National Alliance on Mental Illness
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 NAMI Provider Education

Teaching Those Who Serve Us


The NAMI Provider Education Program presents a penetrating, subjective view of family and consumer experiences with serious mental illness to line staff at public agencies who work directly with people with severe and persistent brain disorders. The course helps providers realize the hardships that families and consumers endure and appreciate the courage and persistence it takes to find ways to reconstruct lives which must be lived, through no fault of the consumer or family, "on the verge."

The Provider Course emphasizes the involvement of consumers in the challenging work of provider-staff training. The teaching team consists of five people:

  • two family members trained as NAMI Family-to-Family Education Program teachers;
  • two consumers who are knowledgeable about their own mental illness, have a supportive relationship with their families, and are dedicated to the process of recovery; and
  • a mental health professional who is also a family member or consumer.

Few teaching programs employ consumers in this kind of sustained training effort in which they are paid to participate on a teaching team as they present a 10-week course.

The course reflects a new knowledge base, the "lived experiences" of coping with a brain disorder or caring for someone who struggles with this life-long challenge. Including this deeply personal perspective creates an appreciable difference in the program's content. It adds a means of teaching the emotional aspects and practical consequences of these illnesses to the academic medical information in the course.

In written evaluations and in focus-group surveys of their reactions to these classes, staff members reported that the course was fresh, relevant, helpful, enlightening, and emotionally overwhelming.

Participants felt that not only had their approach towards families changed, but that their understanding of consumers' dealing-with-life dilemmas had expanded as well. Almost every participant described how his or her own clinical practice had changed because of what was learned in class.

The NAMI Provider Education Program is currently being taught in twenty-two states:  Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana,  New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin. The Provider program is also available in the Canadian province of Ontario.  For more information, contact Joyce Burland or Joe Harris at the National NAMI office at (703) 524-7600, or e-mail or to find out if the Provider Program is available in your area.  

Related Links

Magellan Health Services--Exclusive Sponsor of the Provider Education Program