MORE DETAILS ON TRAINING CONSUMERS


Someone asked me about the trainings I've done:

"Can you please share more details. I will start today but want to be careful in my
approach so that I am not scoulding. I am getting sick of wiping up after those who do
nothing and I donęt want my resentment to get in the way. Did you also feel that way?
If so, how did you approach in compassion to reach the spirit? " Here's my response: I don't recall ever really feeling down on anyone except me. I guess it's my
perfectionistic, masochistic nature. My problem was that I tended to believe in everyone
but me. That's why when I concluded a several week training, I had a heart attack within
a few weeks. It's why I really can't do this sort of work anymore without major help.
Anyway, I digress. I do promise to share details. Okay, first, I always felt like a teacher. I figured that there was no student I couldn't
teach if I did my job right so I always start from a place where I look at doing all I can
do. I didn't always *like* all of my students but, I didn't figure my job was to like
everybody. Next, I looked at where I've been and where I'd reached. I remembered the lowest lows
and made note of all that I'd managed to overcome. I knew that if I could find personal
freedom from the system, so could others. I remembered what it was like to blindly
accept all the system had to offer with a childlike faith that somehow they could *cure*
me. I also remembered what helped and what didn't and I knew that what strength I had
came from inside and it is that which I had to help others find. So, first came belief in
self and then I could believe in others. I also found it helpful to know that there were
others who had successfully preceded me in the struggle. Dennis and his wife Su Budd,
Judi Chamberlain, Rae Unzicker, Howie Harp, Jay Mahler, Sally Zinman and many, many
others were among those who served as inspirations to me. I was lucky enough to be the among the first in the USA to be a consumer who was trained
to work for the mental health system. This training consisted of several weeks of all
day training with a class of twenty of us. Each day our trainers brought in "experts" and
"authorities" who gave us loads and loads of information. This training demystified the
system and that alone was quite empowering. There are a number of government
assistance programs and to be effective helpers in the system, we needed to learn what
those programs were and how they worked. Each day, we heard from experts on housing,
food assistance, benefits assistance and other professionals. Many of us had never before
heard of the PDR (Physician's Desk Reference) which is the book which lists every drug and
all of it's effects and side-effects. We had a pharmacist (not a psychiatrist) come
in and talk to us about the drugs. He was not prejudiced nor invested one way
or another in our taking the drugs so we got some really straight information from him.
We passed around the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) which contained all of the
diagnostic criteria which formed the basis for our various psychiatric labels. There was
much, much more. I took this information which had meant so much to me so long ago and I designed a
similar curriculum. However, my curriculum was different in that we also built in
supports for the students. We had a team of three instructors who were schooled in
peer support and each day we started with "check-in" and we ended each day with another
"check-out." We went around the room and each person had a time to share what was going
on with them and how they felt. It was an open and non-judgemental atmosphere of true
sharing. If a person identified as needing support, we (the entire class) did what they
could to support that person in however the person felt they could receive support. We then had the formal training by our selected "experts." They were instructed to leave
plenty of time for questions and answers. Often, the students were reluctant to properly
"grill" an "expert" so I'd start the questioning off with some tough questions. The
"experts" didn't treat the students as mental patients. All of our students were treated
as students, with dignity and respect. (There was a single exception and I personally kicked
that person from "our" classroom and that too was a valuable learning experience for
the students.) We then shared lunch together and had time to informally chat with each
other. After lunch, we talked more about the formal presentation of the morning. If it was on
a day when we had the folks come in from the hospital crisis unit to teach the methods of
"take-down and restraint," a lot of folks might have a lot of pent up feelings and bad
recollections of when they were perhaps victims of this so-called "treatment." On other
"lighter" days, we would perhaps be talking, for instance, of the various "day treatment"
programs. Out of our group of twenty students, at least one had experienced every sort of
"program" the system had. It was guaranteed that at least one student had experience in
successfully obtained housing assistance and at least one had successfully obtained
assistance from the vocational rehabilitation department. As a class, we were much
smarter and wiser and knowledgeable than the "experts" who presented information. What we discovered is that if we stuck together as a group, we knew as much as the
system and we could help each other. We bonded and learned that we had overcome
whatever adversity the system stuck in our path and we had the strength and
perseverance to survive and even thrive. We did group activities such as taking turns learning to facilitate the group. Many had
experience facilitating groups such as twelve-step groups while others demonstrated
what they'd learned in day-treatment and still others made up their own style which
excluded those things they'd seen in the system which they didn't like. One of my favorites was when I'd show folks how to think differently about things as I
had done when I was in day-treatment. One of the things they always teach in
day-treatment (along with all the other worn out tired fare such as stress-management)
was "Assertiveness Training." I learned Assertiveness Training this way:
|_______________________________|______________________________|
Passive Assertive Aggressive
(bad) (good) (bad)
The way I taught it was to draw a circle. At the top of the circle, I wrote Assertive. At
about 4 o'clock on the circle I wrote Aggressive. At about 8 o'clock on the circle I wrote
Passive. I then told the class that there's no such thing as good or bad with regard to
these. They are all just tools which we can choose to use. For example, I can walk into
a biker bar filled with a bunch of toughs and stroll up to the bar and assertively insist
upon my right to have a drink in that establishment. And I would most likely get my ass kicked!
Or, I could properly be very passive and back the heck outta there as fast as my little
legs could carry me. As another example, I could take my car back to the same mechanic for
the fourth time in two weeks with the same problem and I could quite properly get a bit
aggressive and demand that they fix it properly or I would report them to the licensing
authorities and my attorney and the press and anyone else I could get to listen. By
challenging the "standard" or "usual" or "normal" model of doing things I showed the class
that they could accept their own differences and find ways to still fit in. (By the way, I
invented the model shown above and have never written it up in any detail so if anyone
wants to take the time and trouble to write it up, help yourself and when the royalties
from your book or other publication roll in, don't forget where you got it.) I did a wonderful exercise with the group called "Get-a-Life or Stay-Stuck." First, I gave
the class a pep talk. I observed that most of us had lived with our parents as kids. We had
free food, clothing, shelter and perhaps even an allowance which we could spend on candy
or a date or whatever and if we were real lucky, we even got to borrow the car at times.
All this for free! I continued. So, why in the world would anyone want to leave that? Why
would anyone want to go out and get a job? Why would anyone want to have to get up in
the morning, dress in the "professional" uniform, fight rush hour traffic, work with
co-workers who are a pain and bosses who are an even bigger pain? Why would anyone
want to do all that and then the reward is a check, most of which goes to the government,
and the rest goes to pay for the rent and food and clothes which were formerly provided
for free at home with mummy and daddy? Of course by this time, most of the class were
bursting with answers. I then divided the board in half and titled one half, "get a life" and the other half I titled
"stay stuck." I then went around the room and had everyone give me a reason for each
column. I then went around the room again and again and again until no one had anything
else to contribute. In the "stay stuck" column, there were lots of reasons such as
government assistance. Many people were afraid to "give-up" their benefits. However,
on the "get a life" side of the board, there were even better reasons such as getting a job
which pays even better than government assistance. We did another exercise where we talked about supports. I drew an inverted bell curve
on the board. I described the path many folks take when they go into crisis. Starting out
level and then slowly descending and then descending faster until at some point a
bottom is hit and then a climb back up and up until eventually, things sorta level out again. I
followed the same process of going around and around the room until everyone ran out of
ideas to contribute. I asked first for folks to look at the side of the curve where they've
hit bottom and to describe the things which helped them make that climb back from the
bottom upward. Around and around the room we went until we had quite an extensive list. Then I had folks look at the front part of the curve where things started to make a
descent. I asked what the signs were that things were starting to go bad. Again, folks
came up with quite a list. Then I asked folks if any of the things which helped on the
upward side could help if they were applied sooner before things descended all the way
to a bottom. Everyone came up with some methods to help stave off future crises. I also
asked folks what their level of awareness was as things started to go from good to bad
to worse. Most admitted to not being real aware until things started to get pretty bad. From there, we went on to talk about supports and how to use others when we may not
be aware for ourselves how bad things are starting to get. I spoke of where to meet people
and how to make friends and how to build support networks. I asked folks to develop a
personal "crisis plan" and to have a written copy with them to refer to if they felt they
needed it. I had folks develop a plan which included "back-up's" which means that if their
friend that they can call for a 2 a.m. crisis talk is out of town who else can they call? The work I did with the classes was the most rewarding work I've done in my life. There
was a movie a few years ago called "Awakenings" with Robert DeNiro and Robin Williams.
My classes reminded me of that movie in that on the first day, I could have told the
students to line up alphabetically according to height and they would have lethargically
fell over each other in their attempt to comply. However, over the course of six to eight
weeks, I watched as each person came to life. Inwardly, I leaped with joy as each student
"awakened" and began to think and to question and challenge and to again hope and dream
and aspire. I have more. I have a curriculum around here somewhere that I developed. I offered it
once on the old madness and had only one person interested. I'm an old warhorse in
semi-retirement now and don't have the strength to continue this work. I'm not old in
age but old in physical condition. I've survived five heart attacks and can't continue to fight
to free people's souls as I used to do. Please take this information and share it. It's free
and it's basically just commons sense. It's all about just treating people like people and
believing in them. It's about treating people with dignity and respect. On a final note, I should also tell you that I'm also probably much harsher on mental
patients than anyone I know. I believe in free will and I believe that people can and
should be responsible for their actions. I taught my classes that their "mental illness" is
strictly dependent on them. I teach acceptance. I teach that it's okay to have voices. I
teach that if you interact with those voices in ways which invade other people's space
and makes them uncomfortable, you'll get locked up and labeled and drugged. However, if
you want to interact with your voices, you can decide to do so at a time and space where
it doesn't invade other people's space. You can't holler at your voices in a crowded
supermarket or on a crowded bus. You can holler at your voices all alone in the woods. You
can carry on a conversation with your voices in the privacy of your own home as long as
you aren't so loud that you disturb the neighbors. Basically, I let everyone know that they can choose their behaviors and then I encourage
them to behave responsibly. I accept feelings but I don't accept that having feelings
means that you must act a certain way because of those feelings. I believe it's okay to
feel suicidal but it's not okay to go out and attempt suicide because of those feelings.
Feelings can be very intense and very painful but they won't kill you. Behaviors kill.
Feelings can also be very wonderful and glorious. I know what it's like to approach death
and having looked death in the eye, I now take the time to smell the flowers and to laugh
and to play and to see the stars and watch the sunsets and my mental health has never
been better (with no drugs or therapy). I hope this has been helpful. If you want to discuss more of this or comment of whatever,
please let me know. Thanks again. Love, Pat P.S. I said I'm semi-retired. That means I don't do this for a living anymore but, I still do
occasional consulting so if you wanna see this stuff live and in person, I'm available for
a reasonable and modest fee and I do travel. ;-) *************************************************************************
"When I was 10, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been
found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man, I put
away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up."
-- C.S. Lewis
This message brought to you by "Pat Risser" ICQ #4207359
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Great Spirits Have Always Encountered Violent Opposition From Mediocre Minds. The
mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to
conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and
honestly. (Einstein on controversy surrounding Bertrand Russell's appointment to NY
University)