We know that sometimes discussions of alternative mental health support, including Soteria and peer respites, can involve a lot of jargon and new terms. So, to try and keep us all on the same page, we’ve included some common terms and their definitions below.
If there’s a term that you would like to see here but hasn’t been included, please feel free to send us a message.
- Being with
is a practice developed to support residents of Soteria Houses. It contrasts with a medical model where people are treated or have things done to them, often without their fully informed consent. In contast, ‘being with’ provides choice, validation, and mutuality. The process can look different throughout a resident’s stay at Soteria.
The Soteria Manual lays out three common stages of ‘being with’ (which don’t necessarily occur in this order, or at all) including:
- the major crisis, when the client most needed basic care
- the reconstitution, when the client re-established his/her personality in relation to the new surroundings
- the extension, when the client began to expand boundaries of relationships
- Meaning making
refers to the process of people exploring the content of their lives to uncover wisdom and insight. It is a personal process in which people seek to better understand themselves, and how their lives have been influenced by outside factors and systems as well as personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
Through meaning making, people find depth and value in their experiences that might be labeled meaningless and/or pathological in a medical model.
- The medical model
is a term to describe a medicalized perspective on mental health. This model proposes that mental health concerns are the result of biological mental illness or chemical imbalances. Critics of the medical model point to the lack of evidence that mental illness exists or is a result of biological realities, especially when compared to the wealth of evidence showing the impacts of trauma, neurodivergence (in a neurotypical world), and life circumstances (poverty, illness, loss, etc.).
Many also critique the medical model’s claims that all mental health concerns must be treated in the same way, with standardized treatments and medications, often coercively or regardless of a person’s wishes — especially when research has shown that trauma-informed, self-directed, and relationship-focused care and support can be ultimately more helpful.
- Non-consensus reality/extreme states/altered states
are terms used to describe experiences or beliefs that are not widely accepted in mainstream society. Some examples could be hearing voices that others cannot, or experiences of extreme fear that are not easily understandable by others.
- Psychiatric survivors (or consumer-survivors, ex-patients, mad people, people with lived experience, and more)
are those who have personal lived experience with mental health concerns, mental unwellness, madness, psychiatry, altered/extreme states, or similar experiences. Some may be members of the psychiatric survivor/ex-patient/consumer-survivor movement, which is a civil rights movement dating back to at least the 1970s. Outgrowths of this movement include peer support and mad pride.