The Soteria Project: A forerunner of "a third way" in psychiatry?

Has anyone done any reading on the topic of The Soteria Project? I found this article very interesting.

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Sure. I lived in a Soteria House in San Jose, Ca. In 1980 for a year. I was 19 years old. Their main tenet was that they could treat schizophrenics better without hospitalization and without meds. They just set up this two story house in downtown San Jose and took in about 6 or 7 clients at a time. The guys who set it up and ran it staffed it with young counselors who had no formal mental health training.

It was interesting but It didn’t help me. It might have helped others but for me I always regretted living there and wished instead that I had been put on meds earlier. I saw a lot of weird stuff there. One thing it had was that there was a lot of freedom there. There were few rules and I could pretty much come and go as I pleased without having to tell the counselors. I guess I was part of psychiatric history.

If you’re really interested in it, the two cofounders who ran it wrote a book about it called, “Soteria: From Madness to Deliverence”.

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@77nick77 sweet, thanks. That is so cool to talk to someone who has actually been through the program. Like everything, I imagine it only works for a certain percentage of people.

Do you think that there is sound science behind the project?

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You’re welcome. Soteria House was very controversial and it had a lot of critics. It had a lot of people in the psychiatric field who were opposed to it and said it didn’t work. But the founders claimed it was a success.

There used to be several of them around the world and I believe there are a couple of them still going in a couple different countries. The one I was in closed in around 1984 for lack of funds,

Both sides of the argument can drag out statistics supporting their claims.
You’re right, it must have helped some people or it wouldn’t have been in existence as long as it was.

I saw a lot of people there who were in a lot of mental pain. I saw suffering but it had its positive good points. I wouldn’t really call it a program as it had few rules and no official therapy going on and everybody stayed at different lengths of time.

They purposely staffed it with people who had no training but were hired for being open minded, friendly, patient empathetic, willing to listen at any time and let people go through their psychosis without being judgmental or intolerant. They didn’t try to talk people out of delusions but just were there for them and be with them as they went through it. It was very informal and most days everybody hung out in the kitchen talking. The staff just tried to be friends with everyone. But there were no real guidelines as in other programs. They called this approach, “normalizing the schizophrenic experience”. People just said what they want and talked out their episodes.

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I Am Curious. ‘The Soteria Project’.

Is There Any Relations To Thus Project And ‘Project Saturday Saturn Halo Function’?.

I Read One Thing That NASA Is Trying To Do Is…, Grab Saturn’s Halo’s And Bring It Closer To Earth. And Then!, Go Deep Sea Fishing For Very Enormous Fish. And Send Them Safely To Saturn’s Halo’s Where They Can Swim In Outerspace For The Rest Of Their Lives.

Odd, And Unusual I Have To Admit…,


AHA!. Gotchoo. . . . . . .

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That’s definitely a completely different approach then conventional psychiatry. I am still interested in it, though I doubt I could find it in my area.

The concept is intriguing, but obviously they would have to Institute better rules to make it work, or at least it seems that way to me

It’s funny you described it this way, I was just sitting thinking of how irritating it is at times, someone trying to pound a square peg into a round hole. By normalizing the schizophrenic experience, would allow you to function more freely as yourself, rather than trying to fit into someone else’s preconceived box of who you should be to be considered normal quote-unquote

I must be tired, I’m starting to rant LOL

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That ain’t a rant; it’s true.

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The two main rules were no violence and no drugs or alcohol. Plus common courtesy of not going in other peoples rooms without permission, or stealing (never really a problem there), or wrecking property.

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Was there a set schedule for group therapy sessions? Or personal one-on-one with a counsellor at a specific time?

On a lighter note, I just read your joke, two schizophrenic walk into a bar…

Ho Lee fuk Dude, I nearly pissed my pants!!

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It was very informal, but I think we had a house meeting about once a month or every two months. I wouldn’t call it group therapy, it was just airing grievances and miscellaneous stuff like requesting certain foods or asking questions. There was really no official therapy going on, it was more like just the counselors and clients hanging out in the kitchen and bull*hitting with each other.

Everybody was kind of friends and at least two counselors were there 24/7. It was easy to go into a room alone with a counselor if you wanted a private one-on-one. But like I said, the staff wasn’t hired for their psychiatric experience, they were there because they wanted to help people and they would talk to you if you felt like talking. It was so informal that both staff and clients were almost peers. It wasn’t like some group homes I’ve been in where staff kind of have this exalted status and their apart from the residents or “above” the residents. The staff at Soteria were just young people hanging out with us.

When I first got there a woman staff member used to lend me her car. She took me to her house a few times and I drove another client to an appointment once. Another counselor took me jogging with him. I walked to the store with other counselors and a couple times I walked down to the park with this gorgeous German woman staff member and we played tennis. Wow, she was hot! But we all ate together, watched TV together etc. If you wanted to talk one-on-one it was easy; all you had to do was ask.

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Brilliant. Sounds like an excellent model it’s kind of got a 1960s Love Generation feel to it. But I’m sure it was very comfortable by the sounds of it

My friend was a counsellor, and at one time had 2 schizophrenics living with him. This was years ago. They were both quite ill , more than you or I. But anyway, I got quite comfortable around them and familiar with them. A young man named Bill in particular, was such a sweetheart. He would always greet me at the door saying, “You’re a good man Dave Cragg”. He always made me laugh

I would never thought in a million years I was going to wind up schizophrenic, but it’s not all bad

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A friend of our family was schizophrenic when I was younger. He was a hippie and a really nice guy and a cool guy. His illness took everybody by surprise. He had gotten married and had a kid which surprised everyone too because as long as we had known him he had just kind of bummed around the country eating out of orchards and soup kitchens. He became schizophrenic when I was about 17 and he was about 25. Right about the time I was 19 and became schizophrenic myself he died. He was up in Oregon by himself in winter and someone found him frozen to death outdoors in an orchard, sitting down with his back against a tree with no jacket. It was so sad, he was cool, he always treated me and my sisters nice. Poor guy.

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Great story. I’m sad to hear that he passed away alone like that. Must have been hard to take for you


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I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before or not, but my friend Dan was a social worker, and housed 2 schizophrenics for about 10 years. I got to know them fairly well, the client named Bill stands out in my mind the most. He was the sweetest, kindest most gentle man I’ve ever met

My friend’s uncle was also schizophrenic, he returned from World War II with brain damage and schizophrenia. I would see him every time I went to O’Toole’s for a beer. Always leaning on the bar, sipping his draft with a great big smile on his face. He talked very little, but he always smiled

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