I have seen a lot over my twenty-four year history in community mental health. It can take a little while in my opinion to go from being part of the problem to being part of a solution. Accepting the norm does not prepare you for innovative work with psychosis in my opinion! Working against the shadow of institutionalization, accepting the status quo is not treatment.
As I was attaining my Master’s degree, I tended to be willing to do what I was told by my supervisors. Too often, I didn’t feel I was part of the solution. I believed schizophrenia was a medical condition and the best that could be hoped for was to have the afflicted take their medication. But I was also curious and respectfully listened.
As I went from working in a small day program to being a case manager, I started to be far more aware of the warehousing effect that individuals and families face. I started having more power and responsibility to take action to challenge the norm and provide talking and relationship support in addition to the service provided.
Six years in I moved and took a job in an urban section 8 housing authority project where I witnessed first hand warehouse environments that can be oppressive, dangerous and real. Conspiracy theories started to make a lot more sense. I started investigating and getting closer to understanding how so much oppression could be so covered up.
Ultimately, I realized that I really wasn’t any different than someone who was stuck in an institutional environment. This would end up being very good for my practice.
A Good Learning Environment
Eighteen years ago I landed a job at Highland Hospital Outpatient Psychiatry, a voluntary day treatment program that provides individual and group therapy to participants who form a healing community. Breaking back into mental health had been a challenge as I endured low wage work outside of the field and several moves.
Initially I was cautious. It took me six years and plenty of side gigs to get my license. There was stigma associated with the position as many program participants still lived in warehouse conditions. However,the program was a good learning environment. People naturally improved and healed along the way and I learned to defy the power imbalance and optimize this. I practiced several modalities over the years . I took one on one encounters very seriously. I developed my specialty writing out and sharpening my interventions in carefully thought out manners. Developing such interventions involved going where everyone else said not to go and listening to stories associated with psychosis.
I did leave Highland for approximately two years to be an administrator for peer counselors in a county initiative. Being in contact with the corridors of power caused me to see myself more as a healer. Seven years ago I went back to Highland Hospital and helped the program develop and adjust. My focus continued to be to bring in peer services and promote recovery practices that would inspire social integration. In recent years, we started providing individual services to people with Medi-Cal insurance and a clinic where participants could follow up with one-on-one therapy.
Sharing the Stories of “Psychosis” or Special Message Crisis
In 2008 when I got my license, I started writing my memoir and developing my specialty. I developed a curriculum that I used in collaboration with participants in professional groups. Not only did I practice sharing my own experiences in institutions, the task became about reconstructing a new definition of “psychosis” with solvable components and eclectic strategies for promoting health. I developed power points, drafted original documents, refined the power points. and drafted a book I would like to someday publish
Special Messages Groups In Alameda County
In 2014-2015 I authored a local Innovations Grant during which I utilized this curriculum. The grant trained four peer specialists under the direction of a project manager with lived experience to outreach into homeless encampments and local agencies to establish peer-led group therapy. The final findings of the Special Message Project Grant Project can be found here.
A Training For Providers
In the course of the grant, I became a speaker at a host of local venues and I drafted an extensive unpublished write-up. Through collaborations with the Bay Area Hearing Voices Network, I have narrowed my work into training for providers. I believe this training can prepare them to understand the value of Special Message or Hearing Voices Network groups and learn to work with individuals through their psychosis. As a result, I have developed a six-hour CEU credit class and am available to come and train Bay Area Programs in segments.
I am in this work because I think we need to challenge the medicalized cultural delusions about poor prognosis of our people! On this site you will find many stories in my writings that seek to provide shamanic support to help you understand the wisdom being revitalized by the hearing voices movement.
I tend to trust my own lived experience and encourage other diagnosed people to do the same. Text books, statistics, and labels are often full of misinformation that can impede progress. In blogs to other professionals, perspective partners, and family members I am largely reflective and using only facts and references that are already stored in my head.
Fighting for Freedom in America: Memoir of a “Schizophrenia” and Mainstream Cultural Delusions, chronicles my mid career plight taking on a section 8 management company, police, and black market forces that intermingled to run things. The outcome has been a unique perspective on mental health informed by both sides of the broken tiled corridor. My hope is this publication will open the eyes of those who believe that psychosis is irreversible and show you the world full of extraordinary experiences and covert realities from an ex-patient’s perspective.
My work received five-star reviews from authorities such as Readers Views, Readers Favorite, Midwest Book Reviews, and Book Viral Spotlight. It ranked 8 out of over a thousand in the 2015 Book Viral Contest. In 2016 it received an Honorable Mention Award in Reader’s Favorite Annual Contest. It received four awards in 2016 Human Relations Indie Award, including Directors Choice for Outstanding Human Relations Life Adjustment Indie Book and Gold for Inspirational Human Relations Indie Book. In 2018 it was a Finalist in the Top Shelf Indie Book Award.
Using Writing for Personal and Professional Growth
I write creatively on this website. My award winning memoir is in my creative voice. I also share personal insights in my blogs, essays and poetry. At times I am vulnerable, meticulous and irreverent in my approach.
I believe knowing myself is key to being able to be their for other people. I tend to admire the person centered approach and vie to be an authentic person rather a blank slate or a blind vision of success. And so, in select categories I share my own revelations for those who are curious to see them.
At the current time, I am a board member of the Bay Area Hearing Voices Network. On the weekends I publish blogs and vie to add to my publications list. Additionally, I speak at local venues and annually at CASRA (California Association of Social Rehabilitation Agencies) Conferences where I provide segments of my training.
When I am not engaged in meaningful work or using writing to be thoughtful about the care I provide, I further heal by getting out into nature with my beloved wife, Barbara, and dog, Jayla. This is done daily at the local dog park, weekly at regional parks, and a couple of times a year in our national parks.