Why We Need More Soteria Houses

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From Compassionate Mental Health: “What are the features of a Soteria House? They are simple, safe, warm, homelike environments.

Joseph Berke, who worked with Laing, Mosher and others at Kingsley Hall – and went on to co-found the Arbours Association called these places ‘Safe spaces for suffering & for joy.’

Joe Berke wrote in his book ‘I didn’t have to go Mad here’:

‘It has been my repeated observation that this journey and these experiences are not inherently harmful.

‘They can provide an opportunity for personal growth and development, as well as collapse and chaos.’

Joe said if the people working with altered states are not afraid of them, then a ‘natural stage of healing can happen.’

Loren Mosher thought that relationships came first, and that ‘the realities of life in the mental hospital thwarted the formation of such relationships where healing could happen.’

The majority of staff in Soteria Houses were not mental health professionals. Mosher chose ordinary people who were recruited for their empathy and values and life experience and were extremely motivated with a strong sense of self. They had to be Interested, invested and enthusiastic – not mental professionals who, said Mosher, could often be ‘mentally blinkered.’

Psychiatrist Luc Ciompi – who worked with Mosher and whose Soteria House in Berne has stood the test of time, says:

‘Strong feelings are often at the bottom of psychosis – we need to be able to power down the emotions with interpersonal and physical environments where emotional relaxation is possible.

‘That’s not about adding in mindfulness or stress relaxation, but creating an entire environment and an “ease of handling” in such a way that someone can begin to breathe again.”

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