There is certainly a wealth of historical evidence supporting a non-medical approach to madness ranging from Geel, the city in Belgium where the ‘mad’ lived with local families, receiving support and care that allowed them to function in the ‘normal’ social world despite the emotional distress some experienced (Goldstein, 2003), to the so-called Moral Treatment developed at the York Retreat by William Tuke towards the end of the eighteenth century (Digby, 1985), which advocated peace, respect, and dignity in all relationships, and emphasised the importance of maintaining usual social activities, work and exercise. These approaches, predicated as they were on a gentle and humane engagement with the vagaries of human experience at the limits, and invoking respect, dignity, collective responsibility, and an emphasis on interpersonal relationships as guiding principles, have much to tell contemporary biomedical psychiatry.
In the modern era, non-medical attempts to understand and tend to ‘psychosis’ have coalesced into a tradition counterposed to the biomedical orthodoxy. The richest seam of evidence within this tradition is that relating to Soteria House , the project developed by Loren Mosher and colleagues in San Francisco during the early 1970s (www.moshersoteria.com). Here, people diagnosed with schizophrenia could live in a suburban house staffed with non-professionals who would spend time ‘being’ with them in an attempt to try and secure shared meanings and understandings of their subjective experience.
Comment: PsychMinded, by Tim Carlton, April 24, 2009
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