This section is dedicated to former clients and families of Hanbleceya who have authorized us to share their inspiring words. And though this page represents only a small sample of successes, it nonetheless provides some insight into what is possible when even the most severe mental illness willingly enters treatment and embarks on a guided and supported path to recovery.
For each client depicted in the below testimonials, the family’s desire to seek treatment began with some form of crises which subsequently lead them to contacting Hanbleceya. Upon admission a predictable lack of desire, ambivalence or sheer defiance on the part of the client to commit to program structure ensued. With severe mental illness, the path to recovery is always littered with obstacles. No client and no family traverses this path without challenges and frustrations. This reality held true for each of our authors below.
To protect the privacy of our former clients and families, they will only be referenced by first name.
If I were to try to sum up the benefit I have received by being a Hanbleceya client, two words come to my mind: mental freedom. I came to Hanbleceya a broken man that had no concept of peace or independence. The fact that I truly consider myself free today is a testimony to the benefit possible for adults with mental illness, or dual diagnosis.
When I first joined Hanbleceya, I didn’t know what to expect but my family and I wanted help. I figured I would stay for a few months and maybe learn a thing or two about my condition, then discharge as pretty much the same person, with the same life that I had been living for years. Little did I know that I would find a new, healthier way of living and that my family would come together and work together like never before. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth every moment.
Hanbleceya has provided me with numerous tools to deal with my depression, anxiety, schizoaffective disorder and addiction. They have been key factors in my recovery process. Not only have I found recovery from these conditions through the support of the staff, I have also found much of it from the community as a whole; clients and staff alike. I have been supported by my fellow peers through advice and feedback in groups, by spending time together and socializing outside of groups, by using a confrontation structure in a caring and appropriate way, and finally, by being able to relate to other members of the Hanbleceya community. I am the president of the Leadership Group, which is a small, select group of clients who meet once a month, mentor other clients, while upholding and spreading the culture of Hanbleceya throughout the community. This is what I truly recognize as being the integral component in my recovery; helping and supporting other clients in need. Giving back is where the culture of Hanbleceya shines and is a big part of how recovery should ideally work.
Today, I continue to improve on a daily basis. Without Hanbleceya, I don’t know where I would be or what condition I would be in; I do know, however, that it would not compare to the peaceful and humble life I now live every day. The journey continues but I am forever thankful to Hanbleceya as well as the staff and clients that I have met and worked with along the way. I am truly grateful.
Mike, Age 28
When I came to Hanbleceya I had been seriously depressed for 3 years and had 2 suicide attempts. I had spent 2 years in and out of hospital based therapy. Clearly that therapy was not working for me.
Hanbleceya is an activity based treatment program. Each peer lives in a house with 1-3 housemates. The peers alternate between cooking and cleaning the dishes. In addition each peer is assigned chores to keep the house clean. The staff monitor these chores on a daily basis. Each peer must participate in a work development program. This usually involves volunteering at organizations such as the Salvation Army and the Red Cross. Some peers have paying jobs in the area. The requirement for work development is around 10 hours per week. During the week peers meet at the Hanbleceya center for a variety of treatment groups. These groups range from Poetry and Improvisational Theater to Anger Management to Addictions. On the weekend peers must have at least two “socials” with other peers per day. On Saturday and Sunday morning there are activity trips from 9-1. Using public transit the group visits various locations in the San Diego area.
The busy schedule was good for me. In my depression I simply wanted to exist. At Hanbleceya I was forced to participate. My groups, 2 therapy sessions, 1 family session (by phone), work development, and house chores kept me busy. My state of deep depression lasted about 2 months. Then I gradually realized that I wanted to get better for myself, not for others. I started to open up to staff and peers. I learned to listen to others and consider their feelings. I learned how to restructure my thoughts, turning negative thoughts into positive ones.
Gradually I started to improve and the depression lifted. However, I became combative in therapy and groups. Fortunately Hanbleceya would not tolerate this. I was put into Anger Management and Assertiveness Groups. My therapists repeatedly brought this to my attention. For a while I stewed over the unfairness of staff toward me. Then I realized I was sabotaging my own recovery. I quickly got with the program and realized the staff was there to support me.
During my stay at Hanbleceya I was often with my fellow peers. I developed a strong bond with many of these peers. Often we would go for a coffee, yogurt, or lunch and talk about our lives. This allowed me to open up and talk about my feelings and problems, and to listen to other’s problems. While no one “social” visit changed my life, the cumulative effect was quite profound. This produced a sense of community and security in which I was able to work on my depression.
The last two months of my stay I was given increasing independence. I was gradually weaned off Hanbleceya and put back in the real world. I was allowed the use of a car. My groups were reduced so that I had more free time. I was able to visit my family during week long “vacations”. These “vacations” gave me more confidence in myself, and gave my family assurances that I was ready to come home.
I am very grateful to Hanbleceya for giving me my life back. During the 3 years of darkness I often felt that I would never see the sunlight. Now sometimes I need to apply sunscreen.
Paul, Age 66
Since the beginning of my time with the Hanbleceya community over two years ago, I can safely say the positive change in both myself, and my family, has surpassed our highest expectations. I have been in various forms of psychiatric treatment since my adolescence days (I’m now in my early twenties), and after finding little success in coping with my severe depression, anxiety disorder, and surviving multiple attempts of taking my own life, my family and I decided that something more needed to be done.
Within a short time of joining Hanbleceya, I realized how committed the staff was to my recovery and well being. One the aspects of Hanbleceya culture most valuable to my personal treatment has been the willingness to hold me accountable for my own actions. As strong as my desire to recover was, on multiple occasions it was extremely hard to acknowledge my own issues and confront my personal demons, and Hanbleceya supported me every step of the way. That led me to a phase in my life that I could hardly have imagined when initially joining the community – moving into my own apartment and pursuing a career in Biomedical Engineering. Initially I divided my time between school, a reduced treatment schedule as a part of Hanbleceya, and a growing network of friends independent of treatment. My recovery in the Hanbleceya community has been the single most challenging experience of my life, and easily the best decision I’ve ever made.
Chris, Age 24
I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 17. I spent a year in a hospital, but it didn’t help. I was given Thorazine, the very earliest anti-psychotic, which had very bad side effects. After that, even though I somehow managed to graduate from college and work fulltime for 3.5 years, I was still very ill, living an over-adapted life, while not in touch with myself and not able to be in a relationship.
At the age of 27, I moved to California from Georgia and had a very severe psychotic breakdown. I ended up in a hospital for 2 years in my hometown, and once again was treated badly and didn’t get any help. I don’t like hospitals. Years later, after struggling with my illness, which included lying in bed for hours at a time, so depressed I couldn’t move, for months at a time, and bouncing in and out of a Crisis Unit in the bay area, I was divinely guided to Hanbleceya. At Hanbleceya, though it took a long time because I was stubborn and suffered from “institutionalization syndrome,” I finally started working on my issues and was able to take in the miraculous support that Hanbleceya offered. Hanbleceya is the first place I had ever been where they truly understood serious mental illness and how to work with it. Hanbleceya taught me how to get in touch with my feelings, express them appropriately, and how to connect with other human beings, while being in a relationship with them. I also learned about integrity, responsibility, follow through, and how to love myself, as well as others.
I am very close to my family today after being alienated from them and blaming them for many years. I live a blessed life; I live in my own condo and have a meaningful job doing marketing and public speaking for NAMI. I hold fundraisers in my home, collect art, travel, do fun things with my boyfriend, and sponsor a child in Africa! My life has been transformed and I am so grateful to the amazing staff at Hanbleceya.
Stephanie, Age 49
I have suffered from bipolar disorder since I was a child. My life had spiraled out of control – three failed marriages; fired from jobs; the foreclosure of my home; alienation of beloved family members – to name some of it! I came to Hanbleceya, because I had nowhere else, except, homelessness.
Within this loving, supportive community and the help of a very compassionate, and capable staff, I began to understand my problems and my roles in them. Hanbleceya taught me how to relate to my challenges by learning new skills to deal with them. I have set up support structures that, finally, lead my life in a direction I can happily live with! Now, my life is filled with healthy relationships, including: family, friends, peers, a “community”, my own apartment, a job, my own car, independence, and balance.
Today, my life is stable and moving forward. I will continue to learn and grow, as I take more risks in my therapy, as I have done in the past.
PJ, Age 61
Before I came to Hanbleceya, I was in a considerable amount of pain and anguish which neither my parents nor then current girlfriend could find a solution for. I had resorted to using both drugs and alcohol to cope with the stress, anxiety, tension, and overall rage I felt at being mentally and physically different from other people. So when asked why I wanted to come to Hanbleceya during my two-day assessment, my immediate reply was “help me!” Little did I know that would begin the start of my healing journey, which is still in progress.
Even though I wanted to feel better, I spent my first year at Hanbleceya recklessly “pushing the envelope” of patience, tolerance, and loving support among both peers and staff, most of whom I was convinced were out to change me against my will. I refused to complete chores, attend groups on time, engage in community events, and I broke a few laws – all the while convincing myself that seeking treatment was not the right solution. I was angry and scared.
After many interventions by Hanbleceya staff, I realized how much effort peers and staff had put into helping me become the man I wanted to be. By confronting my behavior and explaining how it affected them, by holding me accountable, by visiting me frequently at the hospital and extending a helping hand, I realized just how much my peers and the staff at Hanbleceya cared. The community support as a whole has played a big part in my recovery and successes.
Following a suspension, I returned willing and open-minded enough to change my behavior and thought process, which in turn changed my feelings. This allowed me to experience love, humility, acceptance, grace, and appreciation of the human spirit. In the time that I have worked on myself while at Hanbleceya, which is approaching two and a half years, I have learned that I am no different than my peers, who have experienced the same stigma of mental illness and are learning how to manage it as well.
I am now able to help my peers along their healing journey by acting as a member of the leadership group, by using my fun and humor in difficult moments, by volunteering for community positions, and by organizing community events. I also share my story of recovery with newer clients, and visit clients who are currently in the hospital. I hope that one day my assistance will help my peers in achieving their treatment goals such as finding meaningful employment, rebuilding relationships with their loved ones, mentoring fellow peers, participating in community activities, and accepting themselves for who they are.
Chris, Age 36
Our child has been at Hanbleceya for almost a year and the growth he has made has been tremendous. He had struggled for several years with increasingly troubling issues which were aggravated by substance abuse and an inability to see the relationship between self-medication and the worsening of his problems. He had alienated nearly everyone in our family, and our relationship with him was in a shambles. Things continued to worsen for him, until we finally convinced him to get help. We were very thorough in searching for the right program for him, and researched many options and references. It finally boiled down to two, one of which was Hanbleceya (the other one was on the other side of the country). It had been recommended to us by a nationally renowned hospital, and the kudos were verified by a full investigation by us. We had been down this road before, without much lasting success, and so were very cautious. I can say now that Hanbleceya has truly been the best treatment program we have run across for our child. The therapists are carefully chosen, and we have been very happy with all the staff. While they do have a medical component to deal with meds and such, their philosophy is that those with mental illness are capable of living happy and good, independent lives, and they strive to move their clients in this direction, with the goal of ultimately living a meaningful life in all its permutations (emotional, relational social, work/education. independence, insight, etc.). To that end, they provide a plethora of help and support, including personal and targeted group therapy, parental support and family therapy, medical intervention if necessary, individualized treatment plans, job and education support, as well as transition aid.
It is not a walk in the park though – family participation is essential, and it is not a good fit for everyone. Also, it is a costly undertaking, but well worth it, in our opinion. Everyone on staff there is familiar with every patient, and it truly is a community. The clients are first and foremost treated as intact people, rather than as sick individuals. The actual diagnostic label is de-emphasized in favor of dealing with the issues at hand, and helping the client to have insight and take responsibility, which is really the only way to live in the world in a successful way. There are various components for substance abuse issues as well as equine therapy, fitness programs, etc.
A year ago I thought we had lost our child forever, and now I can honestly say that our family relationships have mostly healed and we can enjoy one another again. He has been free of substance abuse, and has made great strides. He sees this too, and is able to feel good about the work he has done. He is about to move to their transition program, and expects to have a job in the next month or two. He feels good about his progress and is hopeful of the future, as are we.
None of this would have been possible with the help Hanbleceya, and I highly recommend this program.
After almost two years and a half with Hanbleceya, my daughter transitioned out the program six months ago or so, remaining in the area to complete a Paralegal Certificate program at UCSD. She then returned where we live less than two months ago and a few weeks ago started Law School. Now she is looking for part time jobs at law firms. Her biggest challenge so far has been trying to replicate the quality of support (doctors/therapists) that she enjoyed in La Mesa … and we are in L.A. County!
My daughter’s illness “exploded” a couple of months before finding Hanbleceya through the research done by some dear friends on the east coast. In fact, no doctors or hospitals, or therapists we had come in contact with had any clue on where to provide for a structured, professional, effective, consistent, balanced recovery program. In many respects, we were lucky.
Our experience with Hanbleceya, as a family, has been incredibly positive. Besides the measurably successful outcome of her recovery efforts, the most important aspect for all of us is that we have learned how to deal with my daughter’s illness. This concept applies to each of us, albeit with different nuances. For my daughter it means that she has learned how to manage her life under her circumstances. For me as a father, it means how to behave and conduct myself not to be a codependent. For the other siblings it means how to be together and have their sister back without fears or pain.
Hanbleceya’s recovery program was very comprehensive and tailored for my daughter specifically. It evolved over time and while she did most of the work required, the whole family was involved in the process. While my daughter behavior was “de-programmed” and “rebuilt” to be able to “re-enter” society, each of us has to do his/her part for ourselves and her. She could not work on her recovery independent of ours – a counter-intuitive concept that we learned at Hanbleceya.
Hanbleceya was, and in some respects still is, with us all the way with tough love. I found the staff to be extremely professional, sincerely caring but also very clear and firm in their dealing with our situation — and particularly with my daughter. We felt that second guessing or going around their program would have been counterproductive and would have undermined what they were set to accomplish. Hence, we complied with everything was expected of us.
Hanbleceya is not the place where you drop off a loved one and life goes back to normal. The overall experience is a long journey with ups and downs and that involves everyone. Hanbleceya made sure we were involved with a variety of initiatives and contacts — it was expected and absolutely necessary.
Like many aspects of life our overall “return” on the “investment” depends on how much we “invested” – and I am not referring to the monetary aspect. The one who invested the most is my daughter and she is the one, in my opinion, with the highest return: she has a great chance at life.
She would tell you that it was very hard and long work. She would not want to do it again and she does not have all fond memories of Hanbleceya; however, she would always recognize that she felt safe and that the staff she dealt with truly cared about her. She may not have liked the uncompromising and firm approach adopted by the program. She was always made accountable for her actions, behavior and consequences – something that, along the way we, as a family, had “forgotten” as a way to cope with her illness. We had to re-learn as well.
We were fortunate to “stumble across” Hanbleceya. Their program is the best we could have done for my daughter and for this I am forever grateful to Hanbleceya and their staff.
After my first conversation with Kerry Paulson, I knew that we were in good hands with Hanbleceya! My daughter was extremely ill with visual and auditory hallucinations. She had sores all over her body due to a systemic infection secondary to drug use. I knew she was in terrible danger and I was afraid for her life.
I wish we had found Hanbleceya years ago. Now my daughter is learning to live again. She’s going to meetings, doing volunteer work, interacting with friends, and learning life management skills.
They also work with me (the family) to help change the co-dependent and dysfunctional dynamic. I’m learning to let go of the outcome and take care of myself.
They have done such a good job, that I’m using them to help prepare for an intervention with another family member. I’m very grateful for their knowledge, understanding, and compassion.
After YEARS of trying to help my sister I feel like Hanbleceya is the key to her future. She is bipolar and is somewhere in the autism spectrum, so she has struggled with relationships, social situations, problem-solving, and poor decision-making her entire life. I think that’s what led her to seek relief in substance abuse, which made all her problems worse. She has been through abusive relationships, life on the streets, and had her children taken away. She tried a couple of rehab programs before but they never addressed her mental and emotional health issues, and she slipped back into using.
This time is SO different. The staff at Hanbleceya guide her—while holding her responsible—in her recovery and healing. She gets one-on-one therapy, group sessions, life coaching, socializing, medical supervision, and support. I wish we had this program 30 years ago.
This is not a short-term “get-you-out-of here-in six-months” program, but a long-term life transition. I really like the way they have experts on staff to help her navigate social systems, transportation, medical appointments, etc. all with the goal of helping her reach as much independence as she is capable of. And they keep me involved every step of the way so that I know what’s going on from the staff perspective.
BTW, the staff are totally professional, warm, and always respectful. They have befriended her and I can tell she feels that they are her new “family.” For someone who has always had trouble making friends, this is huge.
I TOTALLY recommend this program if you are serious about getting help for your loved one. It is a life-changer.
We did an intervention with my daughter 5 years ago – to no avail. She chose to continue living a life style that was inappropriate. It was 4 years after that intervention that she was willing to move into Hanbleceya – albeit “kicking and screaming”.
I find Hanbleceya to be a sacred place – a place that focuses on the activities of daily living — quiet, serene, peaceful. I have found each one of the staff to be pleasant, courteous, compassionate and firm. Each staff person has a heart for the client, hope for their independence, and shares my vision for my daughter.
In the meantime my daughter has grown “leaps and bounds”. She has found a home, has quieted herself from within, and is learning volumes about life (that you and I might take for granted). Hanbleceya has been the best investment that I have ever made.
Hanbleceya has quite simply changed our lives. When our son entered the program, we as a family were at rock bottom. Hanbleceya was our last hope. Our son was out of options. Now I can honestly say, we are a new family. We have all done an incredible amount of work, especially our son, who is a new person. He is living independently, attending college full time and has his driver’s license. He has come a long way and we all have Hanbleceya to thank for the wonderful changes in our lives.
Our son Jeffrey, at the age of 34 years old, entered Hanbleceya in 1994. His diagnosis was Simple Schizophrenia, aggravated by Excessive Compulsive Disorder, and rather severe learning disabilities. Jeff had spent the prior ten years in a couple of well meaning but largely ineffectual residential programs. Jeff participated as best he could, and undoubtedly learned some work and life skills that help him today. However, there was never any progress in his mental or emotional issues, and Jeff’s disabilities never went away.
We had heard about Hanbleceya at a local NAMI meeting and immediately saw some key differences in its approach to working with mental illness issues. We thought these differences would be beneficial to Jeff’s recovery, and made the decision that he deserved the opportunity to join the Hanbleceya program.
While improvements evolved very slowly at first, nevertheless improvements were achieved, and gains came faster and faster as Jeff progressed over the years. Starting as a lost soul in a communal living environment, Jeff progressed to become a house and community leader, and his achievements were eventually was rewarded his own studio apartment, where Hanbleceya counselors helped him make the transition to complete independent living.
Jeff now has his own 1 bedroom apartment in a local residential complex. He lives totally independently, and has transitioned out of Hanbleceya. He has a full time job as an assistant to the apartment manager where he lives, and has held this job for nearly nine years. Though Jeff got his own job, it was Hanbleceya’s overall program that helped him gain the necessary skills for success.
At 50 years of age, Jeff continues to gain independence and maturity, but also maintains contact and social relationships with his friends and former counselors at Hanbleceya. We hope this will always be part of Jeff’s life.
John and Judy (Mom & Dad)
My father went to Hanbleceya in the middle of a 3-year struggle with severe depression. He had previously been in two other inpatient programs. Hanbleceya helped my dad to initiate his recovery and facilitated our family’s recovery. Since his return from Hanbleceya I have seen him continue to become lighter and I am seeing more of my dad again. I was not sure I would ever do things with my Father again like go on bike rides, hike and have fun family dinners.
My father’s depression shook the foundation of our family. The weekly family therapy at Hanbleceya helped our family tremendously to recover and become stronger through this tough period. Our family therapist was able not only to quickly identify many issues and patterns that were holding our family (and my father) in an unhealthy spot, but also to teach us how to be more effective in our efforts to help. Initially, for 6 weeks, we were not allowed to have any contact with my father. This time period was particularly hard, but we had to trust the team at Hanbleceya that it was best for my dad. Weekly family therapy calls were productive, and communication with the family therapist and other Hanbleceya team members was available, efficient and helpful.
The Hanbleceya team respected my dad and our family, and listened to input from us, but also knew when to take the lead. The transition from Hanbleceya back home was well-planned and gradual, and our family felt supported during this transition. Our whole family will be working on recovery from depression for years, but thank you for helping to get our dad back.
It was 2:00AM on a Sunday morning and I had been talking to treatment programs all over the United States trying to find a program for our son. I was desperate. Our son was homeless because he had taken advantage of all his family and friends and everyone had all they could take. He had participated in many recovery programs that called themselves dual diagnostic facilities but only dealt with the drug and alcohol portion of his illness. He had been in and out of the hospital several times and was getting really close to going to jail because he had been forging his grandmother’s checks.
I called a program in Malibu, California and they recommended Hanbleceya. The Program sounded like it might be a good fit for our son. Our son called us from San Francisco where he had been homeless for a month saying he wanted to come home. We told him the only way that would happen is if he went to the hospital to get stabilized and then went to a treatment facility. Our son agreed.
After assessing my son, Hanbleceya called my husband to tell him our son had been accepted into the Program, but the staff was afraid I would be a problem and may have a hard time following their rules. I did! I thought the Program was very punitive. My husband and I challenged some of the decisions the staff were making which resulted in a phone call where we were told if we didn’t fly down the next day to have a meeting our son would be referred to another Program. At the meeting we were told our son had the capacity for recovery, but we needed to trust that they knew what they were doing.
Our son was in the Program for 2 years and his recovery was amazing. He got it! While at Hanbleceya he understood why he should take medication and how to recognize symptoms of relapse. In short, he learned responsibility.
Our son is now living a very full life. He has a wonderful relationship with his family. He is working, going to college, very active in AA and his recovery and has many friends. Though he has left the Program at Hanbleceya, the staff still stays in contact with our son and still cares about his recovery. During the holidays staff invited our son to come down to the annual staff/client football game. They made him an honorary captain.
Hanbleceya helped us give our son his life back.