In the past five years, there has been a dramatic explosion of interest in the Open Dialogue Therapy practiced in Tornio, Finland. It is a humanistic “treatment” that has produced five-year outcomes for psychotic patients that are, by far, the best in the developed world, and there are now groups in the United States, Europe and beyond that are seeking to “import” this care. However, the challenges for doing so are many and, last month, Open Dialogue UK - on the occasion of the first-ever fully recognized Open Dialogue training outside of Tornio - organized a conference in London to hold an open dialogue about Open Dialogue.
When people are “mad,” they are often insisting that certain things are so, and frequently seem unwilling or incapable of appreciating or learning from other perspectives. Yet when the supposedly “sane” mental health system approaches those who are mad, it typically does the same thing – it insists that its own view of what’s going on is correct, and seems incapable of appreciating or learning from others, whether they be the patient, the family, former users of services, or anyone who understands madness in a different way.
Last year, eleven years after the suicide of Dan Markingson in a University of Minnesota drug study, external investigations found evidence of coerced study recruitment, troubling conflicts of interest, shoddy scientific review, deep mistrust of U leaders, and a climate of fear and intimidation in the Psychiatry Department. U leaders solemnly promised the people of Minnesota that they were finally going to clean up the mess. Last week, yet another investigation found that nothing has changed.
Families are often very important for people encountering severe mental and emotional difficulties. But how can family members really know what is helpful, and what is likely to make things worse for the person having problems? Similarly, for those who want to help families, how can they know what will really be helpful for those families, and what will make things worse?
In this month’s issue of Psychological Medicine, researchers from King’s College London found evidence for associations between different types of childhood adversity and specific symptoms associated with psychosis. As current categorical approaches to psychosis and schizophrenia diagnoses come under increasing scrutiny, this study adds support to sociological and psychological theories and treatments.
For MinnPost, Susan Perry discusses the late singer-songwriter and actor David Bowie and his experiences with psychosis. She highlights the work of psychologist Vaughan Bell, who details how Bowie’s family history of psychosis is reflected in his work, and Stephanie Pappas, explaining “why Bowie’s positive expression of nonconformity has helped so many people who feel like misfits.”
Readers respond to the New York Times article, “The Treatment of Choice,” about innovative programs for psychosis and schizophrenia that involve patients and their families in treatment decisions. “Narratives of success counter a drumbeat of faulty links of mental illness and violence, inaccuracies which serve only to further stigmatize and isolate individuals with psychiatric illness.”
When former NIMH chief Dr. Thomas Insel speaks, people listen. Dr. Insel famously criticized the DSM a couple of years ago for its lack of reliability. He notably broke ranks with the APA by saying there were no bio-markers, blood tests, genetic tests or imaging tests that could verify or establish a DSM diagnosis of schizophrenia, bipolar or schizoaffective disorder. However in a new article he announces research that claims to have found bona-fide physiological markers that identify specific "biotypes" of psychosis. This system could, purportedly, identify a person as possessing a specific biotype of psychosis, instead of a DSM-category diagnosis.
We are profoundly social beings living not as isolated individuals but as integral members of interdependent social systems—our nuclear family system, and the broader social systems of extended family, peers, our community and the broader society. Therefore, psychosis and other forms of human distress often deemed “mental illness” are best seen not so much as something intrinsically “wrong” or “diseased” within the particular individual who is most exhibiting that distress, but rather as systemic problems that are merely being channeled through this individual.
In Part One of this article series, we reviewed the contemporary research into the links between psychosis, problematic family dynamics, and other forms of childhood trauma. After reviewing this research, we find that a very interesting and important question emerges: What do all of these have in common? In other words, is there some common denominator that all of these types of trauma and patterns of problematic family dynamics share, a single underlying factor that makes someone particularly vulnerable to experiencing a psychotic crisis? Indeed, I believe that there is.
Researchers recently completed a first of its kind, large-scale international survey of attitudes about mental health and they were surprised by the results. According to their analysis published in this month’s issue of the Journal of Affective Disorders, people in developed countries, like the United States, are more likely to assume that ‘mental illnesses’ are similar to physical illnesses and biological or genetic in origin, but they are also much less likely to think that individuals can overcome these challenges and recover
I was a psychiatrist who participated in the Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode Early Treatment Program (RAISE ETP). Although I welcomed the positive headlines that heralded the study's results, the reports left me with mixed feelings. What happened to render the notion that talking to people about their experiences and helping them find jobs or go back to school is something novel?
Many people are now familiar with the BPS report, Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia, and they have appreciated how it integrates both science and a humanistic understanding to convey a fresh and progressive approach to difficult and extreme experiences. But it has come under attack by psychiatrists, using arguments that are often quite slick, and sound reasonable to the uninformed. But they are wrong, and the better we can articulate how and why they are wrong, the better we can advocate for a more humane and skillful response to people having the experiences that are called “psychosis.”
Results of a large government-funded study call into question current drug heavy approaches to treating people diagnosed with schizophrenia. The study, which the New York Times called “by far the most rigorous trial to date conducted in the United States,” found that patients who received smaller doses of antipsychotic drugs with individual talk therapy, family training, and support for employment and education had a greater reduction in symptoms as well as increases in quality of life, and participation in work and school than those receiving the current standard of care.
That was the emphatic response from my grad school psychopathology professor 35 years ago, after I'd stated in her class that anyone could become psychotic given sufficient life stressors, losses and trauma. How many current mental health professionals, especially psychiatrists, also believe they have such strong egos that they never could experience extreme states?
When I was twenty-eight, I had what is commonly referred to as a “psychotic break.” It was nothing like what I would’ve imagined, given the cultural stereotypes. It was not in the least nonsensical. There was an exacting inner logic and meaning. Twenty-two years later, I continue to believe in the harrowing greatness of what my younger self went through.
Individuals diagnosed with psychotic disorders have an earlier onset of psychosis if they have previously been exposed to prescription stimulants, according to new research currently in press in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.
New data on the effects of social support after early onset of psychosis suggests that patients with intense social support function better than those without such help, but than once supports are removed the effects diminish.
On a beautiful Vermont summer week-end, about 40 people – social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, administrators, and people with lived experience among us – gathered together. Our purpose: To come together and model what many of us had experienced in Europe at the International Meetings for the Treatment of Psychosis.
It’s now widely known that a good relationship between helper and person to be helped is one of the very most important factors determining the outcome from many different types of mental health treatment. But when people are in an extreme state such as the kind we call “psychosis,” forming a good relationship is not an easy thing to do. And unfortunately, the typical interaction between professionals and clients seen as psychotic in our current mental health system has characteristics which make a positive human relationship almost impossible.
Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT has been pretty heavily criticized by a number of Mad in America (MIA) bloggers and commenters in the past few years. In a way that isn’t surprising, because most MIA bloggers are looking for radical change, and CBT often appears to be part of the establishment, especially within the therapy world. But while I’m all for criticizing what’s wrong with CBT, especially with bad CBT, I think there’s also a danger in getting so caught up in pointing out real or imagined flaws that we fail to notice where CBT can be part of the solution, helping us move toward more humanistic and effective methods of helping.
I frequently get asked by people on the internet whether or not I think their therapist is good. For a variety of reasons, I usually do not feel comfortable answering them directly. However, I do feel comfortable writing about the subject here, as a sort of amalgamated response. As such, here are some questions I might ask such people, and here is how I might respond to their answers.
I've previously written about the possible role of compassion focused therapy in helping people relate better to problematic voices, in my posts Could compassionate self talk replace hostile voices?, Feed Your Demons!, and A Paradox: Is Our System for Responding to Threats Itself a Threat? I'm happy to see more interest being taken in this kind of approach, and a video has just become available which, in 5 minutes, very coherently explains how a compassion focused approach can completely transform a person's relationship with their voices and so transform the person's life!