INTAR’s 2007 gathering was held at The Haven on Gabriola Island in British Columbia, Canada. More than thirty participants from 5 countries gathered for four days of workshops and presentations.
The conference was organized around three themes: Alternatives; Organization and structure; and Dissemination and outreach, and concluded with a Public Panel presentation to more than 100 participants from the public at Malaspina College.
Conference report by Chris Stevenson, June 2007
Instead of reporting on the specific workshops I attended (Structure), I have elected to speak about the overall INTAR experience, and processes. I believe attention to, and learning from, the processes is as important as reporting outcomes. In addition, much learning occurs in the gaps between workshops.
INTAR consists of a loose collective of people from across the globe; some are friends some are acquaintances. This is important to stress, as it means that the group has a fluid consistency – new people arrive, some come and go, some stay. Each and every come from their own ‘place’ – with all that means in terms of ‘home’ commitments; but all embody a desire to difference – the pith of the group. The group is highly energised when together – positive and sometimes negative energy flows. It favours a ‘democratic’ approach (perhaps reacting against the non-democratising of psychiatry and trying to demonstrate an alternative), but this can be frustrating as, without leadership, there has been a degree of inertia between meetings. Progress falls into a pit. The leadership gap ‘invites’ those feeling frustrated to fill it. But this then reproduces the hierarchies that are familiar to us in psychiatry. Our own organisation, IMHR, can learn from this.
This time around, I was able to spend more time talking/listening about Soteria – for me a pearl (difficult to find, precious and easy to lose). Suddenly, who can say exactly why, it seemed more feasible for our Irish context than I had considered previously – maybe I had not properly attended to it. The benefits of the INTAR connection is that there is direct access to Judy Schreiber (carrying her husband’s, Lauren Mosher, Soteria torch), Alma ??? who was a founder, Voyce Hendrix who ran the project in San Jose for 10 years, Jim Gottstein who is establishing Soteria Alaska, and Peter Stastny, Liz ? and Cal ? who are ready to set up Soteria in New York City. There is access to Mosher’s RCT data that demonstrates the effectiveness of the original Soteria project. My intention now is to convene a Soteria group in Ireland and, with a little help from INTAR friends and guidance from IMHR, to approach HSE to deliver a Soteria based project from the Healthy Living Centre, DCU.
As stated previously, the challenge for INTAR is to turn ideas to action that is beyond the members’ individual alternative projects/work; to generalise alternatives internationally. This is the promise that the group holds. Or the first time, an interim co-ordinating group myself are members. The group will work to make itself extinct and to pave the way for a board of directors, democratically elected.
One more thing, INTAR was conceptualised by Lauren Mosher and Peter Stastny to be focused upon practice. Theoretical/academic perspectives were/are to be peripheral – in my view appropriately (and I can say that as an academic)! Practice knowledge needs to be fore grounded. Maybe that accounts for why I am committed to seeing a Soteria development in Ireland, and maybe the time, resources and policy context is right. Without INTAR support this is not something that I, for one, would contemplate.