Windhorse IMH came from deep roots in a diverse group of service and spiritual traditions. Shared values included an understanding of meditation, compassion, community, and social justice awareness. The core of our program and values are described in Recovering Sanity.
Our founders Jeff and Molly Fortuna studied at Naropa University with Ed Podvoll, creator of the Windhorse approach, and worked with him on the original Windhorse project.
They moved to western Massachusetts to partner with Connie Packard, mother of one of their first clients outside Naropa. From Connie’s house in the Berkshires, the three started to pull together talented people to form the first teams to wrap around clients. Before long, people trained at Naropa started migrating to Northampton, MA to join the new Windhorse Associates (our first name), incorporated in 1993.
Northampton’s Windhorse community did not come from one type of training or background, as the Windhorse community in Naropa did. We formed a collaboration of people with shared values and widely varying interests and training, from social workers to artists, therapists to activists, and psychiatrists to family members. Many contributed new tools that we still use today:
- Connie Packard and Sally Clay, a parent and a peer advocate on our board of directors, incorporated the idea of a Trialogue (peers, professionals, and family members) into our work.
- Board member Cheryl Stevens, from the Department of Mental Health, introduced the integrated peer program to our model.
- Marlow Hotchkiss of The Ojai Foundation taught us counsel (the practice of listening and speaking from the heart), which is now an important communication tool at Windhorse.
- From launch, we have incorporated the 2,000-year-old Buddhist healing methods (often in the Shambhala tradition).
- Over time we added Polyvagal Theory, dialogic processes (specifically a training called Open Dialogue), trauma work , Harm Reduction, Motivational Interviewing and more.
During these early years of the Northampton Windhorse, Jeff Fortuna also supported a new Windhorse opening in Vienna, Austria, and wrote a new chapter on intensive psychotherapy for Ed Podvoll’s book, Seduction of Madness. Although the original book is now out of print, Jeff and Ed updated and republished it under the new title Recovering Sanity, and it remains the core philosophy of our program today.
In 2002 Jeff and Molly Fortuna traveled back to Naropa to be with their teacher and mentor, Ed Podvoll, at the end of his life. Windhorse Integrative Mental Health, meanwhile, had moved into its current location on 211 North Street in downtown Northampton, and continued to grow.
The Addition of San Luis Obispo, CA
Almost two decades after the start of Windhorse in Northampton, a parent of a client approached us asking for another Windhorse site on the west coast. With strong financial backing from this satisfied parent and passionate advocate for our work, we opened a sister site in San Luis Obispo (SLO), California in 2010. As SLO evolved, a vibrant community emerged that continues to create site specific traditions and practices, while deepening the understanding of the core principles through ongoing training. The Windhorse approach supports the individuation of communities, a natural response to who and where and the surrounding environment and resources.
The Addition of Portland, OR
Even before SLO was conceived, there was a dream of a Portland, OR site. A family there created a “natural team” and wished for more local support. With the success of SLO, the Board ear-marked money to start the Portland, OR site, opening Winter 2016. The urban area offers more resources for staffing, great neighborhoods in which households can thrive, and the potential to move the approach into public funding and mainstream awareness given Oregon’s progressive stance on health issues.