Soteria Network UK was formed in 2004 in Bradford following a national speaking tour by the late Loren Mosher. The network was inspired by his pioneering work in the founding of the Soteria Project in 1970 and the first Soteria House in San Diego, California. The name Soteria was adopted to clearly indicate the values and principles the Network aspires to, and which remain as valid and relevant in the 21st century as in the 1970s and 80s.
Soteria House began life as an experimental research project designed to see whether people experiencing a ‘first episode’ acute psychosis and who might otherwise be diagnosed with schizophrenia and treated with medication in hospital, might fare just as well in a house with minimum medication, but with maximum support. Soteria was an ordinary house, in a real sense part of the suburban community , with a sense of homeliness and community within. Soteria employed a ‘phenomenological’ approach, one which attempts to see and accept the experiences of the person as they are, while developing over time a shared understanding of the meaningfulness of the person’s experiences within their social context.
At its first conference held in Bradford in 2009 Soteria Network UK brought together people with the aspiration, commitment and resolve to set up a first UK Soteria house; this ran successfully for over a year, overcoming many challenges, and it’s hoped to relaunch when further funding and the ‘right’ premises are achieved.
The Soteria philosophy inspires many people who want to develop a more compassionate and effective approach to people in mental distress, enabling them to come through it in a non-coercive, non-oppressive way.
Thus in addition to the aspiration to set up Soteria houses, Soteria Network aims to support approaches to helping people in mental health crises and distress based on ‘being with’ rather than ‘doing to’. These can include: the creation of networks of support for people in their own homes; responding to individuals and carers seeking alternatives to coercion; linking with community organisations that offer non-judgemental, non-labelling safe space; setting up or co-creating ‘coming off medication’ groups; informing and supporting mental health professionals wishing to avoid medicalisation. We also participate in conferences, contribute to research and write articles.