The clubhouse model

The Clubhouse model fulfills the basic human need of being wanted, needed, expected, and respected. Members voluntarily work, set goals, learn life skills, improve their health, and much more. This is an accepting, supportive community where members build close relationships with each other and staff, and experience a purpose-filled day.

The AIM Center provides a restorative environment for people whose lives have been severely disrupted because of their mental illness. Our Clubhouse creates place with an intentional community where members and staff work together side-by-side to carry out all daily operations of the Clubhouse. This concept originated in New York over 75 years ago at Fountain House and is now a global solution to mental health, endorsed by the World Health Organization and recognized as an evidence-based best practice by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, since 2010. Research has linked Clubhouse participation with reduced incarceration, hospitalization, and homelessness rates. Through the Clubhouse, members obtain employment, complete educational goals, develop social networks, and experience improved overall health.

Together, with Clubhouse International, the AIM Center achieved the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation Humanitarian Prize and is accredited by Clubhouse International, a globally recognized leader in changing the world of mental health.

Why Clubhouses?

Much of the suffering experienced by those living with SMI can be traced to isolation. SMI can result in a breakdown of relationships and detachment from family, friends, and society. What is often missing in mental health care and what Clubhouses address is this social isolation, along with other social symptoms, such as social withdrawal, apathy, and the absence of self-confidence and self-worth.

With our Clubhouse model, the AIM Center recognizes for recovery to be achieved, attention must be paid to social symptoms, community focus, and looking holistically at the entire person’s well-being.

What happens in a Clubhouse?

The clubhouse model is centered on member choice. Members decide their daily activities, how they wish to contribute, and all aspects of the day. The term “member” is utilized (versus client or program participant) to fully reflect the choices built into Clubhouse and the voluntary nature of participation. Personal choice matters to us all in our wellness. The AIM Center empowers our members to make informed decisions and advocate for choice in their life and in recovery. That’s what makes the Clubhouse different from any other therapeutic options.Inside of the AIM Center, members engage in what is known as a “work-ordered day,” which is used to help individuals to learn new skills, hone talents, build dignity, develop a sense of belonging, and make progress toward their goals. The AIM Center Clubhouse believes work is restorative and an integral part of relationships, growth, and recovery. There is a focus on treatment being strength-based as opposed to deficit-based. In this way, the AIM Center aims to change the way people with SMI think about themselves. Membership is always voluntary and without time limits. The Clubhouse is divided into units, and members can tap into their interests and choose which unit in which they participate. Although there is no typical day inside the AIM Center, some examples of tasks completed throughout the day can include: answering phones and greeting visitors; clerical work; watering plants; delivering mail; cleaning; training; facilitating meetings; preparing food; and conducting tours.

Clubhouse International
the clubhouse units

the clubhouse units

The Clubhouse is divided into three units: The Welcome Center, The Business Unit, and The Wellness Unit. Members choose which unit in which they participate. In each unit, engagement, socialization, and self-determination are key.

The Welcome Center

Members volunteering in this unit greet new and returning members, work in the library and computer lab, and both facilitate and co-produce education and employment programs.

The Business Unit

Opportunities within this unit include member financial services, applied arts, media, communications, and clerical work. Various and valuable workplace skills are learned and developed here.

The Wellness Unit

Recovery has been proven to be a holistic journey. This unit houses fitness programming, nutrition, culinary programs, along with grounds/facilities work. We encourage each other to stay well both physically and mentally.

supported employment

The AIM Center offers members career guidance, interview training, job placement, on-the-job training, coaching, and follow-up supports. In our Employment Resource Center, members can find help with two types of Supported Employment: Transitional Employment and Individual Placement & Support.

Transitional Employment

Our Transitional Employment program offers members six-to-nine-month temporary placements intended to integrate or reintegrate a member into a real work situation. These jobs help members gain experience, make connections, and develop career possibilities. Our job coaches are trained alongside each employee and are available for daily support.

Individual Placement & Support

Our IPS program leverages our employment network to help members find stable, long0term employment opportunities that suit their experience and preferences.  This evidence-based practice involves rapid job search and placement. Types of supports offered to members include assistance with application forms, resumes, cover letters, mock interviews, and, if needed, items for interviews, such as clothing. Once comfortably on the job, employment specialists keep in touch with the member providing individualized support and reach-out, monthly employment dinners, and other supports, as needed. This type of employment also provides support to the employers that may initially may be unsure about hiring a member for this job.

Offer employment Opportunities for Members

More than 60 businesses across Chattanooga currently employ AIM Center Clubhouse members. Want to learn more about how you can positively impact the lives of people with SMI living in our area AND support your bottom line? Let's have a conversation.

supported employment


Because safety and belonging are essential to recovery, we work to provide safe and affordable housing to our members. We also offer assistance with daily living skills, budgeting, socialization, home ownership preparation, and more. 

Our 74 units of permanent, supportive housing are subsidized through various sources, and tenants dedicate 30% of their income toward rent. We own and maintain apartments, duplexes, and single-family homes.

Housing eligibility is based upon availability, income, and diagnosis of serious mental illness. Other restrictions and qualifications apply.


Funding for AIM Center housing includes the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), HUD McKinney Vento, Green Retrofit, the Federal Home Loan Bank, the State of Tennessee, Tennessee Housing Development Authority, the Southeast Tennessee Housing Resource Agency, the City of Chattanooga, the Chattanooga Housing Authority, and private donations.

Interested in Becoming a Tenant?

You first step is scheduling an appointment with us. Click here to fill out our quick contact form, or call us at 423.624.6591.

You'll also need to fill out an application. We can send you one, or you can pick one up at our Housing Resource Center.

Please note there may be a waiting list. We’ll talk about other requirements and steps during your appointment, and we’ll be there to help and answer questions all along the way.

How You Can Get Involved

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