From 2012 to 2018, Parachute NYC offered a “soft landing” for people experiencing psychiatric crisis in New York City. Along with a respite center, Parachute mobile teams consisted of teams of health care professionals, including peer specialists, psychiatrists, social workers, and family therapists, who were each trained in the principles of Open Dialogue and Intentional Peer Support. Open Dialogue, developed in Western Lapland in Finland, espouses a practice of healing through polyphonic (many voices) dialogue within a non-hierarchical network, tolerating uncertainty, and treating every utterance as meaningful and rational. Intentional Peer Support, developed by and for peer specialists, embraces crisis as opportunity, mutual accountability within partnerships, and trauma-informed care. Parachute represented the first instance in which peer specialists were integrated into the Open Dialogue model.Read More
The voices that I hear were very amped up before our historic first facilitator training in Florida. Like a lot of voice-hearers when I experience something new, my experiences can become louder or more intense.
My Voices had questions about whether what we were about to try was going to work. Whether the two-track training we had recently developed, honoring the different needs of groups for voice-hearers and groups for their family members could have the same transformative power as the other trainings we had held across the country.
I decided to visit a peaceful place before the training began and headed to a nearby Japanese garden. As I bought my ticket to the garden, something caught my eye.Read More
The Hearing Voices movement began in Europe in the late 1980s when Marius Romme, a psychiatrist, realized that his training and therapeutic techniques were not helping one of his patients to manage the voices in her head. In listening to Patsy Hage, Romme began to wonder if maybe other voice-hearers might be in a better position to help her than he was. His hunch turned out to be correct, and the Hearing Voices Network (HVN) was co-founded by Romme and Hage in 1987.
The HVN is a peer-to-peer, nonclinical support group based on the radical idea that voice-hearing is not automatically a sign of pathology. Unlike traditional methods that encourage voice hearers not to engage with or listen to their voices, the HVN takes the opposite approach: voice-hearers are encouraged to explore and discover for themselves what their voices mean. The groups also provide social support and acceptance– something that is vitally important given the social distancing and isolation often reported by voice hearers. And the groups offer practical strategies for living with and managing voices.Read More
In the United States, media representations of voice-hearers are rare and mostly negative. When our stories *are* shared, we are often portrayed as one-dimensional, irrational, violent or unable to contribute to our communities. Research indicates that one in ten people hear voices at some point in their adult lives, however; negative media representation leads many to stay silent about these experiences. We now know that that silence and isolation can make an experience of hearing voices more distressing and harder to navigate.
With the Hearing Voices approach, we create space for voice-hearers to share their experiences in all their individual complexity. We see over and over the healing value of articulating what our voices say, how long they have been in our lives, and what life events they might relate to. We have seen the importance of making room for trauma-informed and culturally-competent understandings of both why voices/visions occur and what healing practices are available.Read More
Is diagnosing a person and labeling them as mentally ill truly helpful? Ironically, when I first entered therapy it was because I feared mental illness. I did my best going to therapy for over 16 years, but to no avail. I received not one diagnosis but four of them. I finally realized that the mental health system is designed primarily to diagnose and place labels on human beings. These diagnoses or labels not only deem people to be mentally ill or defective, they also often prevent people from reaching their true potential.Read More
The written interview transcript is below, edited for clarity:Read More
Open Dialogue is alive and well in Massachusetts. Since 2011, when Advocates was the first recipient of funding support from the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care, Advocates has been providing Open Dialogue services in two programs based in Framingham, Massachusetts.
Advocates is a full-service, not for profit provider of services and supports to people with psychiatric conditions, developmental and other cognitive disabilities, substance use conditions, and other life challenges, offering residential supports, outpatient and emergency services, among other supports, all dedicated to the idea that everyone, regardless of diagnosis or disability, can live a full, challenging and rewarding life of their own design, given the right supports.
With the initial support from the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care, and with additional support, particularly from the Department of Mental Health, Advocates was able to train 35 staff members at the preeminent training site for Open Dialogue in the US, the Institute for Dialogic Practice under the direction of Dr. Mary Olson, currently affiliated with Yale University.
We then launched two programs – one for young people experiencing early episode psychosis, called The Collaborative Pathway; the other for people receiving services from the Department of Mental Health, whose difficulties had become or were at risk for becoming more chronic, called Open Dialogue in Behavioral Health Services. With support from the Cummings Foundation, and ongoing support from the Department of Mental Health, both programs have been delivering Open Dialogue Services for nearly ten years.Read More
One month ago I suddenly found myself in a very dark place where I felt vulnerable, raw, naked, humble, confused yet seeking to understand the social interaction dynamics that had triggered this journey into a seemingly bottomless pit. It’s been well over 10 years since I’ve been in such a solitary space, feeling alone, unsupported, disconnected from myself and from others.
I slowly began to emerge from the darkness 10 days ago and now I am completely out.
Going into the darkness, I remember telling people I am going through a big shift in my life. It was clear that something significant, transformational was happening. I came back with deeper feelings of connection, and a deeper sense of belonging to something much bigger than myself and a more profound sense of meaning and purpose. One lesson was about a deeper understanding of who I am separate from ego, that is, the identity I was taught and the social conditioning that has so brainwashed my thinking. And I might add the thinking of everyone around me. It’s grip on me is looser.Read More
For many years, mental disorders were simplistically understood as imbalances or deficits in the neurotransmitters in the brain. Recent research has debunked the “chemical imbalance” theory, and has given rise to more complex understandings around how the various systems of the body interact to influence physical and mental health. For example, many people are unaware that 95% of the “feel-good” neurotransmitter serotonin in the body is produced in the intestinal tract.
In recent years, scientists have begun to study what is known as the “gut-brain axis,” or the system of communication between the brain and the gut. Scientists have discovered what could be called “a second brain,” located in the walls of the digestive system. This “second brain” is referred to in scientific literature as the enteric nervous system (ENS), made up of two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells that line the gastrointestinal tract from esophagus to rectum. Increasingly, science is coming to understand that the ENS interacts in complex and significant ways with the central nervous system (CNS) via the vagus nerve and what is known as the “adaptive immune system.”
The recognition of the complex and delicate interactions between different systems in the body has given rise to a new field called “psychoneuroimmunology.”Read More
Today, far too many professionals with mental illness are forced to live “in the shadows.” This is often because they are, quite understandably, unwilling or afraid to disclose their conditions and challenges to coworkers and friends, for fear of losing their jobs and place in the community.
As a result, professionals with mental health challenges often lack a resource others take for granted: peer support. Professionals in every field are taught to consult with their peers to discuss issues like work goals, client and coworker relations, and stress management.
However, for professionals with psychosocial disabilities justifiably afraid to live openly, this support is often unavailable. As a result, they can be less equipped to address common and concerning issues, negatively impacting their work performance and quality of life.
At Pro2Pro, professionals with mental health challenges can anonymously connect, communicate with each other, discuss common challenges, develop solutions, and give and get the support everyone needs to perform their best on the job and in life.