In order to help our clients get out of the social loop of ‘special needs’ we decided to focus on their own self-stigmitziation. From our perspective, our clients had been socialized into roles where they and others saw them as needing special treatment and accommodation. It seemed that almost every dimension of their lives was viewed as directly connected to their illness, as opposed to less ‘red-flagged’ dimensions such as social naiveté or ignorance. They ‘learned’ that everything was illness related and that unless addressed by medication, there was nothing to be done.
For instance, we were told that Bob, 43, and diagnosed with schizophrenia since aged 21, often failed to complete assigned tasks in one of the Old Navy warehouses. This bothered him because he missed out on the camaraderie and friendly competition in this very supportive environment. Yet he had made an uncomfortable peace with it because he reasoned that his medications were getting in the way.
Our occupational therapist however saw things differently. She saw that the problem was that Bob had failed to develop a system to sort and prioritize and then economize his energies. Without her having to go to the warehouse, she helped Bob develop a better way. No medication needed; just someone who was willing to look outside the narrow prism of illness. The result: a man amongst his peers.