What is a clubhouse?

Through participation in a Clubhouse, people whose lives have been disrupted by serious mental illness are able to rejoin the worlds of friendships, family, and meaningful work. A thriving clubhouse can transform lives of disconnection, despair, and dependence into lives of connection, hope, and productivity.

The first clubhouse was started in the 1940s in New York City. Fountain House is still thriving today, and the clubhouse model for creating recovery communities has spread around the world. Today there are over 320 Clubhouses in 34 countries.

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What Happens in a Clubhouse?


Membership is open to anyone who is living with mental illness. Two of the four rights provided by Clubhouse membership are “a right to a place to come” and “a right to a place to return.” Even after a long absence, Clubhouse members are welcome to come back. All member participation in Clubhouse activities is voluntary.

Work-Ordered Day & Employment Programs

Clubhouses also provide “a right to meaningful work.” The structure of the Clubhouse day is designed to mirror standard work hours, and Clubhouse activities are divided into “work units.” All activities of a Clubhouse--cooking and serving meals, maintaining the facility, welcoming visitors, planning and advertising special events, and any other projects started by members--are made possible by the participation of members. Because all work is voluntary, there is no pressure on the members, providing opportunities for them to learn and practice new skills relevant to the workplace without fear of failure.

Clubhouses include transitional employment programs, which link members to work placements arranged by the Clubhouse. Clubhouse staff guarantee position coverage to the employer, including working the position themselves if necessary. Placements are at the employer’s place of business, are part-time, and include a lot of on-site and off-site Clubhouse support.

Community Support

Clubhouses provide “a right to meaningful relationships.” This is the foundation of the Clubhouse experience, with members and staff working together side by side. Throughout the work-ordered day, members are also given support and assistance in acquiring the best available services in the community, such as general medical services, affordable and dignified housing, accessing benefits, etc. Clubhouse can help members with budgeting, advocacy, legal issues, socializing, education, and developing skills, depending on members’ needs.

Evening, Weekend, & Holiday Programs

Clubhouses provide social and recreational programming outside of the work-ordered day organized by members and staff.


Part of the daily work of the Clubhouse involves keeping track of all the active members, including reaching out to absent members to let them know they are missed, welcomed, and needed at the Clubhouse. This serves not only as encouragement but as an early warning system for members who are experiencing difficulties and may need extra help.

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