A Stranger in a Strange Land (Pt. 2): What Happened to You?

Andrew L. Yoder, MSW
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What Happened to You?

I believe that it is my responsibility as a practicing social worker to listen to the voices of persons with lived experiences and accept this truth:  individuals are the best experts on themselves.  People don’t forfeit that personal wisdom when they have distressing experiences in their lives.  It is impossible to understand anything meaningful about an individual’s needs or situation by looking only at broad generalizations.  It is the person-in-context that matters most.  Understanding a person in their context happens only one way:  through patient, active listening to that person and the loving invitation to share their personal story.

Through the act of deep listening to personal stories of distress and healing, I have become convinced that even the most well-meaning mental health professionals are persistently asking the wrong questions.  We are operating within a system that prizes the stability, conformity, and sedation of persons with experiences too unusual or too “disruptive” to social norms.  It is a system that asks the question, “What is wrong with you?” and it is a system that defines “fixing” the problem as managing symptoms so that people aren’t a bother (financially, logistically, and socially) to other people.

The disease model promotes a backward notion that the experience of extreme emotional states begins from a biological root independent of social context, and then causes social and relational turmoil in a person’s life.  I have no problem believing that there is a biological component to human lived experiences of extreme distress.  That seems to be basic common sense.  It’s not magic; obviously biological things are happening when we feel or experience anything.

But while there is little supporting evidence for the disease model hypothesis, there is ample supporting evidence for a social/trauma perspective which suggest that tough stuff happens to us in our life and sometimes our mind and body struggles to cope.   The tougher the stuff, the more extreme the compensation / coping efforts of the mind and body.  Really tough stuff can sometimes set a person down a road to a very isolated place full of internal confusion and complicated and distressing thoughts and feelings.   These coping may alter biological activity so that our brain does “look” or act different when engaged in these high-intensity trauma coping endeavors.  But I believe that such biological changes are most frequently effects of unresolved traumatic lived experiences, not the causes of the “symptoms” themselves.

The question we should be asking is, “What happened to you?”  Our primary task as a humble servant of fellow human beings should be to become a meaningful partner in a healing, restorative journey as defined by the individual seeking support.   Our aim should be at providing love and encouragement and love to a person undertaking a meaning-making journey.  We must not be afraid of intense lived experiences and we must humbly offer the possibility of compassionate partnership as individuals work to reconcile these experiences with their deepest selves.  Doing this requires accepting all the ways in which unresolved trauma impact lives, and creates tension and distress.  I believe that the appropriate attitude of a social worker toward such experiences is one of tenderness and patience.

Selective, Evidence-Informed Prescribing

Psychiatric medications can, in some instances, be a helpful tool to provide relief from acute distress.  When they are prescribed selectively for a limited duration, they may be one part of a larger healing process.  When the minimal benefits are not overstated and the substantial risks are not minimized, medications may be understood by the individual as useful in temporarily alleviating acute distress.  When prescribing choices are made in collaboration with the individual and when the individual is free to choose the approach that feels right for them (including the legitimate choice to take no medications,) then the relationship between individual and prescriber can be fruitful.

As a social worker, I believe it is my ethical obligation to question prescribing practices that ignore scientific evidence or justify prescribing decisions based on flawed “common wisdom.”  Research has consistently told the same story for years:  while psychiatric medications can sometimes be helpful when used briefly and selectively, they are consistently more harmful than helpful over the long term in the majority of cases.  I believe it is the duty of every mental health worker, whatever their area of expertise, to be fully and accurately informed about the risks and benefits of medications.  I believe we have an obligation to protect the people we serve from reckless, thoughtless, or dogmatic prescribing practices.

While working within the public mental health system, I have experienced a tremendous amount of pushback by asking for evidence-supported rationale for prescribing decisions that impact the people I work with.   That’s because more often than not mental health “professionals” cannot logically or rationally justify their decisions with a sound and articulate rationale that is consistent with available evidence.   Many if not most prescribing and mental health “treatment” decisions are made based on illicit appeals to authority, “common wisdom,” unexamined biases and emotional reactions, or blanket statements repeated over and over again without any factual base.

I don’t accept that certain “professionals” are above the requirement to justify their decision making and demonstrate clear and accurate rationale for the choices they make.  Every human being is capable of being informed about the evidence (or lack of evidence) available concerning the uses and efficacy of psychiatric medications.  And every person making prescribing choices has an obligation to clearly explain their decision making and demonstrate that those decisions are consistent with evidence.  And any person has the right to ask for such justification from a prescriber or any other “professional.”

Thankfully, I have been blessed to occasionally work with wonderful prescribers.  I have sat in the room with a person I was serving and their prescriber and witnessed genuine open collaboration, responsiveness to the needs and wishes of the individual, cautious prescribing choices, selective-use approaches, and general willingness to listen to the individual.  But tragically, my experience is that this is presently the extreme exception rather than the rule.  This must change, and I believe it is my responsibility as a social worker to be an advocate for these changes.

The “Therapeutic” Stance

The way I see it, the only real difference between me and any person that I might work with is that I get paid to try and be a good person.  Lots of other people simply do that for free.  What I mean by that is, while its true I have a certain amount of specialized education and training and sometimes that background helps me think about the human condition or social problems in interesting ways, doing my job “well” really comes down to this:

How much love and empathy I can convey to another person

How much patience and flexibility I can offer to another person

How much respect for another person’s humanity and autonomy I can demonstrate

How much hope I can offer and how much faith I can place in another person, and

How willing I am to defend another person from systemic abuses, even when those abuses may come from colleagues or “superiors.”

None of the things I just mentioned require an advanced degree in anything.   And yet I believe these things represent the heart of the “therapeutic stance” for counseling or “therapy.”  By contrast, the antithesis of the therapeutic stance can be described like this:

Belief that I get to define the problem and prescribe the solution for another human being

Belief that it is helpful or appropriate use coercive tactics to force another person to accept my plans for them

Allowing a sense of personal resentment, frustration or even protective fear to dominate my emotions when another person does not do what I have planned for them

Getting caught up in an emotion-based power struggle in which I seek to “beat” another person, “punish” behavior I deem to be bad,  or “win” a power game

Insistence on actions or behaviors from another person that I would never expect from myself.

When I model the therapeutic stance in this way, it seems so obvious.  In fact, you could basically label it as the “Don’t Be a Jerk” model of therapeutic interaction.  And yet, my experience has shown me that this is not the dominate model persons with lived experiences encounter in many cases.  If a person is largely independent, with modest or robust means, and with problems society tends to deem more common or acceptable (some depressed mood, conflicts at work or in relationships, mild grief and loss, etc.) then I think it’s more likely for a person to connect with counselors and professional supports who truly approach their work from the “Don’t Be a Jerk” model.

But the entire landscape changes when it comes to persons labeled by the system with “Severe, Persistent Mental Illness.”  Within this system domain, a philosophy of humane partnership seems largely absent.  What feels to me like the opposite of an appropriate therapeutic stance frequently practiced and sometimes openly defended when working with those other people.  This must change, and as a social worker I believe it is my obligation to be an advocate for such changes.

 

The Good News

I chose the field of social work because I feel a personal sense of responsibility to try and serve my human and brothers and sisters with a spirit of love.  That may sound silly or evoke a little cynicism, but it is true for me.  These were the values of my father, who died in my arms at the age of 63 after a nearly lifelong battle with depression.  They are the values that helped bring me back from the brink of my own lived experiences of extreme distress.  I never expected to work directly within the public mental health system, and some days I question what I am doing within a system that is so deeply, deeply flawed.

And yet, I have recently had the opportunity to begin work with an agency that has given me some renewed hope.  The agency I now work for receives payment from the public mental health system, but its roots are in a small community of less than ten thousand persons.  It began as a small group of volunteers over twenty years ago, and has held fast to a mission of community based service and its commitment to uphold human dignity and mutual respect in its interactions with people.  A person who walks in the front door of the agency and asks for help, is not “Case Number 823491A.”  It’s Bob, from down the street, whose having a rough time today and could use a little human support.

That’s not to say things are perfect.  I don’t think any agency that intersects with the public mental health system can fully escape the influence of its dogmas or the demands it places on agencies who receive its funds.  Attitudes in the agency toward persons the system labels “severely and persistently mentally ill” still reflect a symptom maintenance belief that those people are sick and cannot be expected to do much more than just cope and avoid hospitalization.  Those people must take medications, they must be taken without end, and a person should never be supported in stopping them, because that’s too dangerous to them and too costly to the system.

These unpleasant and (I believe) incorrect assumptions still exist.  But I also find that within the agency –   from my immediate colleagues to agency director – people are having the conversation.  I can say to my supervisor, “I don’t believe mental illness is a literal thing and here’s why” and that will turn into an open and positive discussion.  I can go to at least one of the prescribers who works for our agency and say, “I really have questions about these medications,” and have a genuine dialog about it without her feeling threated or me feeling insulted.

Things are not perfect.  But people are talking.   And ultimately, since the social worker’s role is defined as not only direct support of other human beings but also as the duty to challenge institutional injustices and confront social and professional prejudice, a big part of my job is to keep people talking.

47 COMMENTS

  1. Iron Maiden- Stranger in a Strange Land (Official Music Video)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tS1C9miU1wg

    What happened to me ? I fell for the mental illness scam, you know depression anxiety serotonin gaba …

    Condition x = treatment y …

    They don’t even know how those pills work.

    Truth About Antidepressants & Chemical Imbalance, Psychology http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIjOZq_AUeE

    Those fraudsters with there clinical words sound so convincing even I fell for it, I see right though it now. The ‘mental illness’ scam is the biggest scam ever to infest this planet.

  2. Hi Andrew. I don’t think you can do it. Really, I just don’t . I am a former social worker; I have relinquished my license to a (almost police) state that wanted to demand I prove I was not impaired once I came out with my diagnoses. But, if you can continue to make a difference from within the system, please keep telling us how. Because I am at a loss.

  3. Hi Andrew, In your pair of articles you offer up a comprehensive account of your take on the predicaments that face a consumer in general. This is a great help for how it allows fitting in to another framework the various aspects of one’s own experiences and stepping back again in order to see what it all adds up to.

    I’m glad that you bring in this kind of breadth and say what it means to you to advocate and in many types of stiuations.

  4. Andrew, I am so glad you’re working in the field. Please keep doing what you’re doing.

    I am subjected to a lot of anger by my co-survivors when I say that an outright ban on involuntary treatment is both unattainable and likely undesirable. I support the use of drugs in psychiatric emergencies. When I was writhing around on the floor while screaming that my hands and feet were on fire, antipsychotic injections without my consent were both humane and ethical.

    What am I concerned with, like you are, is the lifelong chronic disease model. I see these folks in my doctor’s waiting room all the time. They have been trained to be disabled, to have no hope, to have no self-esteem. Just collecting welfare and shuffling in for their drug injections.

    I wish the psychiatric reform movement could focus their goals a little. I’m not interested in devoting my life to a goal that can’t be attained and abolishing psychiatry is just that. What I would like to see is genuine reform.

    • I am with you. My question is: how do we go about achieving the genuine reform that you mention? What are some achievable goals that we can rally support around and actually accomplish? Like Ted C., I believe that if we don’t do something soon it will be too late to do anything. I think it’s tremendously dangerous for us when talk of a national register of the “mentally ill” is being talked about in Washington.

      How do we go about getting people who work in the system to adopt the practical and sensible things that Andrew states here very clearly? I feel like we’re just spinning our wheels in the movement at this point in time.

      • Agree Stephen that we are running out of time and spinning our wheels.

        And I don’t if folks have seen the latest news but Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds was stabbed by his son and is in critical condition. The kid than shot himself to death. I greatly fear he will turn out to have alleged suspected mental illness which will make things worse since this is a politician’s kid.

        • I saw this in this morning’s news. More fuel to the fire. I suspect that if the boy does turn out to have been on “meds” it will probably be one of the SSRI’s that are known to induce all kinds of bizarre suicidal and homicidal behavior in people. Of course they will probably hush all of this up and just emphasize that he was “terribly mentally ill!”

      • Stephen, I think the answer might be in “baby steps.” Here are some achievable goals that I would like to see in my lifetime:

        1. Consent to be defined in mental health laws as informed and uncoerced.

        2. Make sure that the test for “competence” is not merely compliance.

        3. Raise the legal standard for outpatient commitment up to that required for hospitalization.

        4. Include the mentally ill as an identifiable group under hate speech laws.

        5. Amend our Representation Agreement Act to include mental health decisions.

        6. Make coercion (e.g. threatening to make voluntary patients involuntary, threatening to take away housing or other social benefits) illegal (this is, of course, related to my point above about the meaning of consent).

        7. Establish safeguards to protect children against unwarranted psychiatric drugging.

        8. Make a legal advocate available for anyone diagnosed with a serious mental illness.

        These are just a few reasonable and attainable goals that I prefer to work on.

    • Francesca,

      We agree on many things, but certainly not on this one. The whole concept of civil commitment is a travesty. There should be only one way to deprive people of their liberty: the commission of a crime. Everything else should be off limits. Retrospective validation of abuse is not a good argument for me. If we are going to take “potential retrospective validation” as a rationale to implement non criminal paternalistic policies, then we should also,

      – Deprive obese people of their freedom and put them in a “fat camp” to force them to lose weight. I bet that many of these will be happy to have been put in such a setting.

      – Quarantine HIV positive people, especially in areas highly impacted by the epidemic such as gay districts in large cities. I am sure that many gay men would approve a policies that would take out of circulation those who would test positive in hypothetical mandatory monthly tests.

      – Force all those with an addiction problem -be that problem with alcohol, drugs or whatever- on a disintoxication program. Surely many will be retrospectively thankful.

      Government sponsored paternalistic policies, of which involuntary commitment is just an example, have caused untold suffering throughout human history. There is already a tool to deal with people who misbehave: the criminal justice system. In a democratic society, that should be the only way that government should be allowed to use to institute behavioral control. The notion of a psychiatrist, or a group of psychiatrists, who is (are) accountable to none other than himself(themselves) having legally binding power to decide who deserves to have his/her freedom taken away is preposterous and I will fiercely oppose it for as long as I am alive. In this particular matter, I am an absolutist, and I do not accept any compromise whatsoever.

      Paternalism denies the freedom of the individual to make his/her own choices. It puts collectivism and statistical analysis above individual freedom.

      • As usual, you make excellent points, cannotsay2013, but tell me what you would do in the situation I was in: writhing around on the floor, screaming that my hands and feet were on fire, rejecting medication. Seriously, should involuntary treatment in this instance really be characterized as a “travesty” or a “human rights violation.”

        There are lots of problems we can fix. We can raise the standard for civil commitment. We can also raise the standard for outpatient commitment. We can amend the Representation Agreement Act to allow for mental health advance directives. We can provide a legal advocate to every person diagnosed with a serious mental illness. We can force psychiatrists to provide support for tapering meds.

        But the biggest thing we can do is work towards cohesion in the psychiatric reform movement. I disagree with the motives of the Repeal Mental Health Laws Facebook group. Okay, fine. Instead of lambasting me and censoring me and shrieking at me, why don’t we see what we have in common. We both agree that involuntary treatment needs to be way reduced. So let’s work on that together. Then, if we attain that goal, we can split off and you can continue to work towards full abolition.

        Seriously, attempting to remove it altogether won’t succeed and will have various negative consequences for all of us in the system. Also, it will turn off people like me who do have something to offer.

        Lastly, even if this were to succeed (which it won’t), no Court would enforce it because it would be a fundamentally unjust law.

      • “There is already a tool to deal with people who misbehave: the criminal justice system. In a democratic society, that should be the only way that government should be allowed to use to institute behavioral control.”

        *LOL*

        I had this JOKE of a “trial” in a “court room” where I watched the “prosecutor” PRETEND LIKE SHE WAS ON TELEVISION.

        If that woman behaved the way she did in MY courtroom, I would throw her out and take her TV away.

        http://youtu.be/Z5NC-x1_S1U

  5. Having been a client in the system, then hired to staff at voc rehab, then wrongfully terminated because I called them on their acts of discrimination against people with disabilities, I learned ADA law. The most useful clause to me was “reasonable accommodation for reasonable request,” which is what I applied to win my legal mediation.

    I discovered that the system, throughout, is a legal house of cards, in chronic violation of ADA law. I was lucky, eventually, to find an attorney who worked with me, but I had to be persistent in my search for legal support. Most of the mental health advocate attorneys from whom I requested support were really advocates for the system and the established norms of stigma and discrimination, enabling it down the line, as their funding also comes from the same source.

    However, I found a publicly-funded employment attorney, outside the mental health and advocacy system, and because she was outside the mental health system, per se, she was not inherently biased against people with psychiatric histories. She met me eye to eye, respectfully, and did right by me. That was a novel, and very welcome, experience at that time.

    Another conclusion I drew, from my personal experience and observation, was that the system sucks peoples’ energy, like a nest of vampires. I find it psychically so messy, that it was impossible to bring in light. The management staff for which I worked *needed* clients to be in the dark, to feel their own power (and become drunk with it). It was a truly horrible and traumatic experience, and eye opening, as far as observing the underbelly of our society. I’d never seen such corporate and personal vampirism, all under the guise of being contracted to support those in need.

    I admire and respect your courage and determination to change the system from within. I tried and was sacrificed in my attempt. Now, I contract independently with different groups within the public health system, to help expand and shift awareness around energy and health, from a non-diagnostic perspective. I do a lot of my work pro bono, so money doesn’t become some dangling carrot issue. They’ll use *any* vulnerability to control, so I keep my boundaries very clear, which are now, finally, respected.

    Good to know there are brave and determined folks from within, kicking up the dust for change. Best wishes in your quest to make these positive shifts.

    • “The management staff for which I worked “needed” clients to be in the dark, to feel their own power (and become drunk with it).”

      Exactly! It’s totally in the interest of the mental illness system to keep people helpless and dependent. It’s truly disgusting and it doesn’t happen just where you were employed. I see this carried out every day at the state hospital where I work. The goal is to keep people helpless for all of the talk that we do about “recovery.” The power and control is too much for the staff to give up. This is what our movement is really working against as far as I’m concerned. People running the system are not going to give up their power over people. I don’t know how you go about combating this without a major uprising and revolt.

      • I so understand your frustration, Stephen. I’m no longer in that space, but I can still feel it from vivid memory. The lawsuit thing was a necessary part of my path out of there, for whatever reason, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The legal system is just as toxic as the mental health system, in much the same way. That required healing, in and of itself.

        For me–and this is what my work and presentations are about–it was ALL about finding that internal freedom, ‘THE healing journey,’ as many would call it, which is hard work in an oppressive environment. But it’s where we can break through the illusions and fear induced by all of this corruption, find our own voice and sense of self, and create what we need to move on from these heinous and debilitating paradoxes. Complex, creative, and forward moving.

        This was my path, at least. I found that pushing against such stuckness was really draining to me, after a while. In my environment, any appearance at progress and expansion would pop back into place like a rubber band quickly, the system was so tightly closed, and it would sting as such, in the process. All in all, I learned to create from a whole new perspective. That was the gift from the healing I did. I’m always happy to share anything with anyone that is interested.

        • Reading your response reminded me of what happend to me this morning. I was asked to come and speak to the Recovery group on one of the Forensic units at the state hospital where I work. At one point I was emphasizing that the people in the group are their own experts on their own lives and that they know what they need that will put them on the road to recovery. I could see expressions change on some faces and then, all of a sudden, the moderator who invited me to speak interrupted and asked if anyone wanted to share their goals for recovery with me! It was apparent that such talk was not well received on her part! I guess that she doesn’t really want any kind of “empowering” talk to go on. Just another example of keeping people helpless and powerless.

          I’d be interested in hearing what you have to share about all of this.

          • Your example says it all. This happened to me many times, as I continued to truth-speak my way out of this mess. At every turn, no matter how reasonable and focused I was about individual empowerment as the way out of this needless suffering–offering my example of speaking publically, making a film, and creating a healing practice based on energy and natural healing—I’d be abruptly cut off and the focus redirected, just as you describe. Often, when I made statements of certainty around mental health and related issues, someone from staff would express the typical indoctrination missive—“well, no one really knows, it’s a confusing issue,” as if to purposely sabotage the pursuit of clarity. Conversations would never move forward because of this innate resistance. After all, it’s bad for business. But more than that, on an immediate level, I feel it really threatens staffers, et al, to go against the grain in any way. Egos flair easily in this world, projecting fear and defensiveness, in lieu of moving forward the cause of societal and individual well-being. Plus, the box is ‘safe,’ although I’d argue that this is one of the illusions. Safety is not found in one’s comfort zone (illusion); it’s found with one’s own innate individual sense of safety. That’s an internal mechanism, a belief, it’s not external. This clash with mixed messages and resistance went on for me for a few years, at every turn running into this smoke & mirrors duplicity.

            How I ended up navigating this chronic and frustrating dynamic was to apply all that I had learned from the healing communities that did help me, far and away from the mental health communities to which I had once turned, which wound up only leading to all this we’re talking about, pure resistance. This is where my own personal paradigm completely shifted, in every way. I had already been studying Law of Attraction, energy and vibration, and personal ownership, via a variety of healing and spiritual studies. I also knew that my experience with the system was an exact duplicate of my family dynamic and issues. (I come from a very academic family, invalidating of emotions, to the point of shaming, which is a sure fire way to throw a person way off their intuition and inner guidance, causing them utter internal chaos—which we, as a society, are calling ‘mental illness’).

            A big part of the spiritual work I do is to own whatever experience I have as a result of my own beliefs, which cause an internal vibration from which we create our reality. This is what I learned about, thoroughly. Where we focus our thoughts will determine what we create next. It’s a pure cause and effect relationship. So whenever I’d have these incidents occur, which was plenty of times, I’d go home and do my energy work. Hard to explain this in a post, as it is kind of a different language than what we’re used to, which is why I offer workshops and classes, to learn, apply and practice shifting our own energy. This is self-healing, which breaks the bonds of dependence on ANYTHING, other than our own trust in our process. With practice, one can really learn to master one’s life with great ease. Anyone has the capacity to learn and practice this, if they desire to. There is no discrimination in the energy world.

            There are a variety of techniques by which to do this self-healing work, depending on what is the most resonant process for each individual. The beauty of it is that it is how to heal in present time, using triggers (such as being sabotaged) as guides, and this inevitably heals related trauma and confusion from past time dynamics. This is the new healing I discovered. I’ve been invited to speak to a group of public health nurses in a couple of weeks, and I’m going to present this to them. They’re asking for assistance with burnout from overwhelm and frustration, which I find this work addresses with great ease and clarity.

            One challenge, here, is that everyone has to walk their own path, and get to this point for themselves. We can only do our own healing work, following our own paths, and not the paths of others, and shine as an example for others. So if you take these experiences as your own path of learning and guidance, then others will intuitively feel these shifts, and you will influence others. This is the rippling effect of healing, and of energy. It’s how I practice my work.

            If any of this speaks to you and you want to know more specifics, please feel free to contact me. My contact info is on my website, which pretty much tells the whole story of how I evolved out of the system, and out of my past time issues. http://www.embodycalm.com

        • I work in Admissions so I see people when they first come into the state hospital where I work. Most people are vibrant, full of life, often disagreeable, and talkative. They often don’t want to comply with signing papers etc. But the point is that they’re alive and moving, even though they may not want to do what staff want them to do and they say things that staff don’t approve of or like.

          Then, I look out through my office window that looks into the courtyard used by two of the units I watch these same people that were alive and vibrant in Admissions become obese, numb, vacant, and shuffling along looking at the ground. And this is called “good treatment.” And when I speak about this I get blank stares from staff before they turn away without commenting in any way at all. What is wrong with this picture and why is it okay to do this to people???????

  6. Nicely done, Andrew! I want to reinforce your message of hope for change. You (and many others) are succeeding in “keeping people talking”. I encounter many MH professionals who are in full accord w/ your views.
    It wasn’t that long ago that gay marriage was feared and opposed by most of the public – and now it seems supported by most.

  7. “You (and many others) are succeeding in “keeping people talking”.”

    That’s part of my torture.

    Non-stop communication = talking / telling / explaining / soul puking / expressing / dumping / crying / screaming.

    A form of purgatory if it isn’t Hell itself.

    Torture is the method used to produce the information.

    • It’s always helpful to me to explain this shift, so I appreciate your asking. It’s a constantly evolving perspective in the ‘light-worker’ energy healing community.

      Some of my teachers were Buddhists, I also studied with Kabbalists. The healing meditation I do is Chakra-based. In Anatomy of the Spirit (1996) Carolyn Myss describes the Chakras and our energy system as a synthesis of all spiritual paths. Law of Attraction is at the core of it all. LOA is not a spiritual path, but a guide to healing and manifesting, as per the vibrational laws of the universe. Like attracts like, always.

      “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.” Mahatma Ghandi

      When we remake ourselves, allowing ourselves to shift with the natural flow of change, in the habit of releasing attachment to what has gone before, including yesterday, we actually create a new world for ourselves, reflecting our internal positive and grounding shifts—one by one. Allowing our perceptions to shift is what allows the world to change.

      • Thanks. It all makes good sense to me. Twenty years ago probably not but now I’m a little older and hopefully understand things a little better! Wouldn’t it be great if we were allowed to share these kinds of things with the so-called “patients” who wanted to learn in places like state hospitals? What an alternative this could be to the mantra of “take your meds and do the program!”

  8. Following a screening of my film last year via the local dept of health, I did a workshop with about 40 clients from the system attending. Some were very grounded and focused, other were more challenged in this regard, but it was an all-inclusive discussion, very lively. It lasted 5 hours, while we applied all of this stuff. They got it, and were very intrigued by this different perspective, and wanted to learn more. In their evaluations, they said they wanted me to come back. That was being arranged, but then guess what happened? That process was stopped dead in its tracks by the ‘peer management.’ Suddenly, the grant had some stipulation in it that would only allow certain types of training from specific agencies. Uh-huh.

    I also have a client, with whom I’m working privately, who has just tapered from 18 years of psych meds. This work is supporting her transition beautifully. In previous years, I’ve supported a lot of people coming off medication. Med withdrawal takes tons of energy, and this helps rebuild. A few have sought my work and support specifically to avoid starting meds, which they’d been advised to take, but prefer not to go down that road.

    I also like to work with staff that has direct contact with clients.

    When we’re focused on peoples’ energy, there’s no difference in people we call ‘clients’ or ‘patients,’ and those who are not. None at all. The distinctions we make are illusory. As far as my work is concerned, everyone is addressed equally.

    Not sure what you’re referring to when you say, “Twenty years ago probably but now I’m a little older and hopefully understand things a little better.”

    • The twenty year ago remark just refers to the fact that I know so much more now than I did back then. I’ve met some really good people who’ve taught me so much about the things such as you’re talking about. I used to be a hospital chaplain who lived constricted in one way of seeing things and then one day I “awakened” and learned that there’s a much bigger world out there than I ever realized. I ran across Alan Watt’s presentations on Youtube and they opened the world up for me.

      I’m glad that you’re out there doing what you do so that at least some people get a chance to do and see things differently. Thanks for sharing.

      • Ah, got it, thanks for clarifying. I’ve not listened to Watts, although I know of his work, and yeah, it’s part of what I talk about. For me it started with Deepak Chopra back in the ’80’s–bringing to light for me the connection between our emotions and our physical state of being; then Carolyn Myss, who drew an even bigger and more subtle picture; and now I’m a big fan of Esther Hicks, whom I think does a wonderful job talking about our physical vs. non-physical selves, and our shift into vibrational reality over physical reality. She addresses what we call ‘mental illness’ in such a neutral and accessible way, as well as all the illusions of society. No such thing as ‘psychosis’ in these teachings. She really crossed me over into what I now understand about the nature of personal reality, and our creative processes.

        In any event, thanks for the dialogue. It’s been helpful and enlightening to me. I very much appreciate the hard work you are doing, as well.

  9. Alyoder, I agree with you that we need a serious overhaul of the mental health system. So let’s work on that. Let’s not waste our energy, time, money and other resources on the unattainable.

    In your example of the crazy neighbour, I too would call the authorities even though no crime had been committed. Once the neighbour was hospitalized, however, I would not advocate forced treatment in that scenario. The imminent harm aspect would disappear once he/she was hospitalized and imminent harm is pretty much the only justification (that my tired brain can think of at the moment anyway) for forced treatment.

    It’s not the emergency psych intervention that troubles me. It’s the “you’re diseased, you need to take these drugs for life, if you don’t take them, we’ll make you take them” scenario that I most object to. Whether the psychiatric industry chooses to admit it or not, the fact is that people often make spectacular recoveries from mental illness and they deserve the chance to go drug-free.

    A lot of people who swallow the Kool Aid essentially give up their lives. They have been trained to be disabled, to have no hope, to give up on their growth potential. It breaks my heart seeing them in my doctor’s waiting room.

  10. Alyoder, I’m sure working within the system was ghastly and I totally respect your decision to leave. All the same, it’s a shame that you were unable to stay and provide some kindness and respect to the patients. Occasionally, I would come across a really awesome psych nurse and that made an enormous difference to me.

  11. I appreciate these critiques and agree wholeheartedly with the need for collaboration. This is lacking strategies that are specific, and I am seeing enormous opportunity for change in Oregon. Peer programs are starting to flourish. And we *must* get nature, wellness, and play into our agencies. These articles (including this comment!) can be detrimental to mental health because they have clinical and oppositional contexts. Let’s start your goals of collaboration by creating settings with love, community, health, and joy…