Working to Recovery

Experienced Professionals Helping With Recovery From "Psychosis"





Helping Families Over Many Years

For over 36 years, Karen has provided compassionate mental health provision to families, providing a holistic and alternative approach to recovery from "psychosis". Many people who are labelled as “psychotic” are actually survivors of trauma. The main goal at Working to Recovery is to help people with lived experience to identify possible links between traumas of their past and their current condition, enabling them to form a closer understanding with these events and enter the path to recovery and greater emotional wellbeing.
Many people are looking for alternatives to hospital admission and treatment when it comes to recovery from "psychosis," so if you are one of these people, get in contact with Working to Recovery; however we are unable to help people in acute stages of distress apart from online.


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Our History 

Karen has an extensive knowledge of service development and provision worldwide having worked in many countries, and therefore offers a unique approach in terms of training and consultancy. She is also extremely comfortable working with people who use services, families and staff together, strongly advocating the model of co-production and effective dialoguing between different groups.

Working to Recovery has developed experiential courses that precipitate a form of training that is life-changing for participants and organisations. Karen is especially renowned for her recovery training, with her services producing a paradigm shift in the way recovery from "psychosis" is approached, analysing spirituality and trauma as a symbiotic phenomenon. The Recovery Champions course – which focuses on developing values and attitudes and was first pioneered with Scottish association of mental health and the Scottish Recovery Network – has been taught in many locations across the globe.

Karen’s training directly impacts on how clinicians interact and work with people who are recovering from "psychosis". 

She has experience in delivering different kinds of consultancy solutions, including using PATH, Open-Space Events, Designing of New Services and Redesign, Change Management, and Learning Sets. She has a special interest in the design of mental health services – particularly those concerned with recovery from "psychosis". She is also experienced in wider community consultations such as public meetings and participatory appraisal, along with planning, designing, implementing and managing conferences and serving as an effective public speaker in her own right.

Along with training, Working to Recovery ran three recovery house models in different locations, which enabled us to put our thinking into practice, ensuring that our work remained dynamic and remained grounded in what helps people experience genuine growth and recovery from "psychosis". The online Working to Recovery Living Well College specialises in facilitating learning through a person-centred, biopsychosocial approach that recognises the link between spirituality and "psychosis" and emotional wellbeing. Karen can now advise people how to set up their own recovery house or alternative service.




Recovery Camp

The first Working to Recovery Mental Health Summer Recovery Camp was held in June 2015 in Dumfries, Scotland. The second took place in June 2016 in Ivybridge, Devon, England. The third, in September 2017, was held in Llanslin, Oswestry.

We started the recovery camps in order to bring people with lived experience, family members and workers together in an informal setting – one which was affordable and beautiful, situated in the countryside with different levels of accommodation provided. Some people brought their own tents; we supplied bell tents; one camp had Yurts; another had a tepee. All were offered some bunkhouse form of accommodation. Some people chose to stay in nearby B&Bs or hotels, while some came daily from their own homes. There was also a large marquee where people could gather.

The purpose behind all of this was to create an environment built around recovery and for everyone to experience it for themselves! Each year, the Recovery Camp grew organically, both leading up to the event and during the camp. There were talks, debates, workshops, alternative therapy, and a host of other practices. The underlying ethos was that we were all there to share our expertise and experience; anyone could run a group on a subject of their choosing.

Mornings started with Chi Gong, Meditation, and other practices, followed by a morning meeting, where we all checked in. This was followed by workshops, which can be run by anyone attending and can therefore range from a whole host of topics. After lunch, we had a ‘Big Tent Discussion’, led by an invited speaker or Ron or Karen, who spoke on a topic ahead of opening up the room to debate and discussion. There were then more workshops on recovery from psychosis, emotional wellbeing and the link between spirituality and trauma.

Throughout the day, there were taster sessions of alternative therapy (for donation) and a range of other practice that organically grow throughout the camp, such as EFT, Zen Tarot readings, Energy Healing, and more. Working with us were peer volunteers who would act as camp elders, helping to support people who came alone or required extra support – particularly in the evenings. Food was provided at a reasonable price, but there were also cooking facilities for those who wanted to prepare their own meals.

We kept the price for Recovery Camp as low as possible in order to give as many people the chance to come. There were some camp rules, such as no drinking of alcohol during the working day. In the evening, when it was more about play and relaxation, the rule was relaxed but we tried to impress upon people that they needed to be up and ready each day to join in on workshops and work on their own recovery journeys.

The Recovery Camps were always situated away from urban areas, allowing people to get away from the hustle and bustle of life. However, we did choose venues that were fairly close to public transport. In the weeks leading up to the Recovery Camp, we would send out travel directions, including local taxi numbers, and help people to coordinate lifts.

In Australia, we also ran a smaller version of Recovery Camp, using our five-day recovery champions course as the baseline. This was attended just by peers and run in cabin lodges. Those who came felt that the experience was life changing and enhanced their emotional wellbeing.



Interested in Recovery Camps?

If you like the idea of a Recovery Camp, or have experienced one for yourself, you may be thinking about setting up a Recovery Camp for yourself and your organisation. We are happy to support you on this, although Karen no longer runs Recovery Camps at Working to Recovery.

For any further questions regarding the information above, please send us an email.

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 Recovery House Projects 

Gloucester (2001)

We have hosted many Recovery House projects over the years, with our first happening in 2001 in Gloucester, when Ron and Karen were Directors of a company called Keepwell Ltd. A psychiatrist asked us if we could provide a residential recovery programme for a person for a year; she did not want to diagnose this person and thought that we could help, with local social services covering the costs. Providing this care was a steep learning curve, especially with regard to hiring staff and setting up policies. We kept the house going for the year but burned our fingers financially. However, seeing that person thrive and grow was the most important factor.

Here is what Maria said about her stay:
“Hi, my name is Maria, and I was the first client in Ron and Karen’s first Recovery House in Gloucester, England. The first difference from the other residential placements I’ve had was that this was a RECOVERY HOUSE! There was a general expectation that, with everyone’s help, I would get better and be able to recover my life, and not just live in an acute psychiatric ward or institution with no hope for the future.

“I was allowed to choose my own room and it was decorated and furnished to my wishes. I had a key support worker, but really all the support workers were essential in one area or another, and they all became my friends and confidantes. I did intense work with Ron and Karen, and true to his word Ron brought in other therapists if he felt they would be helpful.   

“I was encouraged and helped to have a social life and did work experience and adult education classes. If I had self-harmed or was feeling totally lousy mentally, I did not get out of doing things, I was just supported more to get to the class or whatever I was meant to be doing. The whole experience taught me that I could live again, that I was worthwhile to have around and that I did not have to let my mental health dictate my life.”

Isle of Lewis

We moved to the Isle of Lewis in 2008, and in 2011 moved to a larger house to accommodate our children. The very small cottage that we had used became our office and the idea of a recovery house grew, and in the winter of that year our first resident arrived.

We wanted to prove that what we said in our training worked in practice and we certainly achieved this – not with everyone who came, but those who engaged fully in the process are now living totally different lives.

We decided to use our profits from training to offer personalised recovery breaks for individuals wishing to engage with their emotional, spiritual and mental health issues – mainly people who are recovering from “psychosis” or seen as becoming “chronic”, even though some were relatively young people. They would travel to the house and stay for up to three months.

We acquired considerable experience in assisting people to develop and pursue their recovery agendas, finding that taking time away from their normal routines of life was a very powerful way of beginning and/or reactivating the journey to recovery from psychosis. Although the house was free of charge, we did see how important reciprocity was for a resident’s self-esteem and learning that they had skills to offer us, so people helped in the garden and it was their responsibility to feed the animals, which included poultry and pigs.

Italian Recovery House Project (Summer 2013)

A family association near Bologna asked us if we would be interested in running a recovery house project for them. After a series of meetings and several visits, we found an old farmhouse that was suitable and big enough to run the three-month project during the summer months. We interviewed participants and gathered 10 people to start the course, employing two workers and several people also volunteered to work in the project.

From the start, we did things differently, always involving the families in the programme. Our philosophy has constantly been that what we do is educational as opposed to merely therapy. We split the project into three months, with Karen going out for the first month to set the house up and in those first four weeks, running sessions on recovery from psychosis, choice, ownership, people, self, spirituality and trauma.

We encourage people to look at their own story, and what we did with the residents we replicated in evening sessions with the families, with an emphasis on concentrating on their own recovery journeys. Paul Baker came in for month and along with peer who had stayed at the recovery house in Scotland, he concentrated on looking at people’s lost skills. He helped people to ride bikes and drive again. There was also a garden project, which people spent time in every day. In month three, Ron came and took over from Paul and Karen joined him for the last couple of weeks.

These were intense weeks, during which we concentrated on what had happened to the residents, what they wanted to change and how they were going to do that. The project was full of love and hope and ended with a graduation ceremony and party evening. Two of the staff later went on to set up a recovery house project in Trieste, which ran for a couple of years. There was a research project undertaken that showed positive outcomes.


We were asked by Richmond Fellowship, based in Western Australia, to help set up a Recovery House project for them. It was loosely based on the Italian Recovery House project but was different insofar as it was set in a suburban environment. There was an intense group format, with people working every weekday in groups. This is where we started to use sculpting and employed an alternative practitioner. The project was left for Richmond to run and to this day there is a version of the recovery house still going.

For one year, we also ran our own recovery house in Perth. With a small core team, the project was both residential and for day clients. Based very much on group process and splitting the day into what Ron called the “mars bar approach” – work, rest, play – this project sadly came to an end due to Ron’s ill health.


Amitola communities in York, UK, currently has two recovery houses based around our group format. They received training from us over two years and have received glowing CQC reports.

The purpose of our Recovery House projects was to support individual recovery needs with respect to:

  • Supporting reflections on individual recovery including spirituality and trauma
  • Building resilience in the face of personal and emotional difficulties
  • Developing and cementing autonomy from services
  • Developing routines and fitness
  • Engaging in meaningful activities and work
  • Other agendas as identified by individuals, such as medication withdrawal and trauma work

Participants were expected to develop a recovery plan and work on it during their stay. The project ran for almost three years. You can read about some of the stories below.



  Recovery House Stories






Take a look at some of the memories of our Recovery Work




Working to Recovery is a highly experienced organisation that aids people in their recovery from "psychosis", so don’t hesitate to get in contact.

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