Housemate podcast transciption

Lori: [00:00:06] Windhorse is our innate ability to uplift ourselves and our environment by giving rise to a positive energy that is both relaxed and disciplined. Since 1981, Windhorse Community Services has integrated this understanding with modern conventional therapies, meditation and contemplative traditions in the development of at home whole person mental health recovery. Windhorse Journal is dedicated to the mission of communicating decades of clinical and personal experience to professionals, educators, students and anyone seeking recovery options. Please join the dialouge. [00:00:45][39.0]

Elysa: [00:00:51] Welcome to Windhorse Journal Entry 82: basic Attendance: relationships that invite health: the housemate: In this conversation, a group of former Windhorse housemates discuss their experiences on a windhorse team. They reminisce on countless moments shared in this unique dynamic and reflect on what the role brought to their lives and the relationships built with their roommates while living in a therapeutic household. We hope you enjoy. [00:01:14][23.3]

Chuck: [00:01:22] Welcome to this podcast of the Windhorse Journal and I’m your host, Chuck. Now this conversation is the third in our series on the clinical practice of basic attendance. And today we’ll be discussing the role of Housemate. I’m so pleased to be joined today by this group of Windhorse clinicians, all of whom have been housemates. And I’ll now introduce you all. Charlie has been at Windhorse Community Services for eight years as both a housemate and team counselor. Charlie currently works in the team counselor role. He also works as a psychotherapist in private practice. He loves to connect with other people and create a safe and non-judgmental space to explore life, meaning and whatever inspires others. Charlie is a graduate of a master’s program in psychology, a student of Zen Buddhism, and in his spare time loves to converse and socialize with friends. He also has a collection of 30 or so bonsai trees that he spends time with pruning and shaping. [00:02:21][58.4]

Chuck: [00:02:22] That’s interesting. That’s unusual. You have any in your background there? [00:02:25][3.4]

Charlie: [00:02:27] Yeah. I have some right here. Let’s see, okay. This one’s got a few leaves coming off, but it’s doing good. Yeah. What kind of a tree is that? That’s a Ficus Bengamina. [00:02:40][12.8]

Chuck: [00:02:41] Okay. Thank you. He finds meaning and fulfilling to bring his whole self to everything he does, especially as clinical work. Thank you, Charlie. Sylvan Herb Summers. Prior high school art teacher did not know Masters in Somatic Counseling, Psychology and Dance Movement Therapy from Europe University. You’re currently working as a team counselor and community programs facilitator of WSC US. You also work with individuals and couples in private practice. So. So you were a housemate for several years, three years, and are also in the community programs facilitator. What is that? What does that involve? [00:03:32][51.3]

Silvan: [00:03:34] So I lead a variety of different groups. Most of them are social groups. Sometimes they’ll be psychoeducation classes, things like that. So, this summer, you know, it’s warming up and covid is kind of mellowing out. We have to do start doing the outings program again, what we did last summer. [00:03:54][20.4]

Chuck: [00:03:55] Okay. Thank you. Julie Barnhart is a team leader and admissions assistant at Windhorse Community Services, where she’s worked for nearly a decade. She grew up in Saint Louis, Missouri, and moved to Boulder in 2002 to study Buddhism and feel good about her university. She earned her bachelor’s degree in contemplative psychology with a minor in yoga at Neroca in 2004. Buddhism and yoga remain passions of hers. She studied both in depth. Julie became a yoga teacher and a meditation instructor. She is currently completing her master’s degree in clinical counseling at Adams State University in Colorado, where she is a member of the CSI Honor Society. Julie loves getting outdoors to hike, garden camp or kayak. She also loves cooking for her husband, stepdaughter and eight month old son. Another passion is making music with her family out of her home recording studio. Julie, do you play an instrument or do you sing or what do you do? [00:05:02][66.8]

Julie: [00:05:02] Primarily sing, but I can play the guitar and piano a little bit. [00:05:07][4.2]

Chuck: [00:05:07] Okay. Thank you. [00:05:09][1.6]

Julie: [00:05:09] Yeah. [00:05:09][0.0]

Chuck: [00:05:10] Lori Heintzelman, whose work background is in human services, education and communications. She earned a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Colorado Boulder and hired at Windhorse Community Services as a housemate in 2011. In 2013, she transitioned out of the housemate role and into an administrative position while doing part time work, doing basic attendance on two clinical teams. She’s currently Windhorse’s Human Resources and facilities administrator as well as a member of the Journal team. In her spare time, she’s often out wandering around in nature with her camera, capturing the incredible beauty of Boulder and beyond. She’s also an earnest amateur singer and guitar player. You probably don’t have any songs for us this morning, do you? But if you look on our Web site, a lot of you photography is on our website. Mike Levy graduated from Antioch College in 2004 with a mixed focus on psychology and society and was in Buddhist and meditation retreats intensively between 2002 and 2018. Mike was hired at Windhorse Integrative Health later in 2004 (that’s our cousin organization back in Northampton). He worked on four teams as a housemate over six years and many other teams as a team counselor and clinical mentor until 2010 when he was hired at Windhorse Community Services. In 2011, he finished his master’s in professional counseling in 2012 and was licensed. In 2016, mike was trained and worked as a team counselor. Team leader and later is an intensive psychotherapist at Windhorse Community Services. He’s supervised 10 to 15 housemates by now and was a housemate supervisor for some time in that period. He continues to relate to his experience as a housemate, as a core experience for all of his work at Windhorse and with others in general, currently bringing that experience to all of his new roles, including the community programs administrator, which I think mike that your insight through your extensive experience really gives you a lot of understanding about how people, when they move through a path with a team and they start to look towards moving out into the community. I think your experience, what you’re pointing to, really helps you understand that transition from from being in a very supportive team environment to transitioning out. [00:07:59][168.4]

Mike: [00:08:01] So there’s this sense of bringing the teamwork to a community setting. I do programs as a step out of the team, but not quite fully into one individual life. [00:08:14][12.5]

Chuck: [00:08:16] So this this discussion we’re going to have today is going to focus very much on the household and the relationship of the housemate living with the client in the household at the same time. We all have experience of the complete transition of starting there and moving out into the community programs and just life beyond the team, which Mike you and Sylvan are both very involved with that. That level of program and experience too. And what are your offices down in the space where community programs happens, so you’re also mixing it up as part of the community with everyone as well. Well, thank you all. Thank you all for being here. Before we jump into having some stories about our work, Laurie, would you please read a quick overview of the Windhorse approach and then we’ll go to our stories? [00:09:09][52.5]

Lori: [00:09:11] So the Windhorse approach is health based, meaning that we understand all people to be fundamentally sane and inclined to return to health and balance when the right conditions are present. In this view, confusion or extreme mental states or some use of the term mental illness are temporary obstacles, more like clouds that may obscure the brilliance of the sun. But just as the sun is never diminished by clouds, likewise, our sanity is not diminished by confusion. So it’s always there as our deepest ally. We know that this can really sound like wishful thinking, but it’s actually our experience, personally as well as with our clients and families. At its most basic level, the Windhorse approach is characterized by creating individually tailored, home based, whole person recovery environments which invite that person’s sanity, health and balance. Whole person means that we consider and include all aspects of a person’s life in the therapeutic process. Our environments are grounded in their physical and domestic world. We cultivate open and healthy relationships, and of course, we work to help our clients clarify and understand their minds and emotions. The primary way that we develop this environment is through relationship. We’ll often refer to Windhorse as relational medicine, as we know that when a person is experiencing mental confusion or distress, it’s almost always helpful to be in the midst of people with healthy lifestyles and relatively stable minds. We actually experience health to be surprisingly contagious. So we create teams specific to each client’s personality and interests in order to jump start their connection with ordinary, wholesome life activity. Things such as keeping their home in good order, developing healthy habits of eating, sleeping and exercise, engaging in their interests, and meeting people outside of the team which will often involve the greater Windhorse community, school and work. Another part of the power of our environments is that we bring together teams with a number of complementary roles involved, including the housemate who’s a staff person living in the therapeutic household. The client is also fully included as a team member. Likewise, families when possible. And together we create a system of relationships that’s resilient and which can flexibly adapt. As the recovery path evolves, the team and the environment that everyone creates is clearly a more powerful and intelligent therapeutic system than the sum of its parts. This is a very broad stroke description. So to begin bringing this to life, we’re going to start with some stories about life in the role of Housemate and will then go into other questions, all reflecting on the highly variable nature of what a household can look like. [00:12:38][206.7]

Chuck: [00:12:40] Thank you, Lori, for that. And Silvan, you are going to do a little bit of describing of the kind of form of a housemate before we jump into the stories, will you please take it away? [00:12:51][10.9]

Silvan: [00:12:52] Sure. Yeah. I think, you know, to start thinking about the role of Housemate, there’s a lot of different jobs and meetings and things like that. But I think just overall, it’s it’s a non-clinical role, which was interesting for me, having graduated from graduate school with a degree in psychology and starting to do private practice, it was actually refreshing to me to be able to come home and kind of drop that clinical mindset and just be really, really present with my roommate. And I think that’s mostly what the role is about, is to just be roommates with this person. But also different in that you would be a roommate that has a lot more patience and compassion than your average roommate, I think that is one of the main distinctions of the housemate. It’s a 20 hour a week job. So you are also working other jobs outside of that. And you have to be home every night by 10:00. But then at the same time, you’re required to take a weekend off every month and leave the household to get yourself some space from the environment. But if you wanted to take three or four days off, that’s a little too much usually. So it’s an interesting mix of having to leave your home for a couple of days a month, but then also having to be there the rest of the time. And there’s usually 2 to 3 scheduled shifts a week that would last from 2 to 3 hours with the person that you’re living with. And that could be like making dinner together or scheduled time to do a little house cleaning chores, things like that. The person I lived with and I always took one of those shift times every week to just get out of the house and go do something fun. Go for a hike, mountain bike ride. The person I was living with was interested in lots of different hobbies, so we would go and explore new hobbies and that kind of connects with this idea of kind of bringing along. So helping people that may have some social anxiety get out into the community and with some support. And then we have a house meeting every week with my team leader and then also the team leader and both I, and the person I was living with. So the three of us, every week we would get together and talk. And so if there’s any challenges with the living relationship or the environment, we talk about that in that meeting. And then we had a team meeting. So everyone in the team got together and every other week the person I was living with would be part of that meeting as well. And again, just a broader how’s it going? And then we had individual supervision with the team leader once a week as well to talk about any challenges of the work. And then we had monthly housemate group supervision where all the housemates got together with the clinician to get support for the role. And during COVID, that kind of increased to twice a week because we were all in the in the home quite a bit more, especially when we were quarantined. And I think that the housemates really appreciated that that’s continued now, this bi monthly housemate group supervision. And then we also while I was in that role, me and another housemate got together and we created this kind of informal housemate gathering where we all just get together and go out and have a good time together. Which was was supportive as well and created a sense of community around work. Yeah. I think that’ it, am I missing anything? Is that everything? [00:16:58][246.0]

Lori: [00:16:59] I think just to clarify that it’s a housemate moves into a client’s house. It’s not a neutral home, it’s not a Windhorse own household. It’s moving into the existing or setup household of a client. and making that as much your home temporarily as you can. [00:17:19][19.2]

Chuck: [00:17:20] Thank you. Mike, do you want to start us off with a little vignette from your time? [00:17:26][6.3]

Mike: [00:17:29] Yeah, sure, I’d love to. And just to offer a broad brushstroke, to remind you, as I went through this, getting to know a client, getting to know myself in the household several times over. So by working on four different households for different durations, I got to know myself more in relationship each time. So I was coming from a place of long term retreat and traveling in some ways, waiting to land and Windhorse, to me, at the time, sounded a little bit like an escape, like a way I could join society in some way, but continue my retreat, continue my contemplative pursuits and sort of be landed in a team (free room and board). So there was a selfish way actually as a housemate, a kind of wandering mendicant housemate. And as soon as you land, you realize it’s a much more immersive experience than the escape you have now. I did get a chance generally to rouse in my higher self when possible. I had such motivation to bring contemplative arts, my own painting, flower arranging, continue my meditation practice, but also just be curious about the community. I think in a way, because I was motivated to help other, I was in a relationship in the household and so I was constantly maybe overcoming my own obstacles that I might not have living alone. So I’m thinking of, you know, I spent some money every other week on flowers and I would set them up in the household. I will say there were times where I didn’t see my roommate, the client, living at this household for long periods of time. And so I would relate to the flowers in the kitchen during my set shift times or when I was supposed to be in relationship together. There was a lot of room for this person to take whatever space he needed, and yet I could still attend to our relationship by working in the house. I’m just remembering we put together these flower arrangements and I had this idea that they would be beautiful in this particular way and this flower on the top and there would be this moss on the bottom. And often he would come through the space and he liked to take apart electronics and either make them better or just learn how they work. And there was often just a lot of pieces of electronics around that I was either cleaning or putting into their place. And he would like add a motherboard to the flower arrangement or, you know, some wires that came out the side. And actually it was brilliant. It was beautiful. I never could have thought of that in that in the way that I brought to the flowers. And yet even when he wasn’t talking to me and taking his own space, he would he would relate to what I was offering to the space. And I just really appreciated that. And when we did come back around one way or another over a meal or a late night conversation and a cycle had passed, we had something to laugh about. So I was just remembering these supposed contemplative activities that get interrupted by relationship. [00:20:24][175.5]

Chuck: [00:20:26] So how was that like to. Have him come at your art from a totally different angle. How did that affect you? [00:20:35][9.6]

Mike: [00:20:37] Yeah, it’s it was really great. I mean, always like when there’s some goal, when I’m in, when you’re in this role, you want relationship, you want some kind of engagement. I just had an idea that that engagement would be based on my ideas. You know what I thought a flower arrangement was. So when he would offer this strange or alternative approach to what we were doing, I got to work with my mind, you know, to think it’s not. That’s not correct. And then let in. Well, that’s that’s who you are and that’s who we are now. So it just was a great expression of something I couldn’t have done alone. Either of us, really. [00:21:13][36.7]

Charlie: [00:21:16] One thing to just say here that really struck me about this story was the unexpected ways in which we can begin to have a relationship with someone. It can be a little bit difficult or maybe awkward to connect with someone, especially when we have this sort of expectation that we’re getting together to have a relationship. And it sounded like, Mike, from your story that your roommate would take significant space at times and that that was an okay and good part or a healthy part of the relationship. And yet he interacted with something that you were passionate about and added and included himself in that process which, you know a motherboard was some wires just sounds like another flower when I’m hearing it from here and just seeing actually how in sometimes subtle and I think actually quite powerful ways that the relationship forms in unexpected and kind of curious places and just appreciating how I also would experience things like that in my role as a housemate. [00:22:27][71.3]

[00:22:31] Yeah. Thanks, Charlie. It really, for me highlighted maybe what you Silvan, that the obligation or expectation for us to be around in the household for long periods of time, allowed for a lot of space and a lot of these spontaneous opportunities couldn’t have happened without that much time just sharing space. [00:22:49][18.2]

Lori: [00:22:52] Because you talked Mike to I remember even any of us stepping into this role. It’s like the idea of we were hired for our sanity and stability. And I think I speak for myself. I had certain ideas about what that what I would bring and what it would look like. And for you it was your flower arranging and whatever. And and the real sanity is in allowing the client to just be who they are and disrupt what we think is what we’re bringing here It’s like “here it is”, well, no, the client is a person, too. And their, you know, their notion of what what you’re trying to create is is equal and important. So I there’s a little humbling that goes on and thinking, oh, okay, I’m going to bring my sanity here. Isn’t that nice? It’s like, well, no, that’s not exactly how it looks. It’s an interactive process and it’s negotiated all the time. [00:23:47][55.4]

Silvan: [00:23:50] I think that’s a good point, Lori, that you’re also bringing your neurosis to the relationship, too. And so as patient as we might be, there are things that are going to come up and there’s going to be conflict in the relationship. And I think, that was a big piece of learning for both me and the person I was living with. As to be it for me was to be able to Windhorse and talk a lot about mutual recovery. And for me, it was to be able to state my needs and have clear boundaries. And I had a lot of opportunity to experiment with that. And for for my roommate, it was kind of like for him to be able to hear those and then also know that we could have some friction and things could be like we could both be seeing eye to eye, but then we could talk about those issues that would come up and we could work through them and it wouldn’t mean like that was the end of the relationship. We could we could work through things. And I think that was a big learning for for my roommate. And for me it was, you know, how to have clear boundaries for myself. And so it was a great kind of mutual recovery and that. [00:24:58][68.1]

Julie: [00:25:00] I was thinking about the mutual recovery too Silvan and that the tension between just being your ordinary self in the household and like you were speaking to Lori. It’s your job, you know, you have you have this job. You’re bringing your your sanity and your health, but you’re not. Doing something in the way that you would think you’re doing. You know, it’s more just being there, which actually turns out it’s a lot more challenging to just be there and be your ordinary self, living your life, growing along with the client and mutual recovery. It’s very subtle and nuanced, and it was harder for me than I thought it was going to be to just be there. It’s easier to kind of hide out in the doing of something. [00:25:49][48.7]

Chuck: [00:25:50] Funny, you all going towards mutual recovery. And one of the things we discovered a long time ago with this approach is that particular element provides so much potential for connection because we’re not going in like I’m well, you’re sick and we’re going to fix you. It’s more. Being with as opposed to doing to, especially in this role. And R.D. Laing had a term co-presence that was something that comes to mind a lot about when I think about a housemates presence in a home is like you’re showing up, learning to be in the environment yourself and you’re learning to accept somebody else at the same time. And that’s that is part of the contagiousness of sanity. Thanks, Mike. Let’s roll to Charlie. Would you please share something about your time as a housemate with us? [00:26:39][49.4]

Charlie: [00:26:41] Sure. So, you know, similarly to Mike, when I became a housemate, I was coming from just having finished a summer actually as a camp counselor and really engaging with my own spiritual practice and looking for a place to deepen that and coming to a Windhorse Housemate position seemed similarly ideal for me to be focused on my own kind of path and and personal development, while also kind of experiencing the stimulation and engagement of the relational aspect of being a housemate. And that ended up being impressively moving at times, especially with my housemate, who was coming from a very vulnerable position in life, had just really been dealing with quite a lot and was, you know, really in a sensitive and vulnerable place. And moving in together is this sort of awkward process, kind of knowing that you’re having some sort of a somewhat unique relationship. So there’s a little bit maybe of some sort of extra. You can experience it as pressure going into that. But what I found was that the team really helped support the client and myself in establishing and experiencing the warmth of that relationship. And what really comes to mind was in the first week or so of living with the person I was living with, the team supervisor, Ann Marie, came and had dinner with us at the house. And I just remember how personal it felt, how really familial it felt. The client and Ann Marie were both Italian and both had a connection to food, and Ann Marie came over and we all cooked together, talked together. We all got involved in the process of cooking and then talked about cooking and what it meant to us and had this beautiful, intimate dinner together in the in the first week or so of moving in. And I just remember how clearly it seemed to affect my roommates that it made themselves equal and just warmly involved. And for me, it was a grounding and involving experience where I got to experience just feeling the safety, the relationship and the warmth of the relationship. And I think that was the beginning of really starting to feel like, okay, we’re doing this, we’re living together, and we are both me and the person I was living with, sort of just walking through our lives mutually and yet not with a big agenda. Instead, just more of, Hey, we’re living together and major, we’re forming a relationship here and let’s just see how that turns out. [00:29:58][197.3]

Mike: [00:30:00] Charlie, the way you talked about the team supervisor coming in, joining you for dinner, I’m not sure that I mean, that definitely happened for me over the years, high holidays especially. And not just the team leader, but the family and how a family came and visited the household that I lived with their child. In this case, they they did a special trip and they kind of brought a whole Thanksgiving set up. And there was a way in which I really felt included in their family. And that was a strong intention. That’s not always the case that that way in which family really does develop. And so there’s the client, the housemates family that’s involved, and then there’s the team and how much I just so appreciated the relationship I have with the team leader. I think not so much at the time, but in retrospect it was a lifeline for me and provided all sorts of opportunities as a mentor and as a an activity point person. And so there were lots of examples that my housemate and I were basically just coordinating about getting ready to go do something with this team later. In retrospect, we both had this father figure that we were relating to in different ways, developed out of their roles in the team. [00:31:09][69.6]

Silvan: [00:31:11] I’ll just piggyback a little bit on the the family piece. I mean, the person I lived with for three years, I feel like they’re part of my family now. Sounds like a soft spot in my heart and got a little emotional just thinking about, you know, what what a great relationship developed out of our time together. [00:31:30][18.4]

Charlie: [00:31:31] Yeah. You know, just to add to that is years after being a house mate with this person, I went and visited them. They had made big progresses in their life, were living individually, had a house and a girlfriend and a baby. And it was just a very joyful and emotionally connected reunion to go over, have dinner together and just feel the the mutuality that we had cultivated years back, kind of be this nice touchstone to reengage with. [00:32:04][33.0]

Chuck: [00:32:07] In my experience of long term relationships like that, where people come out of a place where they’re maybe having a really challenging place in life and they come through like that, there’s something there’s a kind of a love that happens for those in that space that is is a remarkable thing to to experience over the years. Yeah. Thank you, Charlie. And Lori, you have something to weigh in with, too? [00:32:34][27.7]

Lori: [00:32:35] Yes, I do. And my story involves Julie as well. So we were in the unusual (for Windhorse these days) situation of a two housemates living with a single client. And I am going to use the word client just to be clear because there were three of us living in a household. So this client was struggling with what Chuck, the team supervisor, told me as a strong and persistent psychosis. The invitation to to step into this team, was that this is what this young woman was struggling with, it was pretty daunting. And the idea is that really she needed two housemates to to keep her grounded and actually safe. There were some significant threats to her safety given her extreme state of mind. So I moved into the house first and then Julie moved in a few weeks later. And this young woman, I’m going to call her Carly, not her name, but what she was experiencing was she heard voices pretty consistently, and she really thought she was on a reality show and was being filmed consistently. I mean, I don’t know if you can imagine what that must’ve been like for her, but but moving into that situation was pretty intense. And just unusual. You know, I hadn’t experienced anything like that before, but she was contending with these voices constantly. And to try to build a relationship with with her was tricky because she had this other life that was dominating her. And as Julie moved in with three people living in the household, we had to negotiate relationships with each other. It wasn’t just a client housemate, it was housemate, housemate, client in a way that was, you know, for the health of all of us. But one of the things we noticed with Carly is that on Trash Day, she would take things out to the dumpster by the curb. That seemed to be a perfectly fine, valuable household items. And we were kind of like, well, what is this? And it took us a while to realize that actually the voices that Carly was hearing, they were telling her to to get rid of some of these things. There was a skateboard, there was silverware, there was a set of curtains and clothing. And, you know, Julie and I were like, well, these are perfectly good items. If she doesn’t want them, they could go to a thrift shop or somebody could use them. And it took us a while to understand that she was experiencing these command hallucinations, telling her to buy these things, put financial hardship on her family, but then to throw them away because she didn’t deserve them. In these voices and this experience she was having, her mind was pretty cruel and dominating. But the tricky part for for Julie and me in this is that our own value systems, where it’s like you don’t throw away good things, somebody has to use them so well, you know, we wanted to respect our client and her autonomy and her decisions. But this seemed crazy to us. So what we did a few times is on trash day one of us would stand guard in the household and one would go to the curb and go through the dumpster and pull out any household belongings that Carly had thrown away that were perfectly good with the idea that we would then hide them somewhere in the house and and take them to a thrift shop. Well, she did catch us at times and and it’s like, no, you can’t do this. You can’t do this. And and it took a while to understand that that this was a grave thing to her, that if she didn’t obey the voices that told her to get rid of her things, and we somehow interrupted that there was potential harm there. So we had to negotiate that like they were all these other forces in our client’s life that had power over her and how our sanity of no if you don’t want if you don’t want something you give it to somebody who can use it was just totally outside of her experience. It just illustrated that all the adaptations you have to make to a mind that’s very different than yours. [00:37:05][269.7]

Chuck: [00:37:08] So you were living in the house at times with more than one person? It sounds like there was other. Yes, other persons. [00:37:15][7.2]

Lori: [00:37:16] Yeah. And we Julie and I knew that these voices were all products and projections of her mind, but she experienced them as other people. And so we had to negotiate with her and all of these other presences in her head and try to come to some kind of sanity. [00:37:34][18.1]

Mike: [00:37:37] I really appreciate the story, Lori, and the articulation of how we as housemates need to approach our basic, views of normal and reassess everything. It’s just reminding me of the ways in which everything. Like, you know, what dirty dishes mean and then bedtime and the joining process. I think that was such a big part for me and my relationship with housemates that I lived with was, was joining what they were already doing as normal and slowly letting go of my own version. And maybe we meet somewhere in between. I think we talk about exchange. And we would have to literally exchange views or our experience of normal. And maybe they were all night and I was up during the day. You might just have a late night shift and sort of meet in the middle there, but it just felt like unique and flexible. On the Windhorse experience to meet a client who has come through one of our housemates as well as ourselves with a normal with a question mark so that we can actually be in relationship to where we’re at. [00:38:44][67.3]

Lori: [00:38:47] And if you question normal, how is there a slippery slope to you as a housemate sliding into a kind of extreme state that’s not healthy? It’s like, where’s that balance? [00:38:57][9.8]

Mike: [00:39:01] Yeah, I really rely on my team for that where I, in joining with my client, established an environment that wasn’t particularly safe or healthful, and it took the team to constantly edit and create system and relationships to redirect that, and make some clinical decisions that that weren’t up to me. [00:39:24][22.8]

Charlie: [00:39:26] I think one thing that is always true for me in being a housemate and the various times I’ve done it is how often it’s an opportunity for the housemates, for myself to learn and grow in general, that there are always, you know, circumstances and situations that provoke in me what my, you know, conditioned reactions could be. And to get an opportunity to really see that. To have these moments where this is again, the mutual recovery is something something here stands out like a lot of dirty dishes or we’re piling up. You know, these these sculptures was in one of my situations. And to see my desire for what I want or what I consider to be, you know, standard or normal or something like that, and to have the opportunity to gain insight into my own mind, my own way of looking at things and how doing so, if I’m successful, actually allows for a new relationship with the client or with the person I’m living with and or myself and and all kinds of different ways. So just that. [00:40:46][80.3]

Chuck: [00:40:47] So I think part of what you all are describing is, is an attunement questioning, a rigidity we can have about how one should live at the same time worrying what you’re describing. This person was spending a lot of time in states of mind that were pretty disconnected from consensus reality. And and so part of the role and part of the whole team’s object is to is to be inviting a person from possibly that kind of absorption and disconnection into a relationship and back into being more in sync with a way of functioning where they’re kind of a happier, healthier place realize those terms are really slippery themselves. But how did you experience the effect that you (Julie) had on her as far as inviting her into more relationship and connection and ordinary flow of life? [00:41:46][58.8]

Julie: [00:41:49] For me, it was a lot of kind of sticking with it and just continuing to show up. And I appreciate, Laurie, you mentioning like relating with someone who has a mind that is very different from yours. I had to keep remembering that because there would be these moments where, you know, a lot of the time she was absorbed, relating to the voices and not present. But then you never knew when that was going to shift. And I would experience that often if I did something for her, like make a meal, which was a normal part of my routine. I would be cooking something for myself or for anyone and sharing it or offering it. And she might say nothing to me directly the whole time. Until she finished and she would say, thank you, Julie. And so there would be these these moments where just continuing to do the ordinary things and being consistent and as stable as possible and sticking with it. And then that would happen. And it would surprise me because it would be out of the ordinary to be addressed directly. Her using my name and really seeing me and then me feeling that. But it would happen and it could happen at any time. So I started to feel like I just wanted to be. As ready for that as possible and as open to that as I could so that I could really receive her when it did happen and we made a connection. [00:43:30][100.5]

Chuck: [00:43:31] How long did you live with her? [00:43:32][1.1]

Julie: [00:43:34] I was there for seven months. [00:43:35][0.9]

Chuck: [00:43:35] seven months, and Lori, It was? [00:43:37][1.8]

Lori: [00:43:38] 18. [00:43:38][0.0]

Chuck: [00:43:39] Yeah. Yeah. [00:43:39][0.8]

Lori: [00:43:41] Because there was a there was at the point Julie left and another person came in for six months. And then about four months of just being there with Carly by myself. [00:43:51][10.2]

Chuck: [00:43:52] My experience as the team supervisor was that from the time she joined us, we formed a team till the end of it. There was a definite relaxation and more connection with people. And I think she also, even though it may not have been communicated a lot, I think there was something about her that felt how much you both, I guess, caring about her. There was something about the the way you each showed up in your own way caring for her, which I think helped her survive literally because it was pretty touch and go there for a while. And I think she really felt that. [00:44:31][38.8]

Mike: [00:44:32] I guess what I wanted to mention for the record is. This team that I also was a part of as a team counselor. Again, the role of time, you know that it’s not the same with every client and every relationship, but the ability for the team to change how many people lived in the household and what became shift activities and getting an opportunity to experience the cycles of non present voices for long periods of time and then present responses. It just took a lot of activity to start to gather relationship because there was such a narrow window of present centered interpersonal relationship going on. So it was a great team to utilize the awareness of the team over time. See to that relationship develop. [00:45:22][49.9]

Chuck: [00:45:25] Yeah. And she she went through that arc of time with us, which it must have been about 18 months. Sounds like work, because you were there the whole time and she was able to transition into a much lighter form of support. So. Julie, you have something more. You have another story. [00:45:41][16.1]

Julie: [00:45:42] Yeah. So Lori and I live together with our shared client, Carly, and. I am not sure how far into the relationship this started to happen. It wasn’t right away, so it definitely took a little time of having some rapport with her before I noticed this. But sometimes for my schedule shift times, particularly in the evening, this would happen. She didn’t necessarily want to hang out with me or talk to me or relate to me directly. She would be absorbed in her own world, coming in and out of her room, sort of doing her own thing. And at a certain point I thought, what if I just plant myself somewhere and I just stay there and let her come and go as she pleases? And so I started hanging out in the living room and I would play my guitar. And somewhere along the way, that was interesting. And it became one of the only things that would sort of draw her toward me. But she would still not really talk to me. She would pace and walk around, but slowly come closer and closer and closer, especially if I just sort of sat in my own space, if that makes sense. Like, if it was too intimate, it seemed like that could be kind of threatening, and then she would want to go right back to her room. But if I just sat there and I just played the guitar, it was like this gentle invitation. And she would slowly come closer to me and come closer to me and spend a little more time in the same room as me and even though we wouldn’t necessarily talk to me, that would feel so intimate because I knew it wasn’t easy for her. It wasn’t like the first thing she would think she wanted to do is come be in the space with me when she had a voice telling her to do something else. But then she would come through and hang out. And then it would feel more simple and ordinary. Yes. Something about music. And again, back to just being ordinary and being yourself and doing your own thing. And it was this invitation that I started to rely on, and I started to use that a lot. [00:48:09][146.9]

Mike: [00:48:11] Julie, thank you for reminding me of how much I gain from this role and that those subtle differences of working out. Letting go of expectations and sort of the same thing that you can be doing. You know, if you’re intending to draw her out as a different result than if you just relax into your own space and do what you’re doing. I remember this around the dishes in the sink, not on this team so much as my housemate at the time, where we would make an agreement at the team, the house meeting and and then it wouldn’t kind of follow through day to day. And so I would find myself back at the sink washing the same dish that wasn’t mine and and realizing over time that I could wash that dish out of contempt and like, this is not appropriate or wash that dish out of guilt and like feel like, oh, this is my job. I guess somebody’s got to do it. Or I could just wash, I could be in the water of the sink and like let go of that. And I’m doing the same thing. But I learn so much from those moments as a housemate because there’s sort of nothing to do except the dish is to learn how I’m doing it and what what his presence really means. So I just really appreciate the opportunity as a housemate to have no further clinical obligation because the team is there, but to really be present in the new environment. Your guitar playing story reminds me of that. [00:49:32][81.2]

Chuck: [00:49:34] What comes to mind for me is something that we’ve recognized this all along in the housemate role, and we didn’t have words for it when we first started doing this. You know, the neurobiology folks have been onto this now for some time, which is the presence of people tends to begin regulating each other. And if you have. People in relatively stable places that can work with more of the extremes of their mind. Like in that case, you know, worry you and Julie, that starts to slowly have an effect on regulating the system of the person you’re living with as well. And and I think music obviously is one of those kinds of things that the right kind of music can really draw somebody and really start setting a rhythm, so to speak. And and it’s a it’s a great example of this regulation of your affect on her and you all metabolizing sometimes for extremes of of hitting you as well. That’s no small thing in this role. How do you take care of yourself in that and but also in your taking care of it, you’re having a very strong, both conscious and unconscious presence. [00:50:48][73.8]

Silvan: [00:50:50] It just makes me think of part of the role of the housemates as, just really appreciating somebody for who they are, especially because, you know, in our society, like, I mean, you could be a very wealthy white male and still be a minority. You know, if you’re working with a mental health challenge or if you’re working with neurodiversity, you know, society still is, there’s a lot of prejudice around, you know, for people that have mental health challenges or who are neurodiverse. And so part of I think the role is just to just appreciate people for who they are, especially if they feel like they don’t fit into society or society is telling them they’re wrong, you know, to be able to. To counteract that and appreciate all the positive aspects about them because there’s always many and. I was thinking about the vicious piece that Mike brought up. You know, like he’s driving me nuts. That my. My roommate would leave food out that would just go bad. And I you know, it’s it’s like I can’t you just put the food away, you know? But but yeah, like, I’m I’m a I’m privileged coming from a place of neurological privilege. Like, my mind works in such a way that it’s easy for me to remember to put the food away. But, you know, my roommates mind, like, it’s very difficult for him to remember to do this kind of sequential steps and things. So yeah, I think we still have a long way to go even, you know, people who are therapists like us, a lot of people in this this talk about, you know, like the certain words we use, like I just said, that’s nuts. So that would drive me nuts. And there’s some kind of sense of like that that comes from crazy from people who are, quote, mentally stable or whatever. But I think in some ways, people who are deemed mentally stable or neurotypical kind of makes us feel better to to be able to be like, oh, well, we’re not I’m not crazy. I’m not nuts. I’m not, you know, and if we talk about people was saying, like, I’m providing a sane environment for the person, you know, or I’m saying then it’s we’re saying that the other person is insane. Right. And I think there’s you know, there’s a very fine line there around, you know, there’s something about like help making neurotypical people feel like they’re they’re okay with their own neurosis. Like we don’t have our own neuroses almost, you know. So I think I think we have a long way to go with language DJing and just really appreciating everyone for who they are, regardless of the challenges they may be working with in their own minds and their own psychology. But I think that was a big part of the role of the housemate, because my roommate, especially, I think all growing up through school and I think it’s family environment as well, you know, it was people were very frustrated with him because he couldn’t do things the way everybody else did them, you know, and everybody thought like, well, my main mind works this way. Like, what’s your problem? Like, you should be able to do this, this and this and this. His Mind just worked differently, you know? So being able to provide a space where it’s okay for his mind to work differently, you know, and we will figure out another way to get the food in the refrigerator. And sometimes some food will go bad. And that’s just how it is. Yeah, that’s that’s something he could really help necessarily. You know, just being able to really appreciate him for who he was, you know, is incredibly brilliant person. And I think those his strengths were not pointed out to him in school and maybe not so much in his family environment either. And so being able to to highlight some of those things, I think was just really helpful to combat some of that societal stigma. [00:54:47][237.9]

Chuck: [00:54:49] Thanks for bringing the stigma part here. The othering that is that goes on in the extreme state world is is so fierce and severe as far as how it affects a person’s sense of being and health and fitting in and do I deserve to be here? And there’s all kinds of things reinforcing self aggression and so on. When you first started talking, I was reminded of one of the principles of Windhorse, which is that no matter how confused the mind is become, recovery is possible. And whenever I say that or write it, it’s pretty easy to take that. That means, you know, like a person person’s an extreme state. That that’s can be a deadly place to be. And it’s our experience that people can come out of that. I’ve also done teams long enough to know, that teams get into extreme places and like really confused. I get into really confused, families do. So we all get into our places. And how do we invite each other to come back to. Just a place where we’re more gentle with ourselves in relationship with each other and making our lives work. It’s really easy to other like that and not remember that we have to work with our own minds. [00:56:09][79.4]

Silvan: [00:56:10] It’s just interesting that. You know how much prejudice there is against people who have mental health challenges. And yet the CDC says over 50% of people in the United States at some point in their lifetime will experience. You know what could be diagnosed as a mental health challenge? [00:56:31][20.8]

Chuck: [00:56:33] Yup. That’s not going down. [00:56:36][2.5]

Mike: [00:56:37] I guess I just want to mention what’s rolling around in the back of my mind is how much deep appreciation I have had for being in this in this role, in relationship with people who I’ve come to realize are often, regardless of the symptomology that arises out of it. Just very highly sensitive people, often in touch with higher state of being, a higher sensitivity level than I tend to access. But being in relationship with them reminds me of it in myself, and I recognize it as a great suffering because it hasn’t been fully integrated, and that’s what the team’s helping to do. But in the meantime, keeping that sensitivity, utilizing it, putting it back into a place that can serve. I’ve just had so much appreciation to be with roommates and my own exchange with a higher sensitivity than efficiency. Just honoring that, the way in which Windhorse allows again for the space of the housemate relationship to swim in that level of exchange and then not be responsible for cutting it off until it becomes. “bad food.”. [00:57:46][69.0]

Chuck: [00:57:49] Thank you all for sharing these stories. Those really conveyed how much variation there is in teams in how teams and households work and with the folks that come here to be with us as clients. [00:58:04][15.2]

Mike: [00:58:06] I just want to mention the again for for those listening who haven’t been hired to live with this, the ways in which think about it. But it’s an office, it’s a place of living. You know, it’s it’s an activity center. And so, you know, just being a housemate means a huge letting go of privacy and or control over your situation. And just you come downstairs in your bathrobe because you forgot it’s a team meeting and they’re in your living room. You’re in it together in a pretty vulnerable way. It’s actually takes way more energy to control the situation than to let go into it. And I think that’s pretty contagious to the clients we live with. So just want to congratulate the heroism of our housemates over the years. Like what you’re saying there reminds me, Laurie, of what you were bringing up about what drew like you what drew you to this role? It’s a really interesting question, I think, given how you’re really letting go of an awful lot of control of your living circumstances. [00:59:11][65.3]

Lori: [00:59:13] Well, I think to be a housemate, you have to have this rare combination of being internally stable. But in your own living circumstances and relationship circumstances kind of unmoored because you have to be able to move into a client’s house for like a six month period or so. It’s unusual that people are in those circumstances. Yeah. And you and as Mike said, I mean, you have to be willing this you’re part of a whole team. And you you are the one or two people who live with a client, but there’s a whole team. And in those team members come in on scheduled shifts and you have to, you know, allow the flow of that. And actually, I, I worried about that when I first became a housemate because I thought there’s going to be a lot of coming and going and I need a certain amount of private time. And I found that I really enjoyed various team members coming in. Of course, it was scheduled time. So you knew when you had downtime and time with others, but coming together around meals and things like that, I just really appreciated that. And new people to to talk to and engage with and I loved it. I mean, when I finished, I, it was nice to move into my own place again. But yeah, it was it was pretty amazing. [01:00:29][76.2]

[01:00:33] I like that you mentioned that the flow of people coming in and out of the house, Lori, because. The one of my I think, trepidation I had moving into the house is that it was the environment was very stark and it was it was kept that way on purpose for safety reasons. And I didn’t realize how until that point. I didn’t realize how attached I was to having art on the walls or having plants around or tchotchkes. I don’t know, you know, any different things in the space. We didn’t have that at all, but we did have were the people and that was, that was the life that was in the house constantly of people coming and going. And like Lori said, you knew you had the schedule, but the physical environment was seemingly barren and stark except for the people coming in and out. And that made all the difference for me. [01:01:29][55.7]

Silvan: [01:01:31] I’d also just like to comment on the willingness and the bravery of clients to let someone that you just barely know, you know, come live with you and support you and have all these different people coming into your life and and, you know, stretching yourself in a way to to not hide out so much of them. Oftentimes, that’s a pattern that that many people have. And so to be, yeah, let yourself be vulnerable and kind of exposed and available to this unique healing process. [01:02:05][34.2]

Lori: [01:02:08] Thank you. I was thinking about that, the courage it takes for the client to allow all these people into their home in their life. Could any of us do that? I don’t know that I could. [01:02:18][10.5]

Chuck: [01:02:21] That’s a really great point. Yes. One thing to note here for the housemate role, one of the first confusions that people will have when they hear about like, say, a client is inquiring about coming or the family is that they’re living with a psychotherapist? No, maybe that housemate does psychotherapy someplace else. But what we found was if a housemate gets too therapeutically ambitious, it drives everybody. It really drives everybody out of the house. It it’s not a good situation. So you have to have this combination of recognizing what will be useful and helpful for you and the other person as well as as part of the team. But to not engage like we’re going to do psychotherapy and all that kind of stuff. So just want to make sure that was part of this conversation. [01:03:07][46.5]

Mike: [01:03:08] I would definitely say that that’s a learning curve for the team to articulate it, to be a relationship with a housemate about because it comes up, everything comes up. So redirecting becomes a skill that you bring to the game. I do remember finding that some of our only relatable time was out on the porch at 10 p.m. over a cigarette and talking about their illness because that’s what was up and then they would sleep through their therapy appointment the next day. And it took me some time to realize my role. [01:03:39][31.3]

Chuck: [01:03:41] Yeah In the continuum of relationships on a team. There’s this therapist friend combination. We talk about where the at the more kind of professional end of the therapist friend relationships the of the team supervisor and the psychotherapist. And at the other end of the continuum, as housemates, the relationship is so much more eye to eye in a certain kind of living in the same household sense. And and there’s a whole lot of friendship involved in the situation that you are. I think it’s described really beautifully. Thank you all so much. This has been a real treat to to be here with you on and get these different lenses into the into the households of a Windhorse team feel really fortunate to be able to sit in here with you during this. So thank you. [01:04:28][47.8]

Lori: [01:04:31] Thank you [01:04:31][0.0]

Elysa: [01:04:47] Thank you for listening to Windhorse Journal Entry 82. Stay tuned for the next part of the series. Diving into basic attendance and the rules on Windhorse team. Our next conversation will be with a group of team counselors who will discuss their experiences and highlight how basic attendance weaved its way throughout. [01:05:04][17.1]

Lori: [01:05:54] Windhorse Journal is a publication of Windhorse Community Services supporting recovery from mental health challenges at home and in the community since 1981. [01:05:54][0.0]


Keywords: Home based psychological care, Buddhist psychology, contemplative psychotherapy, Mindfulness based therapy, Residential treatment, extreme mental states, major mental illness, schizophrenia, psychosis, mood disorder, Housemate, home based care, community mental health services.