The Sunrise Center Using Re—evaluation Counseling to Assist People in Freeing Themselves from Psychiatric Drugs
Reclaiming Minds from Psychiatric Drugs
The Sunrise Center will be the only residential recovery center in the world to use Re-evaluation Counseling RC) to assist people to free themselves from psychiatric drugs. Led by some of the sharpest and most experienced Co-Counselors (defined below) around, this organization stands in stark contrast to the conventional thinking that says there are two kinds of people in this world, "normal" and "crazy." Our experience shows that human beings have the inherent capacity to heal from any kind of physical or emotional hurt by using the natural functions of talking, laughing, crying, trembling, sweating and yawning. The hurts we carry would never have been so profound if we had been given warm, relaxed, loving attention at the time we were hurt and been allowed to use the body's natural processes to heal the hurt. Most people don't realize how powerful these processes are because most of us have been discouraged by well-meaning caregivers and society itself from using them since an early age. Yet with enough attention from skilled Co-Counselors, who understand and encourage the release of these feelings, it is entirely possible to recover the inherent clarity of one's mind and to regain access to one's underlying full human intelligence.
"At my first RC weekend workshop, people seemed to have this sparkle in their eyes when they stopped crying and turned their attention to fun activities. That part was very different from the psychiatric ward!"
What is RC?
The Body's Natural Way of Releasing Hurt
Re-evaluation Counseling was started in the 1950's by Harvey Jackins, who stumbled upon the power of this process when helping an acquaintance, Merle, who was in crisis. Merle was not eating, sleeping or speaking coherently, and was yelling loudly. He couldn't work. His wife left him. The neighbors were ready to call the police. Knowing that electroshock treatment, or worse, awaited Merle if the authorities institutionalized him, Harvey reluctantly agreed to try to help and took him home.
Merle could not stop crying. At first Harvey did everything he could to get him to stop, but nothing seemed to work. Eventually Harvey realized that maybe he just needed to cry. So Harvey stayed with Merle while he cried, and noticed that the more Merle cried, the better he seemed to be doing. He was eating a little, and sleeping some. He could talk more coherently. After a while, trembling replaced the crying, and after that laughter replaced shaking. As Merle moved through the different stages of physical and emotional release, he began to return to his usual, vibrant self. In two weeks, Merle returned to work and was more productive than he had ever been. Merle then reunited with his wife. Harvey was intrigued.
As Harvey tested out his observations by working intensively with his friends and family, his clients at Personal Counselors, as well as with some who were labeled "deeply distressed," the basic theory of RC emerged:
We are all born with tremendous human intelligence, a natural enthusiasm for life, and the capacity for deep, loving connections. Human intelligence works by receiving sensory input in discrete bits which can be retrieved separately and combined creatively to produce a fresh response to any new situation.
When we experience some form of hurt (i.e., fear, loss, pain, anger, or embarrassment) our intelligence is no longer free to process information in this way.
Instead, hurtful sensory input is locked together into a "recording" of the incident; our intelligence cannot access, use or integrate this material until feelings attached to it are released.
It is possible to access or understand the recordings" by releasing (or discharging) the hurts which created them. This is done by using the healing processes of talking, crying, trembling, raging, sweating, laughing and yawning. Once enough hurt has been released, our intelligence can begin to process and re- evaluate the experiences. There is no limit to the depth of hurt that can be healed with the discharge process.
However, if left unchallenged and undischarged, the rigid patterns of thinking and behaving caused by unreleased hurt) can accumulate over time, blocking and obscuring our full human intelligence.
All humans experience enough hurt throughout our lives to produce significant limitations in our ability to use our minds fully.
Some hurts are random, such as the death of a loved one. Other hurts are systematically caused by the various oppressions in the society, such as racism, classism, sexism, and many others.
Any individual who encounters major difficulties under the load of hurts that he or she carries, becomes vulnerable to involvement with the mental health" system.
"l spent six consecutive years in three psychiatric hospitals, on fourteen different psychotropic drugs, and it wasn't working for me. I just didn't have any other answers and felt all alone. "
What is the mental health system?
The mental health system arose during the Industrial Revolution. Mental hospitals were originally warehouses for individuals who could not perform in the manner required by early industrial society. Today, the system is comprised of a wide variety of psychiatrists, therapists, social workers, and the institutions in which they work. It is also intertwined with many other institutions like the medical, elder care, foster care, education, court, police, and prison systems. The mental health system's role remains to keep people functioning within the very narrowly defined range of what is considered "normal." This includes people not considered economically productive.
How is RC different from the
mental health system?
Most people know what it is like to feel better and to think more clearly after a good cry. However, the amount of crying that is necessary to recover from big hurts may be labeled by the mental health system as signs of mental illness. The assumption is that releasing a large amount of emotion means that there is something wrong with the person. The belief is that in order to prevent mental illness it is necessary to control, inhibit or prevent the release of emotions.
In RC, we understand that the release of intense emotions is the key to recovery. Co- Counselors understand that a person's mind is fully intact under the layers of distress that are obscuring it. They are committed to helping people recover their own full human
intelligence. When this work is done with that kind of understanding, it is possible to create the right conditions for the safe and effective healing of distress. The counselor's role is to support and encourage the discharge process. The counselor's other role is to help people remember their connection to the good things in their lives as opposed to becoming preoccupied with what is upsetting them.
There is no need for the counselor to interpret, analyze, or advise someone because that person will spontaneously reorganize and re- evaluate her/his experiences after adequate release of emotions. In this way, each person's own mind is always at the center of the recovery process.
Our experience is that the natural processes of discharge and re-evaluation work for all humans. Mental patients are not different from other people. Any difficulties that a mental patient has can be discharged and re- evaluated, the same as with anyone else, provided they have enough Co-Counseling support. We believe that more things are possible for human beings than we currently understand. There is no set of expectations that we are trying to reach, only unlimited possibilities.
"In the mental hospital, there was no inquiry made into the source of my anger, there were just "life skill" classes designed to help me "function. " If unexpressed anger is the problem, then expecting me to function without also teaching me to express my feelings, cannot be the solution. "
I believed the recordings and reached out to someone who also believed the recording the path to the "mental health" system was wide open. Now I see remnants of those early patterns but I experience them as old, overgrown pathways that at one time I used to tread frequently. Sometimes I get confused, but usually I can recognize when I feel that way that I must need to discharge something. "
The Sunrise Center
Reclaiming Minds from
The Sunrise Center uses the same theoretical basis and same process as the International RC
Community. The Center is a separate entity and has a 501 (c)3, non-profit status. Its governing Board of Directors is comprised of a diverse group of experienced Co-Counselors.
To use Re-Evaluation Counseling to help people free themselves from psychiatric drugs and to recover access to their own tremendous human intelligence, natural enthusiasm for life, and capacity for deep, loving connection. In addition, we will teach people to spread this work.
To stand as a beacon of hope for all those currently struggling to find help for their emotional challenges. To let them know that there is a way out of the mental health system and that there is an alternative to psychiatric drugs that works.
'This is what I knew when I embarked on ending my drug use: I knew that someone, somewhere had stopped taking anti- depressants. I didn't actually know such a person, but I believed one existed "
The use of psychiatric drugs has become commonplace in industrial societies. The daily grind of modern life, the pressures at work or school, and the lack of time for family and friends, are part of living in an oppressive society. This society depletes our sense of our own goodness and at the same time it keeps us divided from each other in many ways. It is no accident that when faced with daily stress and lack of support, that so many people start using psychiatric drugs each year. Profits for the pharmaceutical industry continue to rise as diagnostic categories are expanded and the range of what is considered normal narrows. Many people accept this approach as the standard of care without ever questioning the safety or efficacy of the drugs.
Most people think that a "chemical imbalance" causes unwanted symptoms and that psychiatric drugs correct that imbalance. This approach attributes distress to a biological cause and offers what seems to be a harmless way to numb and blunt painful emotions. While pharmaceutical companies would have us believe that these drugs target specific systems in the brain in ways that we understand and can control, the reality is that the human brain is the most complex organ in the known universe. Neuroscientists have not yet understood the brain enough to know how to improve its functioning. Psychiatric drugs disrupt the normal function of the brain by altering its chemistry in ways that are not yet understood. The hope is that the disruption will create outcomes that are more desirable than what the brain was doing on its own. However, in cases where the drugs seem to work, they are only masking the difficulties a person is experiencing. Psychiatric drugs do not actually resolve the underlying distress. If a person stops taking them, the unresolved feelings almost always return. Many individuals are told that they will be on psychiatric drugs for the rest of their lives because there is no known cure for their symptoms. The assumption is that people just have to live with their difficulties and that the drugs make that easier to do.
or Marketing Strategy?
(Not Just for Mental Patients!)
"The use of antidepressants has tripled in the last decade." (Mark Hyman, 2009)
One in ten Americans over the age of 12 takes anti- depressants. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011)
"These mood-altering drugs are the fastest-growing segment of the pharmaceutical market, and as a group constitute the second-biggest class of medication in total sales and prescriptions. In children alone, over the three year period from 1997 to 2000, the use of antipsychotic medication increased by 138 percent, the use of atypical antidepressants by 42 percent, and the use of SSRIs... by 18 percent. The global use of ADHD medication rose 300 percent from 1997 to 2000" Hyman, 2009) Psychiatric drugs do not work by correcting anything wrong in the brain. We can be sure of this because such drugs affect animals and humans, as well as healthy people and diagnosed patients, in exactly the same way. There are no known biochemical imbalances and no tests for them. That's why psychiatrists do not draw blood." Breggin, 1999)
"Success is considered a 50 percent improvement in half the symptoms. And this minimal result is achieved in less than half the persons taking the medications... 86 percent of those who do find some relief from their symptoms have one or more side effects..." (Hyman, 2009)
Once in the body, there is no way to control where the drugs go. Many other systems in the body are also affected. The vast majority experience some form of side effects. Some of these are very physical effects. Some side effects can be very challenging to distinguish from the original difficulties that led to being diagnosed.
The reality is that the person taking the drugs is often the last to notice a deterioration of their own condition after starting psychiatric drugs. The drugs act on the brain and interfere with ordinary functioning, including the ability to perceive one's own well-being. It is common for doctors to attribute the deterioration caused by the drugs to a worsening of the original difficulties and to prescribe more drugs.
"My doctor had put me on a low dose of Celexa. I didn’t feel anything. She kept saying to increase the pills, increase, but I wasn't that trusting of the pills. One of the side effects is people get more depressed and they commit suicide That's not where I wanted to go in my life. " M Examples of side effects that may be caused by psychiatric drugs:
- blurred vision
- digestive problems
- disruptions to the hormonal system
- dry mouth
- excessive weight gain or loss
- hand tremors
- sexual dysfunction
- tendency to hurt somebody
- emotional numbness
- deep sadness
- extreme sensitivity
- lack of concentration
- increased suicidal tendencies
The "Rebound Effect"
Even when an individual realizes that the drug is part of the problem and wants to stop taking it, they may not be prepared to handle the intense feelings that often arise while withdrawing from the drug. This is called the "rebound effect', which often scares and confuses both the doctor and patient into concluding that the original diagnosis was accurate and that the patient needs more drugs. The rebound effect" is often worse when people withdraw from the drugs too quickly. Without meaning to, many mental health practitioners end up becoming a barrier to independence from drugs- In some cases, they have the authority to send an individual to an institution if they don't think things are going well.
For individuals who want to stop taking psychiatric drugs, it can be hard to find the right support to do it effectively. Aside from personal or spiritual practices, such as meditation, yoga, journaling, self-help books or art, there simply are not many options. There is very little access to knowledgeable or experienced counselors who are familiar with both the challenges and benefits of withdrawing from psychiatric drugs. Most of the time one has to figure it out on one's own.
"The withdrawal frightened me and it also frightened my psychiatrist. Under Connecticut law, I could be hospitalized if I refused to take psychiatric drugs and my doctor was concerned about me. Before I began reducing my dose, she wanted me to take a mood stabilizer She was afraid of what I might do if I experienced the "rebound effect" she had read about. My doctor drugged me to relieve her fears!"
We've Been Through the Fire
There is a Way Out
In order to succeed in getting off psychiatric drugs and staying off them, it makes a big difference to work with people who understand that psychiatric drugs block access to feelings that need to be released, and interfere with the recovery process. It also helps to work with people who have successfully stopped using psychiatric drugs themselves or who have experience in supporting others who have. Our founder, board and future staff are all experienced Co-Counselors. Many of us have recovered from our own experiences with psychiatric drugs, in some cases after having been on them for many years. We know first-hand what it feels like to be on psychiatric drugs, what it is like to try to find support for coming off them, and what the withdrawal and recovery process is actually like. We are prepared for intense feelings that can come up while withdrawing from psychiatric drugs and know how to stay connected to the individual while they are released. We are very qualified to lead this work. We have walked through the fire and chartered a course to the other side.
"In addition to physical became symptoms... combative and indecisive. I found myself constantly wanting to pick a fight. I also had a terrible time making decisions, from which flavor jam to put on my toast to I wanted to whether continue my graduate program. Six weeks after stopping the drug, the fogginess in my head started clearing significantly. Not only had I not needed the drugs, but my life was much easier without them. "
l still have the calendar where I marked the date of my first dose of Anafranil, which says "the first day of the rest of my life. " I still believed that much in the next new drug because it was the only help I saw coming. "
People, not Pills
In RC, we understand that connection is the key to making the discharge process work well, and this is especially true for those trying to stop taking psychiatric drugs. Many of us end up believing that we must hide what is wrong, that no one can help us, or that we are "too much" for those around us because well-meaning caregivers left us alone with our hurt when we were too young to figure out what to do on our own. Our caregivers may not have had enough attention for our distress, or were confused by it, concerned that if we showed too much of it for too long that it meant we would not get past it or heal. We live in a society where there is not much human connection. The lack of connection in society exacerbates the process of withdrawal from psychiatric drugs.
Many people are so hungry for attention or someone to listen to them, that having the undivided attention of a therapist for an hour a week seems to help them. However, even in cases where an individual forms a strong connection with the therapist, the one-way nature of the relationship keeps individuals focused on their own problems. This keeps people from understanding the idea that we all have emotional difficulties to one extent or another, including therapists. This one-way relationship also keeps us confused about how all oppressions leave people isolated and disconnected.
While participants in the Sunrise Center programs may sometimes receive one way attention from the staff counselors, they will also be learning to Co- Counsel with their peers and the staff. Typically, two people take turns counseling and being counseled. This is a mutual exchange where people work together to help each other recover their true selves. This approach contradicts the assumption that only experts know what to do or can help us. It breaks down the isolation we often feel about our own struggles. When we are counselor, we see how others have been hurt and where they also struggle. We gain a new perspective on our own value and significance in a way that is simply not possible in the mental health system. We begin to see the positive effects of our attention and caring in our own lives and in the lives of others.
Learning how to build these skills and relationships will prepare Sunrise Center participants to join RC communities and to form support teams for themselves when they leave the Center. RC communities exist in more than 90 countries in the world. Community members have access to RC classes and a wide variety of workshops, some based on constituencies, to further refine their skills. The existence of the RC community makes it possible for individual Co-Counselors to develop ongoing support. Those who make the personal commitment to Co-Counsel regularly with many others eventually have a large support system they can use as needed.
Between sessions, individuals are responsible for making RC work well by going to RC classes, setting up their own sessions, functioning well both as client and counselor in each session and for setting up their own lives well.
As they have others in close with them while they work to free themselves from distress, they are also liberating themselves from dependence on a system which cannot effectively meet their needs. We offer a practical, cost-effective, and permanent way out of the system.
"What was critical was complete trust between me and another human being. I needed something outside the distress that I could depend on... I was amazed that five minutes of discharge could bring me back from what had usually been a fall into depression. " There is help now. The escape door has changed from "death" to a little help. I have looked the feelings in the face and survived!"
Responding Effectively to Change
As individuals continue to Co-Counsel and regain access to their full human intelligence and begin to trust their own minds, they are in a better position to take charge of their own lives. They become more effective in looking out for their own interests, as well as the interests of others, and the world around them. Such individuals enjoy substantial emotional resiliency because they:
know how to withstand and recover quickly
from emotional upset;
have access to many sources of emotional
support instead of just one or two;
understand how to handle their own
emotional difficulties and can help others learn to do the same;
are more likely to make decisions based on their own good thinking;
are more likely to respond flexibly, effectively, and intelligently as challenges arise.
"After about a year after coming off the drugs, I finally realized that this might actually. .. be the upheaval that comes with doing things differently. So what exactly was I doing differently? I was trusting my own mind. " B We Need Every Mind Working
Millions of people, not so unlike ourselves, end up involved in the mental health system and take psychiatric drugs because they have been hurt. Through no fault of their own, they have not had the opportunity to release the hurt in order to heal. To deny or discount the capacity for such individuals to make meaningful contributions to society squanders the vast wealth of human potential all around us. Every single person has unique gifts and passions to offer that only he or she can give. The use of Re- evaluation Counseling can help each person recover their brilliance and ability to work toward the liberation of all human beings. We need every single mind to be engaged and working towards building a more human, connected, equitable, and beautiful world than we dare to imagine.
The Sunrise Center
We are currently laying the groundwork and raising funds to open our residential center. On a typical day at the Center, residents will have three or four Co-Counseling sessions, both with staff counselors and other residents. There will also be time to garden, exercise, create art, and so on. As far as possible, staff and residents will interact with each other as peers, not patients and providers. Residents may stay for a few weeks up to several months and will be active in designing their own program. Once we have established our programs and gained enough experience, we will welcome doctors and other healthcare professionals. They can come and learn that people can heal
emotionally, that they do not need psychiatric drugs. We will set up additional centers to train people who would like to spread this work.
Recently we have launched a series of workshops called the Sunrise Center Project. We are building community around the concepts of the Sunrise Center, and our workshops are the initial step in our project of helping people stop using psychiatric drugs. The workshops are open to people who are stopping their use of psychiatric drugs, and to their support teams and other interested people. Currently participation is limited to RC Community members because these folks are already familiar with the discharge process and the tools of RC. Once our workshops are well established, they will be open to people not yet familiar with RC. The workshops are being run in a similar manner to the developing residential center.
The Sunrise Center
To provide a safe, effective, natural, and cost effective alternative to psychiatric drugs using Re- evaluation Counseling (RC).
To demonstrate how to use RC to help people to stop using psychiatric drugs.
To teach residents, support teams, staff, interns, volunteers, and medical professionals how to effectively use RC instead of psychiatric drugs. To provide resource and a model for people who want to start similar centers.
To provide resource to the RC Community and others about working with individuals who want to stop using psychiatric drugs.
To provide hope for people who want to stop using psychiatric drugs.
To run periodic workshops, using RC, to train potential staff and support teams to work with individuals who want to stop taking drugs. Some workshops will be for support teams and potential staff. Others will include individuals withdrawing from drugs.
To design and run the support system which will provide ongoing support to the teams and
individuals after they leave our workshops and the center.
To raise the funds necessary to open the residential center in the near future.
To operate the center, to the greatest extent possible, on a peer basis, where the staff, residents, volunteers, and interns all participate in the day-to- day responsibilities of the program, cooking, cleaning, and maintenance.
To make participants active partners in this endeavor by allowing them to put their own minds at the center of their recovery process.
About Janet Foner
Janet Foner has been the leader for the Sunrise Center Project and Chair of the Board of Directors since it officially began in 2005. She has been a Co- Counselor since 1973, an RC teacher since 1981, and the International Liberation Reference Person for Mental Health Liberation for the RC Community since 1992. She leads mental health liberation workshops and develops leaders throughout the United States and the rest of the world. A psychiatric survivor, Janet was hospitalized and took antipsychotic drugs against her will in her early twenties, just before graduating from college. Upon leaving the mental health system, she never returned as a client and never took psychiatric drugs after 1968. Janet received a B.F.A. in Painting and Design in 1968 from Carnegie-Mellon University. In 1986 she graduated from Penn State University with a Master's degree in Community Psychology.
From 1987-1989 Janet directed LEAD (Leadership Education and Advocacy Development), which founded and coordinated the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers' Association. Janet has served on many mental health boards in Pennsylvania and has been active in the national psychiatric survivors' movement. She is also co-founder, former co- director from 1990-2000, and current board member of Mindfreedom International, a social change organization led by psychiatric survivors. Janet has been married to Mayer Foner since 1969 and is the mother of two adult sons. Her avocation is designing and making quilts.
"The use of antidepressants has tripled in the last decade." page 1 1
These mood-altering drugs are the fastest- growing segment of the pharmaceutical market, and as a group constitute the second- biggest class of medication in total sales and prescriptions. In children alone, over the three year period from 1997 to 2000, the use of antipsychotic medication increased by 138 percent, the use of atypical antidepressants by 42 percent, and the use of SSRls... by 18 percent. The global use of ADHD medication rose 300 percent from 1997 to 2000." page 46
Success is considered a 50 percent improvement in half the symptoms. And this minimal result is achieved in less than half the persons taking the medications... 86 percent of those who do find some relief from their symptoms have one or more side effects..." page 14 Source
Mark Hyman, MD. The UltraMind Solution: The Simple Way to Defeat Depression, Overcome
Anxiety, and Sharpen Your Mind. New York:
Hyman Enterprises, 2009
"One in ten Americans over the age of 12 takes anti-depressants. Antidepressants were the third most common prescription drug taken by Americans of all ages in 2005—2008 and the most frequently used by persons aged 18-44 years. From 1988—1994 through 2005—2008, the rate of antidepressant use in the United States among all ages increased nearly 400%." Sources Pratt LA, Brody DJ, Gu Q. Antidepressant use in persons aged 12 and over: United States, 2005-2008. NCHS data brief, no 76.
Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2011.
National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2010: With special feature on death and dying. Table 95. Hyattsville, MD. 2011.
"Psychiatric drugs do not work by correcting anything wrong in the brain. We can be sure of this because such drugs affect animals and humans, as well as healthy people and diagnosed patients, in exactly the same way. There are no known biochemical imbalances and no tests for them. That's why psychiatrists do not draw blood. " page 60 Source
Peter Breggin, MD. Your Drug May Be Your
Problem: How and Why to Stop Taking
Psychiatric Medications. Philadelphia: Perseus Book Group, 2001