By Emily Silverman

Early last year, I completed my Black Belt training during one of the toughest times in my family’s- and especially my brother’s- life. I did not know, at the time, this serendipitous overlap would have such a positive consequence for my family.

My brother Evan is a wonderful person who struggles with schizophrenia. As he began to heal from a particularly tough winter, the entire family was drained with no clear path on how to best offer assistance while empowering him.

While serious things were happening in my personal life, I tried not to let it impact my work. During this difficult time, I was signed up to participate in a Black Belt training with the Peak Academy. I contemplated not going, because I knew it would be intense in its own way. I’m really glad I participated, though because I quickly was able to apply the language and methodology of Black Belt to my personal life and the life of my brother.

I was able to obtain an additional copy of Black Belt materials (thank you teachers!) and went to work with my family. I came armed with the book, permanent markers and, of course, sticky notes. Through working together, every family member knew their role, and Evan felt empowered to take more control of his life. For example, Evan loves to drive for the freedom and the ability to be in control of his schedule. At that time, he was unable to drive. Through discussing the current state- not driving- and the desired future state- driving-, our family was able to lay out how Evan’s independence through driving benefited the whole family (in terms of his freedom and not obligating others to drive him around). We used Black Belt analysis tools to understand concerns leading to where Evan was that day, developing clear goals for him to accomplish to drive again independently. Within five days, Evan was able to check all of the necessary tasks and was back behind the wheel. We have continued to employ Black Belt for other important items throughout the year.

For those who have taken Black Belt, and for those who have not, it may seem strange to apply these efficiency tools to life outside of work. But I’m here to tell you that it worked for my family at a time when we needed some order and when my brother needed to feel empowered over his life again. In celebrating where Evan is today, Mental Health Colorado put together a video of Evan, which can be found here.

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