Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Montessori For Mental Illness

I attended a two day Montessori-based dementia training with the Center for Applied Research in Dementia with Dr. Cameron Camp this week. You can read about my initial thoughts here. As a result we will be using Montessori principles to help my Mom who has Lewy Body Dementia.

As I took the training I realized how much my Montessori education from Pre-K to eighth grade led me into ministry and my philosophy of life. Montessori is also what allowed me to be successful despite having bipolar disorder, anxiety, and ADD since I was six years old. Montessori showed me that I did not need to be defined by what I couldn't do. Instead, I learned to focus on what skills I have in order to function in the world. I learned that I was important and could contribute to society no matter what my limitations were.
Dr. Maria Montessori 1870-1952

I had forgotten though how many Montessori principles I can still use in order to help manage my mental illness. For instance, with the ADD I have a horrible time figuring out how to do certain tasks that seem to have so many steps that I get easily overwhelmed. In the Montessori method you break things down into simple steps. The teacher demonstrates how to do the task and you repeat what they did. You also have everything all set up in one spot with no distractions around the area you are working in. No wonder I have a hard time cooking dinner. Too many steps, all written out in a big chunk of words, needing to be completed on a tight timeframe. If I took the time to break the recipes down and rewrite them so they are easier for me to follow, I could make dinner much faster with a lot less stress.

Also, everything in Montessori has a place. When the kids use work, they know exactly where to put it back. I tend to be disorganized mostly because I don't have have a place for everything. Which is where someone to help me organize will be helpful. But then you need to keep everything organized. Again Montessori can help here. If you forget the steps to things like sorting papers and mail, then write out all the steps and put it in a visible place so you remember each time, until it becomes a habit.

Montessori also uses music to signify different times of the day. Some schools use a certain song to end the day or to let the kids know when to clean up for lunch. I have always used music as a way to signify a change in mood. For instance, if I am feeling anxious, I have certain music I listen to that calms me down. I have other songs I like to use when I am depressed or manic.

I have looked around for any place that uses Montessori in the treatment of mental illness, but all I found was work with kids. I would love to find a place that works with adults so if you know of anything, please let me know. I will be doing some more research and trying out ways to use Montessori to help with my treatment and I will keep you posted. Dr. Camp also introduced me to spaced retrieval which I think will work really well for mental illness so I will write about that in the future too.


Rev. Katie

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