1993-06-10 00:00:00

An institution started by a Jesuit counselor in southern India has successfully combined Indian traditional practices with modern psychology to treat schizophrenia.

The "Atma Shakti Vidyalaya" (ASV, power of the soul school) in Bangalore, some 2,020 kilometers south of New Delhi, attracts patients even from abroad.

The institute has so far helped some 100 people overcome their psychotic disorders -- distortions in perception of self, others and surroundings.

Started by Canadian Jesuit Father Henry Patrick Nun in 1979, ASV is among a few centers in Asia that treat schizophrenics in the "Schiff School of Reparenting Technique" (SSRT).

ASV uses a therapy based on transactional analysis, behavior modification, reparenting techniques, programs for relieving body tensions, yoga and "pranayama" (breathing) techniques and work therapy, says Father Nun, who is popularly known as Father Hank.

Father Hank was impressed by SSRT, a brainchild of Jacqi Schiff, a social worker in the United States. In early 1960s Schiff took a schizophrenic boy into her family and found in him a childlike simplicity and a desperate need for parenting. She brought more patients to treat them within the family, which marked the birth of SSRT.

Schiff proved that the family setting helped patients adapt and behave in socially acceptable ways.

ASV is a registered society and initially treated 25 patients, including a few Europeans. Its 13-member staff include psychologists and therapists.

Some 50 patients, mostly Indians from different backgrounds, are now being treated at the center. Only patients under 30 years old with a demonstrated desire to get better are admitted.

"We should be open and prepared to accept people with emotional problems. We can help remove their stigma by acceptance, affection and a firm and demanding love," Father Hank told UCA News. People must trust the patients can be responsible for their own feelings, duties and behavior, he said.

The early stages of treatment include "gradual weaning away from medication, teaching patients to think clearly, accept caretaking from others and relating to simple reality situations."

After this, the patient is encouraged to decide on treatment goals and means. This helps them to be responsible and involved in therapeutic the process. Father Hank said ASV is open to all and "functions as a family unit."

The staff said they believe their wards can return to normal life with a minimum of medication, if they feel loved. "If a patient is allowed to be responsible, we notice definite changes for the better," said a staff member.

A self-supporting institution, ASV charges a monthly fee of US$50-100 from patients. They also receive occasional donations from government, social organizations and individuals in the country.

Among ASV´s future plans are the training of people in psychotherapeutic techniques and expansion of the outpatient program.

"My ambition is to train these people and make them a symbol of holistic health by developing spirituality and creativity within the community," said a trainer.


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