George Washington, Charles Darwin, Ghandi and me

We all went down in history.
After my first psyche ward, someone suggested to my parents to put me in Soteria House. It may not be famous anymore but in the seventies and eighties is was semi-well known in psychiatric circles.

It was a group home co-founded by a man named Voyce Hendrix who was extensively trained in the psychiatric field. The premise was that they thought that they could have a higher recovery rate for schizophrenics with this home as opposed to medication and hospitalization. So the founders purchased several or more houses around America and a few in Europe and purposely staffed it with young people who had no prior experience in the mental health field but they were hired for their personalities, their tolerance and open-mindedness, their friendliness and empathy etc.

And this Voyce Hendrix started up these houses and dropped by frequently but he was not there all the time. They called this setup, “Normalizing the schizophrenic experience”. It meant there was no formal therapy, almost any behavior was tolerated except for substance abuse or violence.

The staff listened to what people had to say about their delusions or voices or whatever we wanted to talk about and they didn’t judge, they just listened and empathized and sometime empathy is enough. So no one was on medication and this was an alternative to a hospital. There were no responsibilities, we barely had to clean but you couldn’t just cook a meal and leave messes, you had to clean up after yourself. I came and went as I pleased, I didn’t have to tell anyone where I was going or what I was doing.

Almost no rules were in place. People freaked out sometimes, and believe me when I say that during the year that I was there I saw some really bizarre stuff. But I have to say that it didn’t help me at all. I wish I had never been put there because looking back I knew it didn’t help me and I wish I would have been put on medication and put in a better situation. The house was controversial in psychiatric circles to say the least. It was known around the world including all the other ones scattered across different countries.

Voyce Hendrix claimed the house was a success and produced numbers and evidence that it helped more than hospitalizing someone. It’s detractors claimed the opposite and it was often debated whether these houses actually helped anyone. So I was part of psychiatric history! Most of the houses closed down in the mid-eighties but there are still a few around. The houses didn’t close because they didn’t help, they closed because of lack of funds to keep them running.

That’s interesting that you were in Soteria House.

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I think you told me before you were in a soteria house. It is interesting to me, thanks for telling it!
Since i always kind of wished they had taken that approach to me and read indeed that they helped real well, it interests me that you disliked it so.

I actually sought out a modern soteria house…it changed a bit… they do use medication now, but only optional, if someone really wants it themselves. Unless someone is completely out of control, in which case they are first getting fulltime guidance and in emergencies are shipped to a normal ward. They did keep the empathy and seeking connection part. And they actually had a fulltime psychologist in the house, whereas normal wards here have none (strangly).

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