Consumer-driven programs must include a significant contribution from mental health consumers in design, administration, executive leadership, service provision and/or day-to-day program decision-making. Some, but not all, of these organizations have consumer involvement as an essential part of their charter or mission statement, requiring, for instance, a majority of consumers on their Board of Directors or staff.

Below are listed the principal types of consumer-driven programs and a brief description of how they are designed. To find a specific program type now click on the links below.

| Advocacy | Clubhouse | Community Education | Crisis Prevention/Respite | Drop-in Center | Employment | Homeless Outreach | Housing | Peer Case Management | Peer Companion | Peer Support & Peer Counseling | Recovery Education | Recreation/Arts | Support Group | Technical Assistance | Other Programs |



Advocacy organizations vary in focus. Some help individuals get what they need from mental health and other systems or providers. Others focus on creating change and shifting resources at the local level to better serve consumers and the public. Many work to counter the effects of stigma and discrimination such as NIMBYism (Not-in-My-Back-Yard) and sensationalist media coverage that reinforce negative stereotypes of people with mental illnesses. Still others seek to move governmental systems forward and support civil rights through legislative or policy advocacy. Many organizations and individuals do several of these.

Go to Advocacy listings


A clubhouse is a structured rehabilitation program focusing on developing vocational skills.  Participants are members of the clubhouse and are involved in many decisions and in day-to-day operations of the clubhouse.  Many clubhouses have paid staff members who are consumers.  The International Center for Clubhouse Development oversees certification of clubhouses that follow the “Clubhouse Model” pioneered by Fountain House in New York City. 

Go to Clubhouse listings

Community Education

Many mental health consumers are involved in efforts to educate the community at large about mental health issues, in an effort to reduce stigma and discrimination and to inform people about the availability of services.  Often, these efforts rely on people sharing their personal experiences with mental illness. 

Go to Community Education listings

Crisis Prevention/Respite

A common goal of consumer-delivered services is to reduce hospitalizations and the use of emergency services.  Some services seek to prevent people from reaching the crisis stage.  For example, “warm lines” offer a supportive voice to people who are not in crisis and for whom a hot line would be inappropriate.  Other services are designed to help people approaching or experiencing crises.  Examples include crisis response teams that have consumer staff and respites, which on a voluntary basis provide a supportive environment as an alternative to hospitalization. 

Go to Crisis Prevention/Respite listings

Drop-in Center

A drop-in center provides a welcoming environment for mental health consumers, as well as a wide range of activities, including support groups, recreational and social events, and linkages with support services.  For more information about drop-in centers, see the Clearinghouse technical assistance guide on the topic. 

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In many programs, consumer staff members provide employment supports that enable clients to choose, get, and keep jobs.  Examples include resume preparation, benefits counseling, job readiness, skills development, computer training, and job coaching. 

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Homeless Outreach

Outreach to consumers who are homeless can help link them with mental health services, health care, housing, and other supports, but mistrust of the system often poses a barrier to successful outreach.  Some outreach programs employ formerly homeless consumers, whose personal experience can help to build trusting relationships. 

Go to Homeless Outreach listings


Consumer staff members are employed by housing providers, including housing that is part of a more comprehensive service program.  Consumer staff members also provide housing-related services, ranging from assistance in finding and securing housing, to providing supportive services.

Go to Housing listings

Peer Case Management

In many areas, consumers are employed to provide case management services, and published studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of consumer case management teams. 

Go to Peer Case Management listings

Peer Companion

Recognizing that friendships and social relationships are key to recovery, some programs involve matching people with similar interests who spend significant amounts of time together in a supportive relationship.  Often, volunteers and staff are themselves consumers. 

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Peer Support & Peer Counseling

In peer support programs, consumer staff members receive extensive training in critical areas such as benefits acquisition, goal planning, and self-care.  However, unlike traditional case management services, the peer counselor’s own recovery experience is central to the relationship with clients, through shared experience and mentorship. 

Go to Peer Support listings

Recovery Education

Some programs have as their focus training people how to take personal responsibility for recovery through techniques and plans.  These educational programs can take the form of intensive training retreats or ongoing classes.  Often, participants have the opportunity to join ongoing support groups. 

Go to Recovery Education listings


In addition to traditional services and supports, recovery and a meaningful life in the community require opportunities for relaxation, socializing, and fun, and recreational programs help to fill this need.  Art programs can also provide opportunities for self-expression, and some programs even help consumers sell their artwork.

Go to Recreation/Arts listings

Support Group

Throughout the world, support groups meeting on a regular basis offer opportunities for mutual support at little cost.  Some groups follow well-established models, while others operate based solely on the input of group members. 

Go to Support Group listings

Technical Assistance

To foster the growth of consumer-delivered services, state and national organizations offer technical assistance to programs and groups at the local level, as well as helping individuals start new services. 

Go to Technical Assistance listings

Other Programs

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