Caring for a Person Who Is Having Hallucinations


Todd Belok

Todd Belok serves as a mental health technician at the Episcopal Campus of Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia. There, Todd Belok cares for patients with a variety of mental illnesses, addressing symptoms that include hallucinations.

A hallucination is present when a person experiences something with one or more of the senses, yet no one else can validate or share the experience. Hallucinations may involve any of the five senses, though the most common are auditory. Common in schizophrenia, psychotic depression, and certain other mental illnesses, hallucinations may also result from a fever or other physical ailment.

The most important factor in treating a hallucination is the determination of its root cause, although it is also important to care for the person’s distress in the moment. Empathy is crucial, as the person who is hallucinating may not be able to tell the hallucination from reality. Without either engaging with the hallucination or attempting to convince the patient of its fictitiousness, the caregiver can acknowledge that the patient is upset or anxious.

Hallucinations can be distracting, so the caregiver must keep communications simple. Depending on the patient’s level of awareness, the caregiver can invite him or her to talk about the experience and ask if anything might help. If the patient does not know how to soothe or help himself or herself, the caregiver may suggest a distraction, such as music or television.

Once the patient is calm and safe, the caregiver can talk to other members of the treatment team to see if medication or other elements of the care plan require adjustment. In the meanwhile, it may be important for the caregiver to monitor physical health and response to treatment, depending on his or her role within the care team.


Talking to a Person with Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia pic

With a master’s in biomedical science, Todd Belok currently serves as a mental health technician at Temple University Hospital – Episcopal Campus in Philadelphia. In this role, Todd Belok works with patients diagnosed with serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.

Talking with a person who has schizophrenia requires both patience and compassion. The disorder causes an altered perception of reality that can be difficult for people with normal cognition to understand. The most important thing is to try to understand the person’s perceptions of the world and accept that whatever they are experiencing is real to them.

Individuals with schizophrenia often find it reassuring when a conversation partner repeats back what they have said and validates their experience of the situation. It is important not to argue with their beliefs but rather to consistently reassure them that they are safe and cared for. If possible, caregivers can remove the individual from a situation perceived as frightening, giving simple and straightforward directions if necessary.

Caregiver can offer to talk or provide help, but they should know that the individual may be suspicious or jumpy. To appear more trustworthy, caregivers can give the individual plenty of space and explain their actions in advance. A simple preparatory statement, such as “I’m going to pull this chair over,” can help to reduce fear and affirm a sense of safety.

NREMT’s Team of EMS Providers


National Registration of Emergency Medical Technicians pic
National Registration of Emergency Medical Technicians

During his undergraduate studies, Todd Belok took up pre-med courses apart from his degree major. This led Todd Belok to a career in emergency medical services, specifically as a licensed emergency medical technician. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians or NREMT is the certification agency that authorizes the practice of EMS providers.

EMS providers, namely Emergency Medical Responders, Emergency Medical Technicians, Advanced Emergency Medical Technicians, and paramedics, each provides specific levels of medical assistance. An Emergency Medical Responder initiates basic lifesaving interventions during the absence of higher level staff. Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) have more training than the responders, and they can provide medical assistance with the use of basic equipment.

Advanced Emergency Medical Technicians provide some advanced medical care for critical patients. With the assistance of responders and EMTs, they lead the safe transport of the patient to the medical facility. Paramedics intervene during critical situations to provide comprehensive medical assistance.

Individuals who want to become a part of NREMT’s team of EMS providers are encouraged to undergo further training to be certified.

National Organization Supports Efforts of Emergency Professionals

National Registration of Emergency Medical Technicians pic
National Registration of Emergency Medical Technicians

A mental health professional who previously worked with the Children’s National Medical Center and the Psychiatric Institute of Washington, Todd Belok currently serves as a mental health technician at Episcopal Hospital Public. As a registered EMT, Todd Belok maintains membership in organizations such as the National Registration of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT).

Established in 1970 in response to President Lyndon Johnson’s recommendation for a national certification agency to provide uniform standards for emergency personnel, the NREMT continues to assist Emergency Medical Services (EMS) professionals. In many cases, states require that EMS-certified professionals also maintain certification with the NREMT, strengthening the relationship between the two.

EMS professionals include the dispatchers who answer calls to 911 and help identify the callers’ needs prior to sending out trained first responders, paramedics, or other personnel. These professionals may belong to local ambulance services, fire departments, or government programs. In addition, they may volunteer or receive payment for their services. Regardless of the status of EMS personnel, however, NREMT advocates for every citizen to support them in their work. The organization also encourages those who can to get involved in EMS.

About Catatonia and Catatonic Depression

Catatonic Depression pic
Catatonic Depression

Todd Belok serves as a mental health technician at the Episcopal campus of Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia. There, Todd Belok supports the daily care of patients with catatonia and other symptoms of severe mental illness.

Once defined as a single disorder in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, catatonic depression now exists as a subset of depression with the features of catatonia. Those with the condition often suffer from the mood disturbances of depression as well as an intense mental stupor. Believed to stem from a disturbed balance of neurotransmitters in the brain, this stupor manifests with immobility as well as motor and speech disturbances.

Individuals with catatonia may stay very still for long periods of time. They may hold a particular pose for hours or may take the same length of time to perform a simple movement, such as sitting up from a reclining position. Some individuals with catatonia resist passive movement by another, while others will allow others to sculpt them like statues.

Some patients can and do move themselves, but their movements appear out of context to the situation. They may engage in stereotypical movements or simply do exactly what another person asks of them, or their movements may appear automatic. In some cases, patients reflexively grasp the hand of another person as an infant might.

Many cases of catatonia co-present with an absence of speech, while others feature repetitive, monotonous, or mimicked speech. Sometimes, the person can speak, though fear makes the individual unable to demonstrate this ability. These and other symptoms of catatonia often resolve with benziodiazepine treatment, antipsychotics, or another professionally administered psychiatric regimen.

Talking to Someone with Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia pic

As a mental health technician at Temple University Hospital’s Episcopal campus, Todd Belok plays a key role in caring for individuals with psychiatric illnesses. Having served in this and similar roles for more than five years, Todd Belok has built in-depth experience in working with patients who have schizophrenia diagnoses.

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that interferes with an individual’s ability to relate to reality as others perceive it. Those with the condition typically experience hallucinations, delusions, and other symptoms of psychosis, as well as disturbed speech and emotional expression. People with schizophrenia often speak in a way that appears nonsensical and have trouble sustaining a logical train of thought, and this symptom set can make communication a challenge.

Family members, friends, and caregivers of persons with schizophrenia must be patient in attempting to have a conversation. Simple and straightforward sentences often help, but speakers must be cautious to retain a respectful tone and avoid condescension.

It is equally important to avoid arguing with the individual or challenging the validity of his or her delusions, as this is likely to increase rather than mitigate agitation. Instead, it’s better to express empathy for felt distress and reassure the patient of supportive presence. The patient may also appreciate help in getting away from the source of fear and into a quiet place where fewer distractions can be calming to the mind.