Mental Health Social Enterprise in Greece

How can social enterprises that help people with mental health issues grow and prosper?

This blog posts look at one model developed in Greece. Though not perfect, and with a dark history, it is unique model that may have implications to help policy makers in other countries in organizing their own social enterprise models.

According to this document, in 1999 the Greek Government created a special legal framework for companies that support the “creation of social cooperatives with limited liability with people with mental health problems.” These enterprises called Koi.S.P.E. or Kinonikos Sineterismos Periorismenis Efthinis, operate as both independent trading enterprises and official mental health units. According to the above document, to be characterized as a Koi.S.P.E. the following criteria must be met:

  • At least 35 percent of the employees must come from the target population of the organization.
  • They are exempt from corporate tax except for VAT.
  • Those who work for the organization can earn a wage without losing their social benefits.

This last point is especially important because as it stands in the US, to my knowledge if you earn disability you are not allowed to earn extra income. Of course you are allowed, but you lose your disability benefits, which are already low, this forces people who rely on those benefits to stay in a social welfare state, not pushing beyond their natural limits.

It may seem dreamy to hear of an organizational structure like the one formed in Greece, however the beginnings of this organization were not as fanciful. It followed a scandal of reserving the island of Leros as a “Psychiatric island” where mental health patients from all of Greece were sent by the troves for decades until a biopsychosocial model was adopted (versus a biomedical model) for therapy. After this, the mission changed to one of integrating mental health patients into community living facilities with employable jobs, versus being locked away in asylums. You can read more about the history of mental health social enterprises in Greece here. And if you are interested in the history of mental illness in Ancient Greece, the Atlantic did a great review of the book, Mental Disorders in the Classical World.  

To be honest, it is difficult to find a model of mental health services that does not rely heavily on the medical model of helping people. Not that the two are separate, but it is difficult to find an organization that integrates the biological model, the psychological, and the social model to help an individual grow and integrate.

Personally, I feel it’s important to integrate all three, we are whole people who are physical, psychological, and social beings. But, how can you focus on all three and help your enterprise grow?

There are several organizations in Greece who are claiming to be on top of this. One in particular is Xenios Zeus . I would be curious to see how they are able to keep their quality well and their profits sustainable. Their websites touts that they offer mental health therapy, vocational training, residential housing, and “Protected Apartments” for around 4 people– focusing on helping them reintegrate into society.  In addition they offer mediation offices in Chania, Crete, helping their clients get legal support for filing for governmental aid, and mediation most probably having to do with conservatorship. It looks from the outside like a good organization with a lot of offerings for its client base, but aside from governmental aid, I would be curious how it is sustainable, especially when it seems part of the population they are servicing are the homeless, and people dealing with poverty.







Introduction to Mental Health Social Enterprises

I first got interested in social enterprises 5 years ago. Since that time, I haven’t really explored many options related to the field as I was focused on finish my Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy and deciding to continue in the field of psychology or go a different path. Yet, my mind always wanders back to the field of social entrepreneurship and mental health and what is being done in this field globally.

Psychotherapeutic studies or psychology has a universal aspect to it, but it also have a heavy cultural component. How we heal and relate to each other can be cultural. For example, in the West we are brought up in a very individualistic society– we are taught to be independent from our families from about age 18 years old. Contrary to this, in the East individuals are brought up to think about society as a whole, it’s what is important for the group that matters, versus the individual.

In the same way, the services offered locally and internationally are different. I always search online for what other countries are offering in the form of public policy and therapy services for individuals, yet have not come across a site that brings it all together.

This site explores mental health services and public health policies locally and globally to offer a resource for those exploring services for people in their own families, or for academic researchers and practitioners interested in learning more from other cultures on what is being offered in their countries or cities.

This site is not meant to provide diagnosis or medical advice or replace that provided by a licensed practitioner. It is purely informational

Mental Health Services Around the World…

One of my goals on the back of my mind has been to analyze and document how mental health is handled all around the world. The treatment of mental health issues as we know them today is a fairly recent affair. As some point out, Hippocrates saw it as a physical reaction in the body as early as the 5th century BCE. After this, mental health became an extension or evolution of philosophy– the analysis of our existence. It would still take some more time (centuries) till mental health was seen as both a mixture of biology and spirituality/philosophy, when Wilhelm Wundt created his Psychology Lab. But it would take some more time before it talk therapy became an accepted form of treatment for mental illness.

Though mental health has come a long way as demonstrated above from the 5th BCE, and even more since the 1950’s when there was no confidentiality laws, the treatment of mental health has evolved in its own ways in different countries. This portion of our site will focus on the study of mental health treatment and the “treaters” across the globe. It is forward thinking and positive, so we will do our best not to look at the archaic and bizarre treatments of mental health of which unfortunately many parts of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd world still employ.

Letting go is a process that allows you to proceed…


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“Letting go is a process that allows you to proceed”—self

Not the happiest place, but still a sense of peace. I saw these serene dears on one of my visits to loved ones I have lost.

One of the quotes that really helps me get through challenging times in my life is by C.S. Lewis: “Letting go is like being on the monkey bars, you have to let go to move forward.”

What really sticks to me about this quote is it is hard sometimes to feel like you can let go—like it is a possibility, and like the burden of whatever emotional pain there is will be with you forever. But, at the same time, if you don’t let go, you’re going to just hang there– arms getting tired. You have to exert yourself forward, and push yourself to grab the next bar to move on.  It’s an important lesson life, learning to let go.

Easier said than done, n’est pas? I stumbled upon a clever article online that shared wisdom on ways to let go. I don’t feel it can be a step by step manual. It’s a process that takes time and patience. Yet, the article did have some good tips, despite some of the more obvious ones (do yoga, take responsibility, cry), it had a lot of great ways to go through the process. I like the suggestion of remembering both the good and the bad. It’s true the way we view loss tends to be so one sided—we often romanticize how we feel about a person or situation—whether it is a loss of a friend, job, situation—whatever we may be our loss, when we romanticize the past, we tend to feel bad about the present. Read a great blog post on a lawyer dealing with the loss of her career as a law professor and having to embrace chronic illness, and the experience of a loss of a friendship here:

I think there are a lot of great articles online on the benefits of letting go, and even ways to let go. But one thing I noticed in my own personal journey is that letting go is a lot like forgiveness it is a process. Let’s say that slowly—it’s a process. A process. Some order of changes that happen either by choice or not, but that allow us to proceed.

3 Books on Letting go.

I’ve bookmarked the following to read, to help me with my own journey of letting go, and hopefully help others on their journey.

  1. The Little Book of Letting Go: A Revolutionary 30-Day Program to Cleanse Your Mind, Lift Your Spirit and Replenish Your Soul by Hugh Prather
  2. Let go by Francois Fenelon (amazing to think he penned this 300 years ago.
  3. Letting go: The pathway to surrender by David Hawkins


Yes! And…


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humor at work

Humor creates a positive work atmosphere


I started taking improv (Improvisational comedy) at Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles last week. Boy, was the first class fun! But, intimidating! Especially since so many of the people in the class want to be actors and seem to be so much more funnier than me. However intimidating it is, I am dedicated to trying the whole class out and seeing if I can learn from the lessons. I did pay for it after all, and who doesn’t like a good challenge thrown at them once in a while? who am i kidding?

I bought the book, “The Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual” written by Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh. In the first chapter they talk about the concept of “Yes And.” What they refer to by ‘yes’ is that you should agree with whatever your partner says about your reality. “And” is when you add more information to what is being provided by the previous statement I.e. one says to the other, “that’s a beautiful blue scarf,” the other will reply with, “yes [and] it was my grandmothers.” Conceptually, it is staying in the present, not referring to the past, or the future, but working with whatever is being presented at the current moment. You’re moving the conversation forward in a similar fashion to a real conversation, you’re mirroring what your partner says and reflecting back to them. By staying in the moment with your partner, you’re creating the foundation of when you will recognize the “first unusual thing when it happens” which is the beginning of the game, or comedy of the scene (p.12).


The importance of this first lesson in improv is that we forget to live in the moment, we are so concerned with the past and the future, that we forget about the present. Science has proven that having a sense of humor and laughter are cures to many physical and emotional ailments. When you are with your family, it’s important to not reflect on the past, or the future, but stay in the present. When you are in a family business meeting, and your sibling, child, parent, or someone says something that is difficult/challenging to grasp, “yes, and” them. Mirror, what they are saying, respond to the current situation, help embellish the “scene” by adding details that focus on the present. For example, if they say “we should open operations in Mexico” when neither of you speak Spanish, and it does not go inline with the company’s current goals, ‘yes, and’ them. Reply with “Yes, and we can open a massive operation that will take billions of dollars to manage.” Although there is a line between being sarcastic and “yes, and”-ing. Though it may seem like sarcasm, you’re really trying to diffuse a situation, without giving an automatic no. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think this works? Or am I stretching too far?

In any case, humor can be useful to diffuse serious or stressful situations. Granted, you should always use it in an appropriate way, and never aimed at an individual (quel passé). But it can work sometimes to improve the general mood. WSJ did an excellent article on using humor at work. One of the tips they provide is resorting to self-deprecation when a joke doesn’t work out, something like, “Where is my stunt double today?” or pretend to write in an imaginary book, “Joke Number 2 doesn’t work” or “Don’t use this next time.” It helps you take the pressure off yourself, and alleviates the response of others in seeing your joke not working.


Merging Old School and New School business conduct toward debt and spending

business leaders talking

#unfinished business: merging young and older business leaders

It’s not always easy to merge traditional ways of doing business with new ways of doing business. Harvard Business School may recommend taking on debt, spending, and expanding, but traditional business may say to spend when you have cash, limit debt, and expand slowly. How do you merge the two schools? How do you convince a younger or older generation in a family business towards the road of expansion?

Continue reading »

Emotional Coaching

emotional coaching

Planting the seeds of emotional growth


How to handle emotional problems with your children:

People who are able to handle, express, and process their emotions experience fewer negative feelings, and are more positive overall.

With all the stresses that come with running a family business, it seems like sometimes you have no choice but to have everything together, family, business, outside family. Below we will go over some tips to emotionally coach your children to process their emotions, and become more aware of their feelings and mental state.

Step 1:

The first step is to not jump when they misbehave, but understand that they have feelings which have gone out of control. It’s still important to validate their feelings, whatever it is, even the worst ones, so they can learn how to cope with them. Negative feelings are the challenges for children, learning how to deal with them will help them grow into stronger emotionally stable adults, who can express their emotions.

Below is an example taken from The Greater Good website from UC Berkeley, the author suggests dealing with bad behavior after labeling and validating what the child is feeling. It is so easy for both parent and child to be frustrated with the circumstances at hand and forget about dealing with the emotions behind the behavior.

Me: “Molly, I can see that you are very angry and frustrated. Is there anything else that you are feeling?”

Molly: “I am SO SO SO MAD AT YOU.”

Me: “You are mad at me, VERY mad at me. Are you also feeling disappointed because I won’t let you have a playdate right now?”

Molly: “YES!! I want to have a playdate right NOW.”

Me: “You seem sad.” (Crawling into my lap, Molly whimpers a little and rests her head on my shoulder.)

She has helped her child label her feelings: angry, frustrated, disappointed, and sad.

Step 2:

Whatever the behavior was, should not be ignored, that needs to be dealt with separately.
By setting limits and boundaries, children can build a structure for dealing with their behavior. So, in this case the mother might send her daughter to there bedroom for a 5 minute time out, making it clear that “It is okay to feel angry and frustrated, but it is never okay to throw things or call people mean names. When the timer goes off, please apologize to your sister and come have a snack.”

By associating the 5 minute time out with her bad behavior, the child is able to see that she is being sent to her room, because she acted out against her sister, but it is ok to feel what she felt. So her emotions are constantly being validated.

Step 3:

The last step is to problem solve. To help kids handle similar situations in the future, it’s important to spend time asking them questions, finding out what led them to have the bad behavior. The goal is to put her in touch with her own emotions, whatever they may be, so she can label and validate her emotions in the future.
It’s important to brainstorm ways to prevent the problem in the future, as well as solve the problem if it comes up. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of telling your kids what they should do if the problem comes up, but it’s important to let them tell you. You will be surprised with what they come up with!

In the end, children have the capacity within themselves to solve their problems, validate their feelings, and be healthy, it’s the role of the parent to help them get to that point by gently and lovingly coaching them along the way.

The same can be said for your company, when you have an employee that is not getting their work done, you don’t punish them immediately by firing them or giving them a warning, but you call them into your office and ask them what happened, and depending on the situation give them a warning or fire them.

Divorce: Part 2, 5 tips for problem solving

“You can’t feel your way to better behavior, you have to behave your way to better feelings.”–James Lehman


Problem solving may see endless, but like any new habit, the time you put into it, will pay off.

James Lehman, who operates The Total Transformation; who himself came from a rough background and upbringing, says that children don’t behave bad on purpose, but because they don’t know how to solve problems effectively. They act out at the new situations that life throws at them, and they do it well, because it works, according to Sara Bean, author of the blog post, “The surprising Reason for Bad Child Behavior: ‘I can’t solve problems'”.

It’s important to remember that children face first, emotional problems (angry, sad, frustrated, helpless, excited). It’s important for the child to learn how to deal with these emotions. The second problem is social/relational. Some children have the inability to get along well with children in their own age group, they may be shy, non-assertive, or on the opposite side too assertive and a bully, feeling more powerful at the expense of others.  The third problem is functional, when a child has problems meeting responsibilities at home or school, losing homework, not doing chores, talking back to teachers in school.

She offers a tip, find out what the problem is your child is trying to solve with his/her behavior and offer a new solution. If you can’t manage this simple trick, their actions will continue to get worse. So, next time your child acts out, let the behavior ride out. And once she/he is calm, sit down with them, and talk about the incident, before you talk about the consequences. It’s important to build a calm relationship with your child, one where it is easy for them to converse about their problems. The earlier you do this, the greater their chances of talking with you next time something is bothering them, versus throwing a fit. If your child has a habit of acting out, it will take some more attempts for them to realize that they are not solving their problems in a fruitful way. The most important thing to remember as a parent is that you are helping your child identify the problem causing behavior, teach how to solve it, and hold them accountable, not to punish them for making mistakes or making them miserable.

An easier way to remember is how adults do Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Catch it, Check it, Change it.

Some practical tips:

Talk to your child when they are calm, if they refuse to participate or are abusive, you can hold one privilege until you can have a calm conversation.

1. Ask “What questions not why questions”. To ask “why” is to invite blame and excuses; it’s much more important to get to the deeper issues at hand, “What were you thinking when…?” If your child is unable to answer, it is ok to take a break, let them think about it, be patient, and then ask again, without pressuring them.

2. Focus on 1 issue at a time. Don’t go over 10 things they did wrong, just focus on one issue at a time. If your child brings up other issues, let them know you will bring it up another time. It’s overwhelming to go over so many issues, its easier and helpful to talk about one issue at a time.

3. Talk about replacement behaviors: What can your child do differently, the next time this problem comes up. Allow them to come up with their own idea and solution, making suggestions only if they are struggling.

4. Discourage wishful thinking. For example, a child may say “I won’t do it again, or I’ll do it better”. They think that they can do something without putting effort into it. It’s better to be more specific, asking them “How will you stop doing “that specific thing” next time? What will I see you doing instead?”

5. Be a positive role model. When life gets frustrating for you, don’t kick, scream, yell, curse, instead practice being a positive role model for your children, let them see you in control of your emotions. It’s ok to have stress as an adult, you will, and it will only get more stressful, it’s as important for parents to learn problem solving skills as it is for their children.


Be realistic with implementing these changes, they will take time to set in. Your role is to be a positive coach, giving a brief reminder of what he/she is supposed to do instead, and walk away. You may need to practice with different coping behaviors until they find the right one. Give your child positive recognition when you see noticeable changes as well as effort. The effort is as important as the change, because it will eventually lead to change.

Trust, that the more you have problem-solving discussions and coaching of your child, you will gradually see more of the coping behavior and less coaching needed, so the child can learn to self-regulate and improve their behavior, feeling better about themselves.


3 Steps to integrate mindfulness to your daily routine

“Tomorrow is tomorrow. Future cares have future cures, And we must mind today.” Sophocles


Mindfulness helps improve concentration, relieve stress, and find balance

There are many emotions that come to mind when we are asked to practice mindfulness. The first is time, the second is patience, the third is getting frustrated while practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness can be a difficult task to accomplish. You are basically trying to still your mind, your soul, your body, while you focus on breathing, in and out, letting the air draw in your belly, and release through your nose, paying attention to your senses. When you’re already frustrated, it can be challenging, because every small sound, smell, or disruption can cause a huge distraction.

In the busy hustle and bustle of today’s society, it can be so hard to find a quiet moment. But mindfulness doesn’t need to take center stage, it can be something you practice in small breaths throughout the day. But taking some time to initially practice on your own can help that process.

1. The first step to integrate mindfulness to your daily routine is to take 5-10 minutes at the beginning or end of the day to sit in quiet. You may have light music in the background till you get acclimated. Sit in comfortable chair and position, relax your body, your shoulders, your neck, and your breath.

2. The second step is to breathe. Breathe in the air, breathe out the stress. You can say a mantra or affirmation to yourself if that is helpful for you. “I breathe in the peace, I breathe out the stress.” Focus on your rhythm. If your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath. Don’t add stress to your experience by thinking about mastery. Think about your breath, drawing in, exhaling out.

3. The third step is to visualize. start to think of a relaxing place, or motion that can keep your mind busy. For me it is walking along the streets of Paris, wandering the boulevards, shops, and gardens, taking in the surroundings. I also sometimes think about my plants in my garden and how they are growing from seed to have small buds and leaves. I visualize peace, calmness, and focus on the present. I leave tomorrow in the future, and the past behind me, and focus on the now. I am here now, I am breathing, I am visualizing, I am being.

Once you start to practice mindfulness, in 5-10 stints, you can start to increase your time and integrate it into other activities, like walking, eating, exercising. And you will also remember to be in greater touch with your body to look for body’s cues, that it is getting stressed and it is time to practice breathing again. Instead of munching on a bag of chips, downing more coffee, or surfing the web for a distraction, you can focus on your breathing, and relaxation techniques.

Divorce: Part 1-talk with your kids about feelings

Divorce is hard

Divorce is a hard time for everyone involved, but its also a time communication needs to increase

One of the most challenging aspects of owning a business is that your personal life is usually impacted in small or who are we kidding, big ways. It’s not easy to find the zen balance to which the universe holds, let alone business and family life.

Divorce is not an easy issue for families. It’s even more challenging to go through when there are children involved. How children feel is so difficult with divorce, because they have no say in the matter. They want their parents to stay together, and don’t understand the complex nature of relationships that tears them apart.

Sometimes, divorce happens and it is the best solution for a couple or family. And there are some simple communication that should be in place for when that time comes. There should be a parenting plan in place that covers simple topics like how often you will communicate, religion child will follow, schools to go to, extra-curricular activity. There are a couple good books that talk more about this

  • Beyond divorce casualties : reunifying the alienated family / Douglas Darnall.
  • The Kazdin method for parenting the defiant child : with no pills, no therapy, no contest of wills / Alan E. Kazdin ; with Carlo Rotella
  • Making divorce easier on your child : 50 effective ways to help children adjust / Nicholas Long and Rex Forehand.

Because divorce is a challenging life event, its important children feel like they have their parents support and emotional closeness. It’s important each parent help their child process their feelings and emotions.

Sometimes its hard to find the words to talk about with your children. It may be easier for them to draw a picture of how they feel, and then discuss the drawing with your kids. Ask them to explain their drawing and why they drew it.

A sample of some prompts adopted from the University of Michigan Extension:

1. What does divorce look like?

2. How does divorce make you feel?

3. Draw pictures of various feelings like anger, sadness and loneliness.

4. Draw a picture of your family (does not have to be blood relatives).

5. Draw a picture of the homes you live in.

6. If a genie could grant you one wish about your family, what would you wish for. Draw a picture.

7. Draw a picture of you before the divorce and after the divorce.

8. Draw a picture of me (parent) and you before the divorce and after the divorce.

It’s important to follow these prompts with a discussion about their feelings and attitudes. This can be a great activity to do daily or weekly with your kids. It helps encourage discussion, trust, and balance in their relationship. It can also help them identify their own feelings so they don’t put it out in other ways (hitting, tantrums, etc).


I’m also including a link to a fun activity to play with your kids to get them to understand and recognize their feelings:

Print drawings of children’s faces representing different emotions; glue them on a small box. Toss the box, like tossing a die. When it settles, read the feeling word for the face or have the child identify the feeling. You can ask them to describe a time they felt that way, or ask them to imitate the expression on the drawing.

Attaching a link to the activities page here: