Mental Health Treatment – My Experience

I was researching recovery topics on my own–and on the Internet– since 2002. As far back as 2002 I learned that any rehab program has to be time-sensitive and goal-focused.

I stand by my assertion that if you’ve had spectacular success being involved in a traditional day program or traditional community mental health system–that you’re the rare lucky person in this regard.

To remember is to understand–and I have a photographic memory.

I know what it’s like to be told you won’t be able to go very far–that because you’re “quiet” you should be shunted into the lowest level of groups at a day program.

What if you’re observing others carefully? What if you’re listening to them and getting ideas from them about what you can do in your own life?

What if you’re not a garrulous chimpanzee who chatters on and on, monopolizing the group or not giving particularly insightful feedback?

I tell you peers not to give in to feeling unworthy simply because staff reinforce that a personality trait is abnormal.

Susan Cain wrote Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking circa 2009. This attorney vividly and forcefully argued her case that listening–though hardly valued in mainstream society–should be a coveted skill and that being “quiet” is an asset.

The other book title gets it right: Listening is an Act of Love.

Heaven knows we don’t need any more loud-mouthed orange chimpanzees or any other kind of babbling bobble-heads speaking on our behalf or simply speaking out loud because they love the sound of their own voice.

Here’s what I would tell any mental health staff:

Not to judge a patient solely by whether he or she is helping the group–to try to envision whether the group is helping the patient.

I was literally shell-shocked–lost my voice–when I was told I couldn’t look for a job, that I had to continue in another day program long-term.

Okay: we need to set and enforce clear boundaries.

Yet I maintain that when mental health staff make these snap judgments about us the silent unconscious message they’re giving us is that they’re not interested in getting to know us as people first.

It’s ironic that for so long peers were at once identified by our symptoms and that our personality traits were labeled as pathology. How could we win this duel?

There’s a better way to treat people. It’s called using the Asset Model. I use the Asset Model when helping people find the jobs they might love to do and would be good at.

In the next blog entry I’ll talk about The 3 Benefits of Using the Asset Model.

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Author: Chris Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Left of the Dial. She owns a resume writing and career help business. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health. As well as an author and activist, Bruni is an artist and a fitness buff.

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