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There are several therapeutic communities for those experiencing mental health and emotional difficulties although none use the orthomolecular approach. Among the projects we looked at were ‘The Cherry Orchards’ based in the Bristol area ( www.camphill.org.uk ) and the Lothlorian Therapeutic Community in S.W.Scotland ( www.lothlorien.tc ) who were able to offer us valuable ideas and features that will be considered for inclusion at Chy-Sawel. We particularly made note of the following:-
- Care is planned through a regularly reviewed arrangement that is tailored to the needs of the individual.
- Participants take part in counselling sessions, psychotherapy groups and practical groups which include relearning basic living skills.
- The communities work in a multi-disciplinary context and implement therapeutic programmes by teams of therapists working alongside other health professionals. Good relationships are established with the local statutory mental health services.
- Participants are involved in the life of the community through daily tasks such as gardening, cooking and cleaning and collective responsibilities.
- Provision of employment training and programmes for relaxation and other recreational and skill development.
- All the members in the community ( participants and staff ) are involved in creating and maintaining the therapeutic environment. People receiving treatment are not stigmatised and the focus is on the future not the past.
- They are members of the Association of Therapeutic Communities and participate in a quality network of such communities.
- Often there is an active role in living and working with nature. Chy-Sawel would wish to create work for participants through organic food production and by generating an appreciation of nature and the countryside in helping recovery. The parallel with such work and activities in healing an unhealthy plant should not be lost sight of!
In the United States , however, there are examples of therapeutic communities that are using orthomolecular treatment.
The principal exponent is ‘Earth House’ (www.earthouse.org) which has been running for the past 30 years caring for young adults suffering from major mental disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
In 1977, during the McGovern Hearings of the Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, Earth House was cited as a “unique alternative” and subsequently praised as “the prototype of a bio-chemically oriented treatment center providing a structured home for schizophrenics in the process of recovery”. They are set in a rural location accommodating a maximum of 14 residents, the majority of whom have multiple diagnoses.
Their programme provides good overall nutrition, supplements where needed, compulsory exercise and classes for the relearning of basic life skills. Orthomolecular physicians supervise the medical treatment with the help of staff experienced in psychology, psychotherapy, social work, substance abuse counselling and biochemistry.
Two thirds of their patients have benefited considerably and nearly one half have been able to lead largely independent lives, a rate of success which is significantly higher than that achieved by other more conventional approaches.
These results clearly illustrate that this is an exciting and commendable addition to our caring practice as well as showing Earth House to be a model that Chy-Sawel can follow, as it offers hope and may well prove to be the optimal environment for recovery.