Building a Working Community: Staff Practices in a Clubhouse for People with Severe Mental Illness

  • Fang-pei ChenEmail author
Original Paper


The trademark of mental health clubhouses is that members and staff work side-by-side in partnership to enhance members’ autonomy, competency, and recovery. To explore the intricacies of this unique approach, the author conducted 53 in-depth interviews and 262 h of participant observation in 41 visits over a five-month period in a clubhouse. Findings indicated that staff members built the clubhouse as a “working community” by skillfully integrating three practice domains: social relationships, unit work, and individuals’ needs and pursuits. Distinctive skillsets helped to develop genuine relationships with members and facilitate community building, suggesting a model of generalist practice with specific intentionality.


The clubhouse model Generalist practice Psychosocial rehabilitation Working community Mental health recovery 



An earlier version of the paper was presented at the 19th Annual Conference of the Society for Social Work and Research, New Orleans, LA, USA, the 6th European Conference for Social Work Research, Lisbon, Portugal, and the 8th International Conference on Social Work in Health and Mental Health, Singapore. The author thanks staff and members at Fountain House for their support of this research. The author also thanks Hans Oh, Kathleen O’Hara, and Laura Cordisco Tsai for their assistance with initial data analysis.


This research received no funding support.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Fang-pei Chen declares that she has no conflict of interest regarding this research.

Human and Animal Rights

The Institutional Review Boards at Fountain House and Columbia University approved this research. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committees and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed written consent was obtained from all individual participants interviewed in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social WelfareNational Chung Cheng UniversityChiayi CountyTaiwan, ROC

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