Meet Eleanor, the founder of and lead Peer Support Specialist at Mood Mend.

She has lived experience of “mental illness” and has been in symptom-free recovery since 2010. Eleanor has a lifetime of experience in the arts, particularly the narrative arts (writing, storytelling) and visual art (black and white acrylic portraiture), with a background in Publishing alongside 20 years volunteering and working in the non-profit sector all tolled.

She has over 20,000 hours of Peer Support experience and has worked with clients with all manner of mental health and substance use challenges, histories of trauma, justice involvement, and homelessness, Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)/Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Concurrent Disorders, Dual Diagnoses (DD), Young Adult and Geriatric Mental Health (GMH), one-on-one in their homes and in community, consumer/survivor/ex-patient and institutional settings, and has facilitated over a dozen peer support groups including: eating disorder support groups at Hope’s Garden in London, ON and Sheena’s Place in Toronto, ON, Graphic Novel Storytelling: The Art of Comics that she co-facilitated with published author Willow Dawson at Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto, the Bipolar Support Group at Mood Disorders Association of Ontario, Narrative Therapy based groups and Art Therapy based groups at St. Joseph’s Hospital, CBT and DBT based groups for Cota Health, Youth and Young Adults groups, Women’s Groups, Men’s Groups, Harm Reduction based groups, etc.

She trained as a Peer Support Specialist through Robyn Priest: Live Your Truth and has worked as a Peer Support Specialist for ten years, for high profile organizations such as Mood Disorders Association of Ontario, The Mental Health Support Network at St. Joseph’s Hospital, the YWCA, Cota Health, and Unity Health – St. Michael’s Hospital, all in Toronto, ON Canada.

If you are a budding Peer, we do accept junior volunteer Peer Support Specialists on our team, so please reach out if interested.

The approach:

While incorporating tools and techniques from CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), DBT (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy), and ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), Eleanor predominately comes from the Narrative Therapy approach.

Narrative Therapy is like Art Therapy but with words! The focus of the approach is on the manner in which individuals construct meaning rather than on the way they behave. In philosophy and in neuroscience, the “I”/third eye or the mind is what they call “the narrative centre of self.” Your mind is constantly generating the story of who you are to yourself and you, in turn, relay it to others. Narrative Therapy seeks to address minds that may be telling themselves problem-saturated narratives e.g. The Trauma Narrative — “I experienced trauma; therefore, I am damaged goods.”

It is a postmodern, talk therapy model (typically done one-on-one rather than in groups), developed by social workers Michael White and David Epston in the 70s and 80s, that focuses on social construction (concept: language doesn’t describe reality, it defines it), meaning making through language and relationships, and broader social and political discourses, all whilst considering multiple vantage points and Sparkling Moments or Unique Outcomes e.g. The Survive to Thrive Narrative — “I experienced trauma, I survived, and I aim to thrive!”

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” ~ Carl Jung

To put this modality to work in a group context, Eleanor has developed a meta-narrative technique – a writing course, Writing for Wellness™, and an art therapy-based course, Conscious Creativity™, meant to address the 5 main principles:

• shared and transformative experience

• naming and unpacking (assessment and intervention)

• meaning making

• listening and experience gathering

• reflection

and 5 intended outcomes;

• increased self-awareness (you are the expert in your own story)

• increased self-compassion

• externalizing problems

• constructing preferred identities

• developing courses of action

of Narrative Therapy.

The goal is to deconstruct, rewrite (co-author) or re-imagine, and reconstruct the narratives we tell ourselves and others about ourselves in a way that helps us actualize positive change.

For more: My Story, Mission, Vision & Values, Coaching vs. Psychotherapy, Mood Disorders, Recovery