This project took place at an outpatient mental health setting, and offers new understandings in our pursuit for communal well-being. It documents the unique participation of group members in the co-creaction of new knowledge and better understanding of human relationships using a participatory action research methodology. The article explores how improvements can take place in the lives of people diagnosed as chronically mentally ill. It demonstrates how a postmodern, collaborative approach to group therapy impacted the ways in which persons diagnosed with serious and chronic mental illness recreated their identities, thereby affecting their ways of relating to others and to themselves. It examines the social and communal components of understanding human behavior, moving away from an intrapsychic and individualistic framework. Doing so allows us to expand our awareness and utilize our humanity in the treatment of people who have been diagnosed with mental illnesses. The role and power of collaboration are illustrated by considering the unique ways group members presented their ideas and behaved with one another. Possibilities for more sustainable ways of living together and sharing meaningful moments are considered. This article can serve as an invitation for how mental health professionals can also contribute to a culture of peace.

Author Bio(s)

Celia Quintas is a clinical private psychotherapist and an Associate of the Taos Institute. She was raised in Brazil but lived in Europe for years where she learned several languages, which also allowed expanding her understanding and flexibility in dealing with people. Celia completed a Masters Degree in Education and later in Mental Health Counseling. She has worked in community mental health centers, private psychiatric hospitals and currently in private practice. Her work and research focus on topics involving social constructionist ideas in our understandings of mental illness and social justice. She concluded her Doctoral Degree from Nova Southeastern University, Florida, last year. Email: mcelia@nova.edu

Christopher Burnett is a Clinical Psychologist, and an Associate Professor of Human Relationship Systems in the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of Family Therapy, at Nova Southeastern University. He has worked in the mental health field for over 30 years, in both inpatient and outpatient settings, and has always had a strong interest in applying systems thinking principles to understanding issues associated with chronic mental illness. He has been a full time faculty member at NSU for 20 years, and has chaired a large number of dissertation research projects during that time. Email: burnett@nova.edu


group psychotherapy, mental illness, Ohana Project, participatory action research (PAR) methodology, relational identities

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