John Herold, MA
Process-Oriented Facilitator

Founder and Director of Puget Sound Hearing Voices

Certified Hearing Voices Network Facilitator and Trainer

Recipient of an “Inspirational Person Award” by Intervoice:  The International Hearing Voices Network in August 2017

Master of Arts in Process Oriented Facilitation
Process Work Institute 2017

Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art (Ceramics) and Communication Studies
University of Puget Sound 1999

 

I am an internationally recognized facilitator, advocate, trainer and public speaker who is passionate about supporting the personal growth and healing of individuals, couples and groups. 

My skills are useful in many areas.  My primary focus of attention is working with people who live with feelings and experiences often labeled as abnormal, altered or extreme.  I also facilitate fluidity and awareness in individuals who live with large swings of energy and mood as well as unshared sensory experiences.  

I offer an alternative approach to traditional, mainstream attitudes toward “mental health” in that my orientation is completely non-pathologizing.  That is, I do not view unusual ways of experiencing, perceiving and expressing through the framework of “mental illness.”  Instead, I view out-of-ordinary states and emotions as potentially meaningful, as containing something important to be safely explored and thoughtfully integrated.

I have experienced altered and extreme states in my own life.  During a crisis in 2012 I was involuntarily held in a psychiatric hospital and diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  I know first hand what it is like to lose control.  I recognize that there were parts of my experience that were very important and meaningful.  I also now see there were parts that weren’t so useful or helpful.  I have taken psychiatric drugs and I have withdrawn from them too.  

I share these personal details because my journey through an extreme state of consciousness, psychiatric diagnosis and coercive drugging taught me a great deal.

At nearly every juncture in my journey I was deeply unsatisfied by the assumptions and methods used by mainstream mental health practitioners.  I never once felt well understood.  Instead of being met with a curious attitude, I had to defend my view that my experience was meaningful and worthy of exploration, not merely a “mental illness” that needed to go away.  

It would have been useful if my providers had their own personal lived experience with unusual states and had been hospitalized and labeled.  The fact they had never “been there” left me feeling hollow, unmet and profoundly distrustful.

I need no convincing that there is meaning and value in unusual states.  I am open and able to find meaning in words and behaviors that don’t appear to make sense to most people.  I have been there myself, and from my end, my behavior and thoughts made perfect sense metaphorically. 

As my demeanor became more and more unusual, initially I was confident my internal experience was meaningful and worthy of exploration.  To outsiders though, my behavior was alarming.  I stopped sleeping, held unusual beliefs and spoke very quickly.  For me personally, going to the hospital was a bit like falling off a cliff.  Suddenly I was viewed as mentally ill, as having a disease.  The labels and the drugs had a way of drowning out my own inner wonderings and hunches about what I had been through.  I was surprised by how easy it was to view myself as ill, to agree that any magic I experienced must be a sign of that illness.

Navigating the world of involuntary treatment and psychiatric diagnosis can be a bumpy ride.  It is a tremendous challenge to advocate for one’s self while getting bombarded by fearful messages about chemical imbalances and genetically inherited psychiatric conditions.  I know what a battle it can be to push back against practitioners who hold so much power, and whose training has locked them into a very narrow point of view.  I found this experience in my healing journey to be full of uncertainty.  At times it was isolating and intimidating.  But finding my power, making contact with my deepest dreaming and having the reality of my experience be honored and accepted were absolutely critical for my long term healing.

In my journey through emotional upheaval and extreme states, especially in the year following my hospitalization, I wish I’d had the help of a thoughtful and skillful facilitator who’d been through a similar experience.  I yearned for someone who could validate the reality of what I had been through, and who’d willingly accompany me as I grappled with my identity, memories and relationships.

The service I offer now is an attempt to provide for others what I so badly needed then.

It is important to note that I am not a behavioral health professional, licensed counselor, psychologist or doctor.  I don’t diagnose or treat “mental disorders” nor do I offer medical advice.

I am a Process-Oriented Facilitator combining my training in Process Work with my own lived experience to support the healing and growth in individuals, couples and families who are unsatisfied with assumptions made by the mental health system and who are looking for a different approach.  My lived experience and facilitation skills help me create a thoughtful, empathetic container for our work together.