2014 Creative Revolution Conference Work Groups
Soteria Houses are home-like residences which are designed to help persons who are experiencing their first episode of symptoms which lead them to be diagnosed with psychosis. In the Soteria house, such persons are safe both physically and psychologically. There is no pressure on them to get better, get back on track or stop having those thoughts or hallucinations. Rather, they are told that they can stay there until they feel more stable and the staff will be with them and help them go through the experience they are having. The treatment is based on relationship and the goal is to help the person go through the experience in a safe place where they are understood and affirmed and can slowly learn whatever can be learned from the experience. Most of the staff are trained peers and other non-professionals who are able to relate well with the residents and help them slowly make sense out of what is going on, understand what has triggered it and begin to feel less agitated, upset and alienated. Psychiatric drugs are not the primary modality of treatment and are used very sparingly, if at all. As residents become less agitated and afraid they are helped to become involved in school, work, recreation and other community activities. The Director of the House is a licensed clinician and the House has a contract with a psychiatrist who provides services as needed.
For people in the throes of a mental health crisis, Peer-Run Respites provide a unique alternative to psychiatric hospitalization. Respites are set up to provide a warm, comforting, homelike environment staffed by people who themselves have been through their own crises. Non-hierarchical and non-pathologizing, these homes offer short term stays and focus on crisis resolution.
Sunrise Center/Creating Places to Withdraw from Psychiatric Drugs
The Sunrise Center project is working to establish a center where people who choose to withdraw from psychiatric drugs can use a natural emotional healing process, called Re-evaluation Counseling, as they reduce the amount of psychiatric drugs they are using and eventually stop using them all together. The process of Re-evaluation Counseling, also called Co-Counseling, involves people taking turns exchanging listening time with each other in order to release emotions and thus be able to think more clearly and make their lives go better. A number of people who already use the Re-evaluation Counseling process(which can be used for many other things, as well) have successfully used it to stop taking psychiatric drugs and stop being involved in the mental health system permanently. We want to create a center (and later, many centers) where many more people can learn the process and at the same time use it to get off psychiatric drugs permanently. We want the center to be a catalyst for creating a large, worldwide movement of people who have stopped taking psychiatric drugs, reclaimed their minds as their own, and are helping others do the same. As well, we want the center to become a teaching center where interns can come to learn how to create their own, similar centers, and where doctors and mental health workers who are interested allies can come to learn how to use this process in their work, and create similar programs to help people stop using psychiatric drugs.
Before we have the Sunrise Center established, we will start a series of workshops in September, 2014, holding our first 4-day workshop to train people on ways to help people stop using psychiatric drugs, followed by workshops with some participants who are getting off psychiatric drugs.
Our conference track will share our experiences with creating the Sunrise Center, our experiences helping people get off psychiatric drugs while using the Re-evaluation Counseling process, and a brief introduction to the Co-Counseling process, as well as provide a forum for discussion of issues related to creating places for people to stop using psychiatric drugs.
Open Dialogue is a non-drug approach to helping persons who are diagnosed with psychosis for the first time. Upon the first signs of hallucinations, delusions or disorganized thinking and behavior, a team of two professionals brings together as many people in the patient’s life as they can bring together and they meet every day or every other day for two or three weeks. Participants could include parents, siblings, lovers, spouses, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, teachers, bosses, coaches, etc. The professionals create an atmosphere in which people are free to tell their stories, talk about what has happened, wonder about what is going on and what might be a good way of responding. At opportune times, the professionals stop the conversation and talk among themselves about what they have heard, what it might mean, what might make some sense, etc. All treatment decisions are made in the presence of the group. Psychiatric drugs are not used as a primary modality of treatment and very sparingly if at all. Open Dialogue was developed in Finland and has been validated by well-done research. Finland reports 80 percent full recovery through the use of this approach. You can learn more about it by searching for “Open Dialogue” in a search engine such as Google.
The Hearing Voices Network is an international movement that helps voice-hearers form groups to share their experiences of hearing voices and to learn from each other how to manage the impact voices can have on their lives. These groups encourage people to discover what their voices might mean and also to examine the relation of voice hearing to intense stress and trauma. The Network also aims to reduce the stigma associated with voice-hearing by providing training sessions for mental health professionals and the general public.