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Painted Brain | The Peer-Run Business Model
We're bridging communities and changing the conversation about mental illness using arts and media.
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Painted Brain is an innovative peer-run mental health arts and tech organization that uses a peer model focused on recovery. Painted Brain defines a peer employee as any person with lived mental health challenges and or trauma including but not limited to: social injustice, interpersonal violence, societal exclusion. Painted Brain considers all of its’s employees as peers, where there is no separation from community members to clinicians to executives; all identify with having mental health challenges.

Research has shown that consumers experience reduced stigma and discrimination at peer-run organizations when compared to traditional service providers.

The peer model is a key strategy for reducing both personal and institutional stigma for both the peer employee and consumer.

Painted Brain believes that people with mental health challenges can live full, active, and professional lives. PB is an incubator that creates low-barrier jobs by understanding both market opportunities and the needs of the people we hope to employ.

Painted Brain’s peer model encompasses a variety of aspects of the workplace including human resources, job recruitment and outreach, hiring process, conflict resolution, and a perspective on a workplace culture that supports workers with lived experience.

Job Recruitment and Outreach

PB actively recruits and encourages peers with lived experience to seek employment at our organization. In order to reach our target population for employees, Painted Brain utilizes a variety of marketing strategies.

Painted Brain contacts and creates partnerships with other mental health service providers in order to inform them of potential opportunities for their program participants.

In addition, Painted Brain visits neighborhood committees, local college clubs for mental health, and hosts events to further market the many potential opportunities for individuals with lived mental health experience to find employment within the organization.

Internship for media and journalism undergraduatesAt Painted Brain, we also host a multitude of community engagement events that provide a safe space for people with various mental health challenges. Through visiting various agencies, clubs and hosting events, Painted Brain is able to market employment opportunities to individuals who want employment but have a difficult time finding jobs that are able to accommodate for mental health challenges. Painted Brain believes that everyone has unique strengths and talents that can be utilized and turned into employment opportunities. We strongly believe that if someone wants a job and is willing to work we will be able to identify an opportunity that works for them.

Human Resources

Community Arts InterventionBuilt into the Human Resource Department at Painted Brain is a structured support system for peer workers. PB is aware that mental health challenges affect employees ability to carry out their job responsibilities in every workplace.

At PB employees are encouraged to be open about their mental health challenges in order to thrive at work daily. When necessary Painted Brain has work stoppage plans for employees whose mental health challenges negatively impact their ability to fulfill their work duties on a daily basis.

PB ensures that a plan is put in place to cover for an individual during the work stoppage and that the individual is projected to return to work at the conclusion of the work stoppage. PB encourages employees to check in on their mental health status at work each day.

When employees check in about their mental health, it allows their coworkers and supervisors to meet them where they are during their work hours to support them in the best way possible. As necessary and without penalty, PB employees have the opportunity to take a short mental health break during the day in order to complete their shifts effectively.

We also offer Occupational Therapy services to our employees to assist with stress and time management. In practice, this affords PB employees the opportunity to reach out to our resident Occupational Therapist for useful tips and to help deal with work and life stresses. In addition, among Painted Brain staff are Peer Social Workers who can assist with crisis intervention and with empowering individuals to be at their best state while at work.

Hiring Process

Daniel's Place and Support From Google

We’re excited to have the support from Google, thanks to the Google Grant as well as the support from Alen Zamanyan, a software engineer and recruiter at Google. We’re thrilled to expand our impact with our digital education workshop series running at Daniel’s Place.

Once an individual has expressed their willingness to work, Painted Brain implements a unique process to hire employees. Painted Brain conducts an assessment of mental health needs and develops a support plan for the employee with a social worker.

During this assessment, the social worker is then able to identify strengths and needs together with the employee. PaintedBrain also utilizes an occupational therapist to assess skills and challenges for the employee as well. Painted Brain then requires that all their employees complete a job application as part of the onboarding process. Once the individual is ready to work, the employee and staff will collaborate to then identify the position that best supports the strengths that the employee possesses.

Workplace Culture

An important value at Painted Brain is workplace culture. It is important to Painted Brain to puts less emphasis on organizational hierarchy and instead encourages inclusion among all employees. No matter the position of the employee their feedback, ideas, and suggestions are all taken into consideration when fulfilling the organization’s; mission. PB’s employees serve as a support system for each other in order to carry out daily tasks. PB employees work as a team to hold each other accountable in order for all employees to complete job duties to the best of their ability. Further, PB is a workplace that takes bullying and harassment of all kinds very seriously.

The workspace is highly collaborative and all points of view and perspectives are honored and welcome.

Training For Consumers To Provide Services



As noted above, Painted Brain works with our community of mental health consumers to identify goals and support their individual paths to finding sustainable employment. Painted Brain’s peer model matches individuals with a peer coach to identify career pathways that fit their interest the most.

Consumer Career Pathways

Painted Brain’s peer training program offers several paths for peers to acquire the skills they need to gain employment. These training program paths include the PB Technology Academy, the Boutique and Art Group Services.  Our Technology Academy trains individuals in the programs needed to enter the tech force. Academy participants learn everything from the basics of computing to advanced coding as well as security and social media. Our Boutique offers opportunities to learn about working in a clothing store. Individuals acquire skills in how to inventory clothing, working with customers, managing a register and maintaining the stores aesthetic. PB Art Group Services allow contributors at PB to run their own art group and receive a stipend for it. Art Group Leaders learn creative, fun methods for developing and maintaining an active and successful group.

Training For The Consumer’s Personal Development

PB academy at the community center

PB Tech Academy at the community center

Painted Brain offers a series of job skills groups. Throughout the job skills group, individuals learn how to take the skills that they have developed and apply them to their resume to increase their employability.  Throughout this process, PB peers can identify the skill that the consumer wants to further develop and how to foster this development. In addition, peers learn how to use their own mental health stories and experiences to change attitudes and invite new contributors to Painted Brain.

Job Navigation

Occupational therapists are uniquely qualified to implement the Individual Placement and Support model of Supported Employment due to expertise in activity analysis, executive functioning, and sensory processing. Occupational therapists take a whole person approach to understand how individual personal factors interact with and are impacted by the environment to contribute to performance in the workplace. This program begins by placing the individual in a full-time or part-time job, based on the individual’s preferences and strengths.

The occupational therapist provides support for the individual throughout the job search, resume/application development, and job training process. Studies show that implementation of the Individual Placement and Support model results in increased competitive employment rates in adults labeled with mental illness, and individuals receiving this support were able to find jobs more quickly and maintain employment for a longer period of time (Noyes, Sokolow, and Arbesman, 2018).