There’s a growing (and soon to be quickly growing) group of us who are not therapists or psychiatrists but who offer “coaching,” connection and support. We offer this support to those coming off psychiatric drugs, or who would like to, or are opting to not go on in the first place but are facing pressure to. Most of us are psychiatric survivors so a lot of our knowledge and information is from firsthand experience. Others may have never been on psychiatric drugs but know a lot about the ins and outs of withdrawal through close association with those who have.
We don’t have licenses to lose or Western Psychology schooling and indoctrination to unlearn. Like all people, we have our own issues; sometimes we don’t have a lot of money, or we have health challenges and sensitivities. We’ve voluntarily worked with others for years while on disability income, working a side job and/or receiving money from our family and community because this is something we deeply care about.
We nearly lost our lives to psychiatry and know we have an obligation from the core of our being to reach out to others as we’d never be where we are today (much freer and happier and stronger and more thriving) if others hadn’t been there for us.
There’s an elephant in the room about all this though, and that’s money. How do we charge for our time and offerings without perpetuating oppression? It’s a tricky question. Some of us have money from other sources or another job, or we work for a government funded agency, accepting certain limitations to what we can do (and making big differences in many lives). But what about those of us who want to do this full time without compromise?
There are many avenues in which to do this work of supporting people before, during and after their withdrawal. Ideally this supporting would happen organically in community, but we are only halfway there. At this point in time, there are still many who are reaching out for someone to listen to them, validate them in rejecting the medical model, and be a personal witness and friend during this difficult, often torturous ordeal.
Many times during this process one cannot find enough friendship or support. There are times when a financial transaction can facilitate this process. It’s very complicated, and I have no intention whatsoever of reducing this topic to, “This is just the way things work and we need to accept it.” We don’t need to accept it. Yet we are all finding our own ways to live in it, which sometimes include charging money for mentoring, “peer support” or whatever we opt to call these relationships when they function outside systems and government funding.
Since I started sharing my website and blog about coaching people who are coming off psychiatric drugs a little over a year ago (after working in a similar capacity as a volunteer or for other organizations for almost a decade), I started to receive many many emails from people all over the world telling me their stories of suffering in the hands of psychiatry. This became a conundrum for me, as it is for others. We all have our limit to how much we can personally and effectively support those we’ve never met by email, and mine, to be honest, is minimal. Receiving so many of these emails, I started to become numb to them pretty quickly and they started to all sound the same to me: bitter, indignant, angry, frustrated, desperate, and all with good reason.
Each of these people deserved and needed someone who would sit down and listen to them, validate their experience and assist them in their withdrawal process with presence and patience-or better yet, a whole community of such people. We are getting there. Our movement has many high hopes and dreams and even success stories of creating communities to be a safety net and loving cushion for the many people who have had their lives and health torn apart by the gluttonous fangs of psychiatric drugging.
Since I felt a need to devote more of my time to addressing these issues in writing and in person or by phone, as well as take care of myself to make this sustainable for me, I had to decide what and how I would charge for my time. We all have our own limits, as much as we want to be grand saviors of the whole world (or seen that way). Just kidding.
There’s no cookie cutter “right way” to do this, just as there are no cookie cutter categories people fit into or pills that will make everything better. Warning: controversial opinion ahead (but please read what follows before dismissing it). I think people helping others get off psychiatric drugs should be paid about $500 per hour-because they should earn more than double what the “professionals” who caused the harm they are undoing make. That’s an outrageous amount to charge someone who’s struggling though, in most cases. Any amount is outrageous. The whole process of recovering from psychiatric drugs needs to be adequately government funded. Why should someone have to spend a lot of money to undo the effects of drugs they were forced or coerced to take or duped into taking in the name of medicine? Ideally Big Pharma would pay us all $500 an hour (and they would still be sitting high up on their jackpot afterwards).
The point is, there’s no objectively fair way to run this kind of business (or any really but that’s a whole other topic). We need to decide for ourselves how much we can offer for free, how much to charge and what services to charge for. There are no easy answers. We are doing this work because we care, and we also need to take care of ourselves, which as trauma survivors can be challenging. Even while providing far more kind, compassionate, intelligent, gentle, safe and effective support than most psychiatrists, we question our worth far more.
Those in these demographics are ever growing though, and we will need to find ways to support others while supporting ourselves and each other. The numbers of people seeking support outside the system because they don’t trust mental health professionals, people who want connection and transparency in that support (to know the story of their “supporter” and have a reciprocal human relationship) and the number of people getting off psychiatric drugs and feeling called to reach out to others in distress are continuing to grow and will not stop anytime soon.
And none of this is happening in a socioeconomic vacuum. I’d like to hear how you are finding and funding your way with all of this, and how you are accepting you own way to reach out to those struggling with psychiatric drugs and withdrawal.