A SNAP of History: Soteria Project

Here is a little piece I wrote and I thought you may find it interesting…always awesome to learn something new.  The first Soteria Research Project was founded between 1969 and 1971 by psychiatrist Loren Mosher and his work was admired by numerous professionals around the world who aspired to create mental health services based on a social model as opposed to a medical one.  Soteria was a community service project being a response to deinstitulization which began in the 1970’s that flooded unfunded mental health centers with patients requiring chronic hospital care.  Importantly, Soteria provided a space for people experiencing mental distress or crisis and aimed to house and care for many patients that gravitated toward living on the streets.  The Soteria project’s original aim was to assess whether a specially designed intensive psychosocial treatment project, including “non-medical staffing, a relationship-focused therapeutic milieu incorporating minimal use of antipsychotic medications for 6 weeks, could produce equivalent or better outcomes in treating newly diagnosed patients with schizophrenia compared with general hospital psychiatric ward treatment with antipsychotic medications.”[1]  Critics argue that such therapeutic households are highly uncontrolled and they lack the necessary security that a psychiatric facility provides.  The project was heavily criticised for being irresponsible and ineffective and the US Soteria Project closed as a clinical program in 1983 due to lack of financial support.  Since then there has been success with current Scandinavian projects involving in-home family crisis intervention, avoiding the use of hospitals and neuroleptics, and providing the continuity of a team approach.  It is notable that 30 years after the Soteria Project’s initial design and implementation and 17 years since completion of data collection, the Soteria project is still producing information relevant to today’s management of psychosis.[2]  Andrea Paquette, President, Bipolar Disorder Society of BC

  [1]John Bola and Loren Mosher. “Treatment of Acute Psychosis Without Neuroleptics: Two-Year Outcomes From the Soteria Project,” The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 191, no. 4 (2003): 219.[2] Ibid., 219.