Clubhouse: Offering Hope to People with Mental Illness

In Benefits Application Articles, Benefits Articles, Blog, Employment Articles, Featured, News by Cori Olson

Although the first Clubhouse began in the late 1940s, the Clubhouse model is not as well-known as more traditional rehabilitation programs for people experiencing mental illness. A Clubhouse provides opportunities to its members to lead more fulfilling, productive lives. By working together as valued participants, members develop friendships, regain a sense of belonging, and feel needed. Although there are core components of the Clubhouse model which are found throughout Clubhouses all over the world, the Clubhouse concept can be difficult to explain. That is why if you are interested in becoming a member, the first step is to take a tour, so you can see firsthand how things work.

Clubhouse Components

Clubhouses are organized around the belief that work and relationships are key to recovery. Certified Clubhouses follow proven standards, which are effective in helping people with mental illness to reach their goals. The components include:

Work-Ordered Day

The daily activity at a Clubhouse is similar to any work place, consisting of eight hour days, Monday through Friday. Members and staff work side-by-side, performing work for the Clubhouse. Members are encouraged to participate as they are ready, and quickly become relied upon. Typical daily work includes: planning and preparing lunch for Clubhouse colleagues, maintaining attendance and accounting records for billing purposes, and communications about Clubhouse events, employment celebrations, and membership tours.

Employment and Education

The Transitional Employment Program assists members to return to work with the support of the Clubhouse, both on- and off-site. Transitional Employment placements are at local businesses, are part-time, and last approximately six months. The Independent Employment Program provides ongoing support at the Clubhouse to members who are seeking work or who are working permanent jobs. Clubhouses also offer various educational opportunities.

Evening, Weekend, and Holiday Activities

Clubhouses provide numerous social and recreational activities that are scheduled outside of the work-ordered day.

Community Support

Clubhouses offer assistance in accessing community resources such as medical care, crisis intervention, housing, and disability benefits.


Members participate in consensus-based decision-making regarding matters related to the operation of the Clubhouse.

Focus on Abilities

Most members find Clubhouse values, based on abilities rather than deficits, quite different than other treatment programs. As a result, members feel empowered to regain their roles in society, with the support of their Clubhouse.

Presently, there are +300 Clubhouses worldwide. Wisconsin is fortunate to have five certified Clubhouses:

The Clubhouse model is now recognized as an evidence-based practice by SAMHSA (U.S. Substance Abuse & Mental Health Service Administration). Studies have demonstrated that Clubhouses have good employment outcomes, positively impact the quality of members’ lives, and, by member report, advance recovery because of Clubhouse involvement.

Membership is open to anyone who has experienced mental illness. However, some Clubhouses have additional requirements (such as Medicaid insurance), so it is best to contact the Clubhouse directly.

Check out the Clubhouse International website for more information and for the directory. If your area is served by a Clubhouse, call the local Clubhouse to arrange a tour and see how it’s done ‘Clubhouse-style.’

References: Clubhouse International

More about the Author

Cori Olson

Cori joined ERI in October 2013, as a Community Benefits Specialist. Previously, she worked for almost 20 years at Yahara House, a Clubhouse model program, providing recovery-focused opportunities for adults with severe and persistent mental illness. More about Cori...