I recently found myself explaining to a relative why the involuntary psychiatric treatment via California Care Courts being suggested on the March ballot under Proposition 1 is not a good idea. I suggested to my relative that there are many other innovative approaches to address the problem of homelessness that are being ignored. I mentioned having training for mental health workers on how to build collaborative relationships with people who are or have experienced a break from reality. I feel the public’s understanding of what is happening during a break from reality is profoundly lacking and as a result the arranged interventions are not at all helpful. Even mental health workers rarely get specific training to understand appropriate responses. They tend to learn from the machine that pushes warehousing options.
I am currently attempting to reach out to three local graduate schools to promote a training I have built over the last fifteen years that is based on the premise that service workers need to learn to explore psychosis with the people enduring a break. Working with graduate students with specific training may help them have better experiences when they do their time in community mental health. It may help them specialize in working with psychosis and commit themselves to dealing with the problem of homelessness. At this point community mental health often attracts workers early in their careers who learn off the backs of our society’s most vulnerable. Many of us who start in mental health move on once we’ve built up our confidence and skills. Many of us end up shaking our heads about the trouble we’ve seen.
Unfortunately, I am finding that it can be hard to get the needed support to get my word out to graduate school students. Would-be supporters are skeptical that because the training is 16-20 hours, I might not have concise bulleted messages one coworker suggested. Others are concerned I don’t possess a doctorate. They may figure that if no institution or movement is sponsoring this effort, that it must not be a worthy endeavor. Perhaps they note a little social anxiety in my demeanor and think I can’t do it. Some of these claims are baseless. I wrote an award-winning memoir about my experiences with madness. I know how to be concise. With regards to other concerns, like my anxiety, I am practicing to better the chances of a smooth delivery. Luckily, I am finding some promising support along the way. If I can get my training into just one of the schools, I am looking at. I may build enough of an audience to make the endeavor successful. I already have several participants.
My training argues that whether the afflicted person is in or out of emergency, it is still crucial to learn how to engage with someone who has different ideas about what is going on in society and the universe. It suggests that it’s important to study ways that what they are saying is correct so we can validate rather than reality check them. Most of the treatment out there doesn’t teach people how to understand and explore the rabbit-hole; and, as a result, experiences are typically treated as though they are deviant, taboo, and have no value. If any mention of their experience is uttered the afflicted are punished or excluded. The fact that exploration is not a common societal practice creates problems that lead to power struggles, incarceration, and trauma associated with involuntary treatment.
I used to be a social worker working with people who experience breaks and I used to label people as carrying diagnoses of all the interrelated schizophrenias when the DSM used to divide them up into types. I did not know how to be helpful because I received no specific training. I fought to preserve my job and did what my supervisors told me to do. As time wore on and I started to better understand the environments in which the afflicted resided, it started to seem like what I was being asked to do was incredibly cruel and inhumane. Then as started to work in a section 8 housing project that was highly regulated yet rife with drugs and prostitution, I better learned what it was like to live in such a realm. I started amp up in compassion and advocacy until I went of my medication and experienced a catastrophic break myself.
Six years after I recovered, I obtained my license. I started running professional groups that explored the contents of psychosis. I wrote a curriculum and shared my lived experience. What resulted was a fundamentally different understanding of psychosis that incorporates not only the internal experiences of those who are struck with it, but also the social processes involving loss and exclusion that prevent many suffers from returning to social functioning. My training offers a great deal of direction in terms of what is helpful as it redefines psychosis into something that is healable. The training is not based on reading books and research, it is sharpened by experience, observation, self-reflection, and the perspective of the people who have worked with me.
I have found that many who experience trauma also relate to many of the extraordinary experiences that I identify in the training. Thus, I believe that the training is helpful to the mental health of other challenges, not just those who have breaks from reality. Indeed, those who dissociate, who study mysticism, who have trauma, or are neurodivergent have a history of benefiting from such groups. I believe I have something important to bring to the world that has value and can change practices. I could have been locked up and subjected to care courts when I was homeless. Instead, thanks to the relative who helped me and who inquired as to my thoughts on the issue, I have been of service to others and have created something that could help you have more success connecting with others like me. You could help me sell these ideas to the universities and to the young social workers who might be willing to learn in a different way.
The monthly sessions will be recorded, and participants will have access to the videos for review and study or in case they must miss a month. There will be group exercises and practice interviewing me to learn skills and apply techniques. To learn more, click here.