hands!

Read the quotes below to learn more about what being a leader means to the Leadership Team. 

Leadership quotes: 

Alysha: I never thought I could be in a leadership position but I am a real go-getter and if I see a place I could help, I jump right in.  When I first started at Chrysalis, I lacked confidence but I had other women and other Certified Peer Specialists encouraging me to keep going. I am honored to be the Assistant Director at Chrysalis but I also understand how rare it is for a Certified Peer Specialist to be in a leadership position.  Many Certified Peer Specialists do not have a way to become leaders at their agencies, and that needs to change. 

Dani: Being part of a leadership team is an opportunity to support growth. My own growth, the growth of others, and the growth of an organization. I am honored to work at Chrysalis and do all that I can to support our mission. I am grateful to work alongside so many incredible people who motivate and inspire me everyday. As a leader I have the opportunity to dream about a better tomorrow and a responsibility to put dreams into action. 

At Chrysalis we understand that the leadership team plays an important role in our organization and also recognize that it is the incredible staff and people we serve who truly make Chrysalis what it is. As leaders we must continue to center the voices of those most impacted by our services and create meaningful opportunities to collaborate around systems change. Being part of the Chrysalis leadership teams gives me the opportunity to embody and practice these values on a daily basis. 

Amy H: It is a great honor to be a part of this Leadership Team serving the organizational and personnel needs of Chrysalis. Great intentionality has been taken to create a team where individuals can use their individual strengths to participate in collaborative work and collective decision making. Through these shared leadership practices we have found greater successes during these challenging times; never losing sight of our shared Chrysalis values. I am proud to be a part of an agency where each member of leadership actively contributes to creating a strong community and workplace where EVERYONE can access hope, healing and wellness. 

Amy Y: Being on the Leadership Team at Chrysalis is something I’m proud and honored to be a part of. I’m thankful for all of the opportunities and growth I’ve been involved with since starting as an Employment Specialist in 2014. One thing I admire about Chrysalis is the value in seeing creative and innovative programming while also maintaining strong values in our core recovery services. With this, I’ve been able to support the initiation of Chrysalis Pops and the Supported Employment Demonstration, while also continuing to support a strong team of Employment Specialists in the IPS Program. Every program at Chrysalis has so many strengths and seeing them all collaborate is truly wonderful. I’ve met so many people at Chrysalis and within our partnering organizations, each teaching me valuable insights into how to best support mental health recovery. I feel especially lucky to work with the four other leadership women. As a team, we challenge each other to be our best, complement each other’s strengths, and have a lot of fun along the way. We hope that our teamwork and relationship helps us to be the best support to all Chrysalis employees and program participants. 

KZ: I’ve been so fortunate to follow in the footsteps of many amazing women mentors and leaders before stepping into supervisory/management roles. These women led by example and  shared stories of their own perseverance, particularly when it came to gender equality, like championing Title IX or challenging status quo male dominated management roles. I try to embody lessons in mental toughness, staying true to your values and compassionate leadership. Humility and humor are values that are important to me and I try to weave these values throughout my current supervisory work.

Impressions of the Clubhouse International USA Conference 2020

By Clubhouse Members Erik and Brent

Our names are Erik and Brent and we are Chrysalis consumers and founding members of the Chrysalis Clubhouse. We are here to share our experience of the Clubhouse International USA Conference that took place on October 8-9, 2020 to learn more about the Clubhouse model and how Clubhouses function. 

 We attended the following several workshops that focused on evolving the Clubhouse model to fit our individual needs: 

1. Clubhouse Supported Education: innovative strategies for helping members achieve their goals. 

2. What is a Clubhouse? An Orientation to the Clubhouse Model. 

3. Clubhouse Reach Out: evolving, enhancing, and expanding our practice.

4. Wellness & Social Programming: Staying safe, healthy, and connected during these complicated times. 

5. Clubhouses in the Digital Age: how technology can expand the Clubhouse experience?

6. Social Justice: How your Clubhouse can be part of the change we wish to see?

These are our overall impressions of the conference: 

1. What do you like about the Clubhouse model? 

Brent: It’s an inclusive model, voluntary, relationship based; not like a mental health clinic and all members of the Clubhouse have an opportunity to participate in all work done by the Clubhouse. The Clubhouse is not work specific; members always are part of the decision-making process. 

Erik: I like the fact that it’s very open and transparent and that everyone has a say in what’s going on in the Clubhouse. 

2. Do you feel inspired by attending this conference? 

Erik: Yes. I’m just glad to be a part of the Clubhouse movement in general. I love reaching out to other people at different stages in their own Clubhouses; to established Clubhouses and how they interact with Clubhouses like ours. It was an eye-opening experience to get the support from other Clubhouses. 

Brent: Yes. I want to focus on the future of the Clubhouse after we’ve established it. I want to focus on the great lack of mental health and other support in the rural communities. I believe building a hybrid Clubhouse to be more inclusive and important in embracing the rural communities. 

3. What are your key takeaways from the conference? 

Brent: My key takeaway is that Clubhouses are more complex than they seem.

Erik: The Clubhouse model is flexible to the needs of its members. 

4. What is one thing that you take to Chrysalis from the conference?

Erik: I’ve learned a lot about the Clubhouse model and how to implement it in my own Clubhouse. I feel very good about the support that we encountered and feel as though I have a very strong basis on which to build the Clubhouse. 

Brent: I learned how to engage new and existing members with the idea of mutual support. I would like to work toward a better understanding of the Clubhouse model and how to expand the Clubhouse.

Photo: Clubhouse colleagues during a Zoom meeting.