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Since its founding in 2016, McLean Hospital’s WellSpace program has expanded to provide more support and education to young adults who have had experiences with psychosis.
According to WellSpace Coordinator Stephen Fedele, the program has grown from “offering just two groups one-and-a-half days a week” to offering “a wide range of activities, held a full five days a week and serving between 20 and 30 participants every week.”
Located in McLean’s Admissions Building, WellSpace is a day program providing recreational and educational activities and groups to individuals ages 18 to 30. The program was developed in conjunction with McLean OnTrackTM, which specializes in early psychosis recognition and treatment for young adults.
Fedele explained that some of WellSpace’s groups are “substantive and helpful, some are therapeutic, some are fun.” Group sessions include “Brain Training,” which addresses multiple facets of cognition, and “Life Skills,” which helps develop social, interpersonal, scholastic, financial, and organizational abilities. Participants can also join groups focused on game therapy, mediation, vocational skills, and wellness.
In addition, WellSpace lets individuals simply “drop in” and benefit from a welcoming environment where they can share their stories and experiences with other young adults. The program is free of charge and made possible through philanthropy.
WellSpace fills an important need in the lives of the young people it serves. “It can be very isolating immediately after you have an episode of psychosis,” Fedele explained. “It can be difficult to find structure, to find people to spend time with, to find activities to participate in.”
Moreover, he said, individuals in this age group can “have their lives completely disrupted by an episode of psychosis. They were working. They were in school. They want to get back to those things and have vibrant social lives.”
WellSpace, he said, can help these people because its groups and programs offer a “positive structure that can help with recovery—the kind of structure that’s often missing.”
Initial funding for WellSpace came from the Smith family. In 2011, Kitty and Ed Smith’s son Andrew died after struggling for years with schizophrenia. The family wished to honor their son’s memory. Along with other family members, the Smiths worked with McLean to create WellSpace. The Smiths, along with many family friends and other McLean donors, continue to support the program.
Acknowledging the growth and impact of WellSpace, the Smith family said, “We are so pleased that WellSpace has provided such support for those struggling with what Andrew had to face. We are grateful for so many of our friends and colleagues who have joined us in helping McLean make WellSpace such a success.”
In addition to generous donor support, increased interest from the McLean community has pushed WellSpace forward. “We’ve had a lot of contributions from staff members to create constructive groups, and as more people have become aware of WellSpace, we’ve received increasingly more referrals,” said Fedele. Currently, between eight and 10 facilitators work with the program. They are all part of McLean’s clinical staff.
Today, WellSpace is in a strong position to continue offering much-needed support and education to this vulnerable population. “Overall, the goal is to be supportive, to help people feel a sense of community and to feel better as they’re working through their mental health struggles,” said Fedele. “As long as someone has experienced psychosis, we are here to help them with their recovery. We want to support everyone.”