This article is an overview of the Wellness Recovery Action Plan or W.R.A.P.. It was developed specifically for consumers experiencing the often debilitating symptoms which characterize mental and emotional illness. There has been a wide and enthusiastic response to W.R.A.P. with the plan being implemented in many recovery and mental health programs across the country. The things you will need to get started are a three ring binder and paper, dividers with tabs, or a computer. You may want to do the plan yourself, but it is recommended that one attend a support group or class. This will provide support as well as structured direction. The following six steps will help you get started.
The first step is to develop your Wellness Toolbox. This is the ground structure of the entire W.R.A.P.. No matter what step you may find yourself on in any given day, you will need to refer back to your toolbox. In developing your toolbox, list all the strategies you now use and could use to maintain wellness ans improve your mood when feeling unwell. It may include things such as, talking to a trusted person, rest, relaxation exercise, physical exercise, journaling, prayer and meditation, support groups, taking medication as prescribed, and a call to a medical or mental health professional.
The Wellness Toolbox and W.R.A.P. are not intended to replace your care through mental health professionals. Use your toolbox as a supplement and incorporate the treatment teams directions into your plan.
In your binder, mark your first tab with “Daily Maintenance List”. Make yourself a list of words which best describe yourself when you feel well. On a new page, list things which you need to do on a daily basis to keep yourself well.Next, think of some things which you might need to do in the future. Read through these daily to stay on track.
Section 2 deals with Triggers. Triggers can be circumstances or events, even smells or colors which make you begin to feel ill. These triggers are often beyond our control but you can learn ways to be aware and minimize resulting symptoms.
On the next tab write “Triggers”. On the following page write things which you know can cause a worsening of symptoms. A persons experience is often the best tool we have when it comes to trigger awareness. On the next page, make a plan using the Wellness Toolbox. Things such as calling a friend or sponsor, a support group, or prayer and meditation.
The next section addresses Early Warning Signs. These are similar in nature to physical health issues. When you get sick with the flu or a cold you might first experience a stuffed nose or a scratchy throat along with a general feeling of being unwell. Typical early warning signs in mental illness can be changes in feelings, thought, and or behavior. Examples include sleep and appetite changes, loss of energy and motivation. One may become suspicious, depressed, anxious, or irritable. They are unique to your experience.
On the next tab, place “Early Warning Signs”. Page 1 should be a list of warning signs which you have experienced. Using your Wellness Toolbox, next make an action plan to use if you begin to experience early warning signs such as phoning a mental health provider or a friend.
Section 4 deals with how to manage when you are experiencing an increase in bothersome or uncomfortable symptoms. Symptoms can be to the point where they are serious but you can still take action on your own behalf. This time is critical and one must act immediately to avoid an escalation to crisis.
On the section 4 tab, write ” When Things Are Breaking Down “. List the symptoms unique to your experience which may indicate things are close to a crisis. The following page should include things you can do when you feel control may be slipping away. Use items in your toolbox to write this plan.
You do all you possibly can to stay well. Take your medications, go to support groups, and make your appointments. However, even then, one may find themselves in a situation which requires others to intervene to insure safety and well being. You may need others to take responsibility for your care. This section of W.R.A.P. instructs others how to care for you!Feeling as though you are in control of your care goes a long way to insure your needs are met and others know what to do when and if a crisis occurs. The “Crisis Plan” is the last section but not the last in importance. Your “Crisis Plan” should include the following, symptoms which indicate to others action needs to be taken on your behalf and who you wish to take that action, current medications, medications which may help, and those to avoid, acceptable treatment facilities, actions to be avoided, and helpful actions(whom to call,etc.).
I wish you all the best with the writing of your W.R.A.P. plan. The plan has been successfully implemented in many treatment facilities since it was first designed in 1997. It’s popularity has a lot to say for it’s worth as a tool. Also, it is virtually cost free! Be ever healthy and well.