About The Northeast Recovery Learning Community (NERLC)…

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The Northeast Recovery Learning Community (NERLC) is a peer-staffed department of The Northeast Independent Living Program, Inc. (NILP) that is currently in its’ fifth year of operation and is funded by the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH). NERLC provides recovery-based education, information & referral, training, and support to peers living with mental health conditions in 52 cities and towns across Northeastern Massachusetts. NERLC operates in five Hubs, or “Centers of Activity”: Lowell, Lynn, North Shore, Essex North, and Metro North.

  • Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) (in English & Spanish)
  • Peer Facilitator (in English & Spanish)
  • Young Adult Peer Facilitator
  • Using Recovery Language in Inpatient Settings
  • Whole Health Action Management (Coming Soon!)

By participating in NERLC trainings, and with the follow-up support of the NERLC staff, peer participants become empowered to make changes in their lives that will further support their individual recovery journeys. NERLC supports peer participants by forming an alliance which is based on three key principles: role modeling, mutual respect, and peer support. Through participation in NERLC trainings and events, participants become involved in their local community and learn new skills to support their recovery.

The Northeast Recovery Learning Community (NERLC) is a department of The Northeast Independent Living Program, Inc. (NILP), located at 20 Ballard Road, Lawrence, MA 01843

A Recovery Story:

“When I first heard the term “recovery” used in the context of mental health, my reaction was, “not applicable!”. My understanding of recovery was that it was reserved for people who have been healed…fixed…cured…by some miracle drug or visionary doctor. I was envious of that elite group that “recovered”, whole-heartedly believing that I did not belong in their clique and never would. After all, I’d been told by doctors (plural) that I had this severe “mental illness” which not only necessitated medication for the rest of my life, but that even the best-fitting drug cocktail could not keep me “symptom-free”.

I went through a long period of time when I was confused about and angry at the “mental illness” that intruded on my life. Due to the unpredictability of it, I got into the habit of worrying about the next potential mood swing too much, rather than living in the moment. It was affecting my relationships. my work, and even how I felt about myself. I needed help, but it was not the kind of help that I was getting from my clinical team, the ones who were only focused on symptoms, the resulting limitations, and which medication went with them.

So, I began working with a new therapist who was more of a life coach—exactly what I was seeking. Right at the start, she asked me what my goals were for our sessions. I had to ask her to repeat that as it was such a foreign question to me, coming from a clinician. My response was that I wanted to learn how to live life again. Her first suggestion was that I join a Peer Support group. I have to admit—I was resistant at first. I though that it was exactly what I didn’t need—sitting around complaining about my “illness”. She gently encouraged me each week to give it a try and, in all honesty, I finally agreed to go just to shut her up. But, that first group not only changed my thinking about support groups, it changed my life!

First and foremost, it was such an indescribable relief to be amongst others with shared experiences—people who could really relate to what I was going through! I felt understood, accepted, and safe! As I continued to participate in these groups, I began to pick up ideas for coping and managing from my peers. I even found that I had valuable things to share and that made me feel really good—to help others.

One day, at the Peer Support Group, I saw a flyer for a WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) class. I signed up and gained even more tools to manage my life. Again, I found that the best part was the sharing and support that took place amongst my peers (including the class instructors). The WRAP class also stands out for me as it led me to a true sense of HOPE. At the point in class when HOPE was discussed, I voiced my feelings that I lacked hope due to my “illness” and its’ impact on my life. My peers were very validating but also shared how they discovered and held onto HOPE and what it meant in their lives.

Before long, I began to sense a shift in myself. I started feeling more hopeful about my own situation, realizing that I was building a toolbox full of tools to take my life back. Through the use of coping and managing skills and taking a more positive outlook, I have held strongly to HOPE these past years and it has made all the difference in the world! I started to make plans, set goals, and achieve milestones again—first small steps, then larger ones.

These days, I also enjoy healthier, more reciprocal relationships, including a kinder relationship with myself. After being told by a psychiatrist a few years ago that I was not able to work due to the stress of holding a job, I have embarked upon a rewarding career in the peer recovery field, working for NILP’s (Northeast Independent Living Program, Inc.) NERLC (Northeast Recovery Learning Community). This field fits me like a glove and I feel so blessed to be in a position to give back to the peer movement, which has been so generous with me. If I can help to inspire even one person to find HOPE—as I was through others’ Recovery Stories and the support of my peers in groups and WRAP class, I have fulfilled my role, not just in my job, but also on a much broader level!

Today, I am on my own unique Recovery Journey which, for me, is an on-going process, rather than a finite end-point. My journey is a self-driven, active experience in which I hold the reins and control the pace. Not only have I realized that Recovery IS most definitely applicable to me; I also believe that it is relevant to anyone who seeks it, regardless of where they are on their journey.”

~ Mary Jo Fortes, NILP’s NERLC Hub Coordinator, August 8, 2013





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Our Mission

The Northeast Recovery Learning Community (NERLC) supports individuals who have lived experience with mental health issues, trauma and/or extreme states, in finding their own paths to recovery and wellness in the communities of their choice. By offering trauma-sensitive peer supports, we encourage each other to lead meaningful and productive lives and, together, create a welcoming and diverse peer community.