What is the Clubhouse Model?

Through over 320 local Clubhouses in more than 30 countries around the world, The Clubhouse Model offers people living with mental illness opportunities for friendship, employment, housing, education and referrals to medical and mental health services in a single caring and safe environment.

This social and economic inclusion reverses the alarming trends of higher suicide, hospitalization and incarceration rates associated with mental illness.

Clubhouses are a powerful demonstration of the fact that people with mental illness can and do lead normal, productive lives.

Clubhouses are community centers that provide members with opportunities to build long-term relationships that, in turn, support them in obtaining employment, education, enrichment, and housing.

What is Clubhouse Membership?

Once a member, always a member!

A Clubhouse is a membership organization, and the people who come and participate in a Clubhouse are its members. Membership in a Clubhouse is open to anyone with a history of mental illness.

This idea of membership is fundamental to the Clubhouse concept. Being a member of an organization means that an individual has both shared ownership and shared responsibility for the success of that organization.

To be a member of an organization means to belong, to fit in somewhere, and to have a place where one is always welcome.

What are the benefits of Clubhouse?

  • A work-ordered day in which the talents and abilities of members are recognized and utilized within the Clubhouse. 

  • Participation in consensus-based decision-making regarding all important matters relating to the running of the Clubhouse. 

  • Opportunities for paid employment in the local labor market through Clubhouse-created employment programming. 

  • Assistance in accessing community-based educational opportunities with local institutions such as MATC, UW-Milwaukee, Marquette, or the Literacy Services of Wisconsin.

  • Access to crisis intervention services when needed. 

  • Evening/weekend social and recreational events such as art, music, fitness, and community events. 

  • Assistance in securing and sustaining safe, decent and affordable housing.

What is the Origin of the Clubhouse Model?

The word “Clubhouse” comes from the original language that was used to communicate the work and vision of Fountain House, the very first Clubhouse, which was started in New York in 1948.

Since its inception, Fountain House has served as the model for all subsequent Clubhouses that have been started around the world. 

Fountain House began when former patients of a New York psychiatric hospital began to meet together informally, as a kind of “club.”

It was organized as a support system for people living with mental illness, rather than as a service or a treatment program. Today this model is overseen by Clubhouse International. 

Communities around the world that have modeled themselves after Fountain House have embraced the term “Clubhouse,” because it clearly communicates the message of membership and belonging. This message of inclusion is at the very heart of the Clubhouse way of working.

There are some 320 Clubhouses in about 30 countries. Grand Avenue Club is the only Clubhouse in Milwaukee County.

Why does Clubhouse work?

It is designed to be a place where a person living with mental illness is not treated as a patient and is not defined by a disability label. In a Clubhouse, a person with mental illness is seen as a valued participant, a colleague and as someone who has something to contribute to the rest of the group. 

Each person is a critical part of a community engaged in important work. In a Clubhouse, each member is given the message that he or she is wanted, needed and welcomed each day. 

The message that each member’s involvement is an important contribution to the community that is communicated throughout the Clubhouse day. Staff and other members greet each person at the door of the Clubhouse each morning with a smile and words of welcome. The daily work of the Clubhouse community is organized and carried out in a way that continually reinforces this message of belonging. 

This is not difficult because, in fact, the work of the Clubhouse does require the participation of the members. The design of a Clubhouse engages members in every aspect of its operation, and there is always much more work to be done than can be accomplished by the staff. 

The skills, talents, and creative ideas and efforts of each member are needed and encouraged each day.

Participation is voluntary, but each member is always invited to participate in work which includes clerical duties, reception, food service, transportation management, outreach, maintenance, research, managing the employment and education programs, financial services and much more.

Membership in a Clubhouse gives a person living with mental illness the opportunity to share in creating successes for the community.

At the same time, he or she is getting the necessary help and support to achieve individual success and satisfaction.

How are we fighting the stigma of mental illness?

For a person living with mental illness, these simple things cannot be taken for granted.

In fact, the reality for most people who live with mental illness is that they have a constant sense of not fitting in, of isolation and rejection.

Mental illness often has the devastating effect of separating people from others in society. “Mental patient,” “client,” “disabled,” “consumer” and “user” are all terms used by society as a reference to people living with mental illness. 

People living with mental illness are often segregated according to these labels and defined by them as people who need something, or as people who are societal burdens that need to be managed.

The Clubhouse offers a complete change in this perspective. We at GAC have a slogan; “We are not our mental illness.”  

Clubhouse International

Clubhouse International is the global accreditation agency of Clubhouses all over the world. Grand Avenue Club has consistently earned 3-year accreditation status
(the highest possible).

To learn more about Clubhouse International,
click the logo above!