A new branch of Pathways Vermont, Soteria was a residence for individuals experiencing first-break psychosis that operated in California’s Bay Area in the 1970s. The project was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and was developed by Dr. Loren Mosher, who was at that time the Director of Schizophrenia Studies. The Soteria model differed from the traditional approach to addressing an early episode (hospitalization) in two essential ways:
Soteria was staffed by “non-professionals” who approached their relationship with residents as people rather than patients; they focused on “being with” rather than “doing to”. Soteria practiced extremely cautious use of anti-psychotic medications.
Soteria is remembered for its tolerance and flexibility to each individual’s experience and its foundational belief that psychosis can be a temporary experience that one works through as opposed to a chronic mental illness that needed to be managed. The original Soteria project lasted for eleven years and was rigorously studied. Compared with controls at a traditional hospital, residents fared as well or better on every measure. The Soteria project and its outcomes demonstrate the power of interpersonal and psychosocial approaches in facilitating recovery for many persons on course to being diagnosed with schizophrenia. Soteria Vermont will be an alternative to hospitalization for individuals experiencing an initial episode of psychosis. The residence will be located in Burlington and have the capacity to serve up to five individuals at a given time. The Soteria program will feature:
- Safe, residential support in a community-based, home-like environment
- Flexible, person-centered approach
- Interpersonal-driven support
- 24-hour staffing
- Coordination with community service providers and other resources, such as housing, education and employment support
Naturopathic consultation (optional)
Psychiatric consultation (optional)
Who Will Be Served By Soteria?
Soteria Vermont will serve individuals experiencing an early episode of psychosis, who have had limited prior exposure to psychoactive medication and/or psychiatric hospitalization. Soteria will be most appropriate for those who would benefit from access to 24/7 support and a safe residential environment.
How Long Will a Stay at Soteria Be?
There is no set minimum or maximum length of stay at Soteria Vermont. Length of stay will be determined on a case-by-case basis. It is anticipated that the average length of stay will be around 3 months.
Soteria & Medication:
While Soteria Vermont will take an extremely cautious approach to the use of psychiatric drugs, it is not anti-psychiatry. Our approach views psychiatric medication as one of many tools that an individual can utilize in navigating distress and crisis. Soteria Vermont will have a contracted psychiatrist to meet with residents, discuss options and provide information about psychiatric drugs. Soteria will also have a contracted naturopath on staff to provide information about alternative tools, such as nutrition, herbal supplements and more.
Soteria & Community:
Soterias were open — they had no restraint facilities for young psychotic patients, mostly at their onset. Loren Mosher, who founded the Soteria experience, showed that treating psychosis also in the acute phase is possible without using restraint methods.
Soteria houses are often seen as gentler alternatives to a psychiatric hospital system perceived as authoritarian, hostile or violent and based on routine use of psychiatric (particularly antipsychotic) drugs. Soteria houses are sometimes used as “early intervention” or “crisis resolution” services.