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A lot of East Texans have never heard of Smith County Clubhouse, so they have no idea it’s looking for members. Brelsford Personnel encourages support for this new Tyler nonprofit that takes a unique approach to adult mental health and recovery.

Smith County Clubhouse – A Holistic Approach to Recovery

Mental health resources in our part of Texas tend to involve therapy, medication or hospitalization, and at times a combination of the three. When a person starts showing symptoms, medical practitioners and therapists focus on treating, reducing and eliminating those symptoms, with varying degrees of success.

Sometimes mental illness causes individuals to make bad choices. Their actions may lead to arrest and jail time.

Clubhouses, however, take a different approach, one that has proven successful in more than 300 locations around the world. Smith County Clubhouse Executive Director Shannon Pruden described it like this, “Our goal is to help people who struggle with their mental health to become less isolated and more independent. We help people develop job skills, life skills, whatever they need to develop. We also help them socialize, make friends and build supportive relationships.”

What Happens Inside the Clubhouse

Smith County Clubhouse focuses on helping people with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder and major depressive disorders. Smith County Clubhouse does not provide treatment, therapy or medication. The participants are not patients, they’re members. The organization seeks to provide opportunities for their personal growth.

“Often people who have mental health issues are very isolated,” explained Pruden. “It’s very difficult for them to socialize. Mental illness is stigmatized so much it can be difficult for them to get out there. We help them find a community of people who struggle with the same issues and are also there for support.”

What goes on at each clubhouse varies because members make decisions about and participate in how their clubhouse runs.  They have a stake, so they get to make choices about what programs their clubhouse offers. Some have a lunch program, some are about farming, others have community outreach programs.

Because the Smith County Clubhouse is new, members spend the day on Clubhouse business. They’re working together on all of the marketing, community outreach and member recruitment activities that go along with making a Clubhouse successful.

The day starts with a house meeting where participants cover news, upcoming events and review Clubhouse International Standards. They go over what tasks need to be accomplished that day, then they get to work.

Tasks might include things like getting social media feeds up and running, creating presentations or working on fundraisers. The past few sessions, Pruden said, members have been drafting an appeal letter.

Finally, members and volunteers sit down as a group to have lunch and socialize. The time members spend working together and socializing can be transformative. “We have one member who, when this person started was very timid,” Pruden recalled. “They had low self-confidence and not many friends. But since this person started, she will sit and joke and talk and make eye contact. She has come out of her shell a lot; it has helped her confidence. She even put together a newsletter for Clubhouse and is proud of having done so.”

Smith County Clubhouse Needs Your Help

When people find out about this much-needed program, they often ask how they can get involved. Here are a few ideas.

  • Donate – All of Smith County Clubhouse’s support comes from grants and donors, so they’re working heavily toward building a donor base. If you want to contribute financial support you can learn more here.
  • Volunteer – Give your time and help transform lives. See volunteer opportunities at
  • Spread awareness – Because Smith County Clubhouse is new in the area, their biggest need is for people to let the community know what they offer. One simple way to help is to share this article.
  • Add a member – Pruden says, “We’re here to help people and we want new members always.” If you feel Clubhouse would be beneficial for you or someone you know, stop by or get in touch.

Another way to find out what Smith County Clubhouse is all about is by attending their open house on Thursday, September 15 from 5:30-7 p.m. Anyone is welcome, but space is limited, so RSVP by emailing