From Body to Mind: Emotions and Art as Proto-languages

Dorothea Leicher, LCSW, NCPsyA, CCDP

ISPS-US 10th Annual Meeting, Rockville, MD 2009

The workshop is based on the clinical experience of the presenter, supported by research/theories from biology, psychology, philosophy and social work, and her realization that her experience of “truth” was based on aesthetic experiences.

This realization led the presenter to recognize the importance of economic criteria in aesthetics (cv. “elegantia”): Art emerges as medium to model energy and change in complex systems. This is necessary to prepare the organism for future outcomes and/or strategies to maximize positive outcomes. The presenter’s work in substance abuse relapse prevention led to these ideas. They also proved useful in work with depressive self-sabotage and repetition compulsion. While traditionally art has often seemed “immeasurable” , this workshop makes the argument that art has a very important mathematical function to orient us in a complex statistical environment: Good object relations protect us from Disraeli’s trap (“there are lies, damn lies and statistics”).

The workshop builds on the theory that language is rooted in gesture (which shares “movement” with “e-motion”). It shows parallels between our orientation in physical space and (sublimated) social, emotional or aesthetic “spaces”. Breakdowns, (e.g. how the ability to represent space can be functionally destroyed during acute psychotic phases) provide support for the validity of these links. Additionally, we review parallels in the organization of color, sound and sign-language to illustrate first abstractions as part of language development. The workshop outlines the role of kinesis in symbolization and the perception of “meaning” and extend to Fonagy’s research on factors fostering attachment. The importance of social relationships in the evaluation of “truth” and heuristic assessment of complex systems are discussed in the context of clinical repetition compulsion and our current social crisis.

The goal of the workshop is to show language evolving in a series of increasingly differentiated proto-languages. Effective communication (creating conviction) evolves as sampling and consistency evaluation of various of these proto-languages (with a side-note on hypnosis). Transference becomes a special subset in language development. This theory will lead to process-oriented techniques for client engagement which incorporate elements of hypnosis.

Note: We are in the process of migrating our audio and video recording of past conferences, and the free audio files will be posted here on the blog. They will be posted as presenters can be reached and give permission for their recordings to be posted. Remaining ones will be available for sale soon. Also check out our YouTube channel  for free videos. Other videos will be available for sale soon too.

-Karen Stern, Executive Director

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When Psychiatry Aggravates Psychosis by Focusing on Childhood Traumata and Ignoring Key Current Problems

Nathaniel Lehrman, MD

ISPS-US 10th Annual Meeting, Rockville, MD 2009

Current or recent traumatic experiences have long been recognized as major causes of psychosis, but it is widely maintained that one cannot  understand psychosis without exploring childhood traumata.  When that exploration diverts attention from important current situations, tragedy can follow.

Note: We are in the process of migrating our audio and video recording of past conferences, and the free audio files will be posted here on the blog. This is the first one. They will be posted as presenters can be reached and give permission for their recordings to be posted. Remaining ones will be available for sale soon. Also check out our YouTube channel  for free videos. Other videos will be available for sale soon too.

-Karen Stern, Executive Director

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Don’t forget to submit your proposal for the 17th Annual Meeting of ISPS-US.

Have you submitted your proposal yet? Now is the time!

The Call for Proposals is now open for the ISPS-US 17th Annual Meeting/Conference:
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Wholeness in Extreme States
November 9-11, 2018
Philadelphia, PA

 

Deadline for Proposals: May 21, 2018

More information about the Annual Meeting
Call for Proposals Requirements
Submit a Proposal
Examples of Learning Objectives
Hotel Information

As we gather together in this historic city of Philadelphia, we are aware that one of the central symbols of what is best in our country is the Liberty Bell, cracked and yet whole, stifled and yet resonant, emblematic of failure and of hope alike. When we look at the available resources for those who are struggling with psychosis and other anomalous experiences, we can both celebrate the supportive network of services, research and relationships that fill the spaces between us and bemoan the cracks in our communities and in our system of care, through which so many still fall.

In this, the ISPS-US 17th Annual Meeting, we welcome presentations that aim to fill the gaps — to bridge the divide between where we are now and where we need to go, to connect people with optimal services, to bring us closer to one another through empathy and wisdom, and to make the spaces between us more liberating and alive. Join ISPS-US for a weekend of inspiration, support, and possibility as we work to transform the cracks in our communities, our continuum of care, and our understanding into fertile spaces where hope can thrive. Philadelphia, here we come!

We welcome proposals for presentations, papers, panel discussions, and creative or alternative formats focused on psychological and social approaches to psychosis or extreme mental states. We encourage interactive and experiential formats. A variety of perspectives and topics are welcome and we are interested in representing a diversity of voices. All professional disciplines, experts by experience, and family members are encouraged to submit proposals. Please share your knowledge, experience, energy, and hope.

Keynote Speaker: Berta Britz, MSW, ACSW, CPS


Berta Britz offers consultation and training through Berta Britz Consulting. Recipient of the 2016 Intervoice Inspiration Award, Berta is on the board of HVN-USA. Her ministry, “Hearing Voices and Healing,” is under the care of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting. Berta uses the liberation she experienced in the International Hearing Voices community and in Montgomery County Hearing Voices Network Taking Back Our Power Hearing Voices Groups to inform her collaboration for understanding the experience of living and working with anomalous beliefs and voices and growing compassionate communities. Her deepest passion is for creating spaces that welcome young people growing into their fullest selves.

Honoree: Krista MacKinnon


Krista MacKinnon is the Director of Families Healing Together, an online resource for families struggling with emotional distress. After working in the mental health system for fifteen years Krista, who was also a patient herself, understands deeply that families deserve access to a community that supports a recovery mindset. Deeply fascinated by exploring the intersection of wisdom and technology, Krista leverages tools of the internet age to create an online community that both supports and inspires. Krista is a mom of three, a Canadian expatriate to Costa Rica and California, and a lifelong student of yoga and breathwork.

 

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Call for Proposals, ISPS-US Confererence: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Wholeness in Extreme States

The Call for Proposals is now open for the ISPS-US 17th Annual Meeting/Conference:
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Wholeness in Extreme States
November 9-11, 2018
Philadelphia, PA

Deadline for Proposals: May 21, 2018

More information about the Annual Meeting
Call for Proposals Requirements
Submit a Proposal
Examples of Learning Objectives
Hotel Information

As we gather together in this historic city of Philadelphia, we are aware that one of the central symbols of what is best in our country is the Liberty Bell, cracked and yet whole, stifled and yet resonant, emblematic of failure and of hope alike. When we look at the available resources for those who are struggling with psychosis and other anomalous experiences, we can both celebrate the supportive network of services, research and relationships that fill the spaces between us and bemoan the cracks in our communities and in our system of care, through which so many still fall.

In this, the ISPS-US 17th Annual Meeting, we welcome presentations that aim to fill the gaps — to bridge the divide between where we are now and where we need to go, to connect people with optimal services, to bring us closer to one another through empathy and wisdom, and to make the spaces between us more liberating and alive. Join ISPS-US for a weekend of inspiration, support, and possibility as we work to transform the cracks in our communities, our continuum of care, and our understanding into fertile spaces where hope can thrive. Philadelphia, here we come!

We welcome proposals for presentations, papers, panel discussions, and creative or alternative formats focused on psychological and social approaches to psychosis or extreme mental states. We encourage interactive and experiential formats. A variety of perspectives and topics are welcome and we are interested in representing a diversity of voices. All professional disciplines, experts by experience, and family members are encouraged to submit proposals. Please share your knowledge, experience, energy, and hope.

Keynote Speaker: Berta Britz, MSW, ACSW, CPS
Berta Britz offers consultation and training through Berta Britz Consulting. Recipient of the 2016 Intervoice Inspiration Award, Berta is on the board of HVN-USA. Her ministry, “Hearing Voices and Healing,” is under the care of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting. Berta uses the liberation she experienced in the International Hearing Voices community and in Montgomery County Hearing Voices Network Taking Back Our Power Hearing Voices Groups to inform her collaboration for understanding the experience of living and working with anomalous beliefs and voices and growing compassionate communities. Her deepest passion is for creating spaces that welcome young people growing into their fullest selves.

Honoree: Krista MacKinnon
Krista MacKinnon is the Director of Families Healing Together, an online resource for families struggling with emotional distress. After working in the mental health system for fifteen years Krista, who was also a patient herself, understands deeply that families deserve access to a community that supports a recovery mindset. Deeply fascinated by exploring the intersection of wisdom and technology, Krista leverages tools of the internet age to create an online community that both supports and inspires. Krista is a mom of three, a Canadian expatriate to Costa Rica and California, and a lifelong student of yoga and breathwork.

 

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Promoting Healing After Psychosis

What does it mean to heal after a psychotic episode? Is it just about trying to “get back to normality” and to suppress any further “psychosis” – or does something deeper need to happen?

In 1996, Sean Blackwell had his own experience of psychosis within an apparent bipolar episode, and it seemed obvious to him that the episode was an attempt by his psyche to accomplish something quite profound. Rather than being an illness, Sean has always considered his break-down as a critical break-through in his own personal development. In 2011, he authored the book “Am I Bipolar or Waking Up?” while also producing numerous YouTube videos which explore the connection between psychotic episodes and psychological transformation. This entire creative process has led Sean to speaking with hundreds of people who have experienced psychosis which they found to be somehow meaningful.

However, modern forms of treatment don’t provide much space for people to explore altered states to see what might be positive in them: instead, action is taken to bring people back to some simulation of “normality” as quickly as possible. Once that happens, most people are understandably frightened of going back into an altered state, which is likely to both disrupt their life and bring on more intrusive “treatment.” Unfortunately, this can lead to being stuck in a kind of limbo state, with the person’s psyche still struggling to transform, but with the conscious mind firmly opposed to any further dangerous disruption of stability.

For years, Sean wrestled with the question of how to help people complete their healing journey in a way that would be sufficiently safe. He eventually turned to Holotropic Breathwork, which is a powerful therapeutic process originally developed in the 1970’s by Dr. Stanislav Grof and his late wife, Christina. While breathwork facilitators certified by Grof Transpersonal Training generally avoid using this method with people who have had a history of psychosis, Sean has found that for many people with such histories, holotropic breathwork can be both very effective and reasonably safe, provided that it is performed in a highly secure, private retreat setting.

In a webinar that occurred on 3/2/18, Sean shared the details of his retreat program, with a focus on how modifications to the standard holotropic breathwork format have led to increasingly positive results. Two of Sean’s clients share their experiences of healing — their shift to living a life free of both psychotic symptoms and psychiatric medications. You can watch a recording of this presentation at

(For additional information, you may want to read this article from Moni Kettler which goes into detail regarding her initial healing process with Sean: https://www.madinamerica.com/2016/11/how-i-healed-bipolar-disorder/ )

 

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Working in the Orthodox Jewish Community: An Interview with Leah Rokeach, LCSW

This month I spoke with Leah Rokeach, LCSW a social worker in Brooklyn who works primarily with the Orthodox Jewish community. Leah is a long-time member of ISPS and holds the position of Secretary for the United States chapter. She is also highly active in our Membership Committee and with the Hearing Voices Network in New York City.

Tell me a little about yourself

I was brought up in Montreal, Canada. My father was an Orthodox (Chasidic)  Rabbi. I went to public school, because in those years in Montreal there were no Jewish religious schools for girls. I had a difficult time integrating both worlds, my religious background and the secular education.  However this laid the foundation for  being able to integrate the two worlds as I grew up and continued my secular education.

I am married to an Orthodox Rabbi from New York, who also had a secular education, graduated from college. He is an active Rabbi of a synagogue in Brooklyn, great writer of Talmudic topics, and very scholarly. I have a BA from Queens College and an MSW from Yeshiva University, Wurzweiler School of Social Work. I have my LCSW.

From 1985, close to twenty five years,I was the Assistant Director of the Adult Mental Health Services Program at Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services. This is a very large Social Work Agency in Brooklyn that provides services to the Orthodox Communities. It was during those years that my interest and passion for helping individuals with psychosis developed very strongly.  In 2009 I retired from Ohel, and decided that it was time for me to open my own private practice and pursue my passion for helping individuals with psychosis in that setting.

In my spare time I love the New York Philharmonic and try to get to Lincoln center whenever I have a chance. I am an exercise fan and go to the gym three to four times a week. I have three children who are married and have a few grandchildren whom I enjoy spending time with. My son is an attorney and a  partner of a prestigious law firm in New York City.

How did you first become interested in psychosis?

It is very interesting, I became interested in psychosis before I went to college and graduate school. After I married, my husband was a pulpit rabbi in a small town in PA. We settled there so he can also finish his college education at the nearby city which had a university. In my role as a Rabbi’s wife, I met many people and tried to help, did volunteer work, and “good deeds.”  I met a couple who had a 29 year old daughter diagnosed with “schizophrenia.” This young woman isolated herself, stayed home all the time, didn’t go anywhere, just looked out of a window, smoked cigarettes or slept. I took a liking to her and started to visit her. She only travelled with parents to a psychiatrist every 8 weeks. Of course he  gave a very poor prognosis.

At first, she totally ignored me, but I just couldn’t give up on her. I knew, what everyone knows, that connection with others is critical in life. One day, after about four months of visiting, she agreed to go for a walk to the park with me.  We developed a routine for going on a walk three to four times a week.  I knew she needed more to get her out of the house and into life, but I didn’t know how to do it.  The family seemed to give up on her, having the assumption that that this is her life and nothing will ever change.

This young woman, loved to paint and draw, but didn’t pick up a brush or pencil for 10 years. She had started college and hoped to to graduate with a BA in Fine Arts and to continue her education further along. However, her dreams were shattered when she developed psychosis in her first year at college. I did some research and discovered an arts instructor, half an hour away, in another town. It took a while to convince her parents and convince her, to just meet the instructor, who was very welcoming and warm. After their meeting, this young woman showed an interest in restarting  painting instruction, for the first time in 10 years. By the time my husband and I moved away, this young woman and her parents became more hopeful. They eventually moved to a larger city, where their daughter was given the opportunity to move on with her life.

This young woman made an impact in my life, paving the road to begin my professional career as a social worker.

What challenges do you think are specific to the Orthodox Jewish community?

The challenges are: fear of stigma, marginalization of persons with psychosis, and, most important, which is very specific to the Jewish Orthodox community, fear of not being able to marry off their children because of the stigma.  Marriage and raising a family is central to the Jewish Orthodox culture.     Psychosis possess a challenge to marriage and raising a family, because of the stigma,and other fears. However, the Jewish Orthodox community has become  more open. There are many Jewish Orthodox mental health professionals specializing in all aspects of mental health, many outpatient clinics serving the Orthodox community, and now many professional weekend trainings that start on Sundays to accommodate the Jewish Orthodox professionals. There is also now a new  OnTrack New York for Jewish Orthodox clients. But it still has not minimized the fear of stigma when it comes to marriage and raising a family!

For myself, the challenge as a Jewish Orthodox clinician is to always be mindful and careful of ensuring that I never say anything that might be contrary to my client’s religious life style. If I find myself in a position that is contrary to my Orthodox believes, I consult with a Rabbi who is a Torah authority. If my client has or brings up issues that I find questionable from a religious point of view, I will also consult with Rabbinic Authority. Most of my clients approve and give me their permission to do so.

What advice do you have for Orthodox people with psychosis and their family members?

Everything that I  learned since I joined ISPS-US, joined Hearing Voices NYC, all the many trainings I took, has been helpful for my professional growth, to understand better and to educate others, especially family members. I educate them about psychosis, instill hope of recovery and of finding the quality of life which they aspire to, even marriage. I share with them my experience of helping a few  couples, with various mental health issues, including psychosis, get married. I share with them stories, books, videos of individuals who recovered and moved on with their life. I share with them the research, information about how the effect of trauma and adverse experiences in someone’s life can develop into the symptom of psychosis. I gave a few  presentations to a group called Family and Friends for Mental Health that meets every months on various topic such as The Hearing Voices Network,  negative symptoms,  and living with voices.  I recently showed the film Healing Voices which was very well attended. I am planning to show the videos of the Family Plenary from the ISPS-US Portland  conference and the Expert by Experience videos.

However, in the Jewish Orthodox community there is still a strong belief in the medical model. Medication is most important to them. They always look for the “best ” psychiatrist who prescribe “best medications.”

How did you hear about ISPS and what made you want to join? 

In 2011 I met Brian Koehler at a Nefesh conference.  This is an organization of Jewish Orthodox mental health professionals. It has a large membership from all over the country, Europe and Israel. Brian gave a presentation which I attended, and at the end of his presentation I had some questions for him. I also remember telling him that I started my private practice in 2009 and felt I needed to know more about treating psychosis, not only use the Psychiatric Rehabilitation approach. He told me about ISPS, about their mission, and I decided to join. It was one of the best professional decision I have made.  Through ISPS-US I was introduces to the Hearing Voices Network, met Ron Coleman, and took a few trainings with him including “How to Start a Hearing Voices Group.”

I took the CBT for Psychosis training with Yulia Landa, took ACT and Compassion Focused training for Psychosis., and I recently took a course on EMDR and how it can be used for psychosis. My focus is to have knowledge and understanding of various psychological approaches that I can use to help people who are diagnosed with psychosis. My consultant is an ISPS-US member and we meet on a regular basis.

Can you tell us about your Hearing Voices groups?

I am very excited about the groups I co-facilitate. The Hearing Voices group for Orthodox men has been meeting regularly for the past two years twice a month. It also includes individuals who are experiencing unusual or extreme states of consciousness or beliefs. It is not a very large group, we have about five  regulars and another four or more individuals who don’t come on a regular basis. This group is non-judgmental, people are free to talk about their experience in any way they choose. There is also a group for Orthodox women, but it has not started officially yet, due to difficulties in finding space and time.  As of now, the plan is to start the group on Monday March 5th at 7pm to 8;00pm and we will meet  every second Monday.

What resources (books, websites, etc) do you find most helpful for learning more about psychosis?

There are so many books, articles websites that I use and continue to use.   Some of the first books that  I started to read was Bertram  Karon’s  Psychotherapy of Schizophrenia which I still reread; Psychosis as a Personal Crisis, edited by Marius Romme and Sandra Escher has been especially helpful  in starting my development to look at psychosis not from an illness or disease perspective, especially in regard to voice hearing.

Another important book that helped me  shift my thinking and understanding psychosis was Unshrinking Psychosis by John Watkins.

Other books include: Cognitive Therapy of Schizophrenia by David G. Kingdom and Douglas Turkington, Paul Chadwiwick’s  book Person-Based Therapy for Distressing Psychosis, Treating Psychosis by Douglas Turkington and other authors.

In terms of websites: Intervoice: The Hearing Voices Network, Dr. Rufus May, Ron Unger, and The Institute for Open Dialogue.

There are many more books and articles, too many to mention, that have been and continues to be very helpful in developing my competence as a therapist   helping people with psychosis.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, Leah! 

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New Online Hearing Voices Group For Families

 

 

From Hearing Voices USA: Since beginning in December 2016, our Online Hearing Voices Network groups have grown into powerful virtual communities of support.  We often receive emails from the family members of voice-hearers asking if they can observe meetings to get some insight into the experience of voice-hearing , how to cope or make meaning of it and the values of HVN.  While this is not something we can accommodate in the Monday group, it has inspired us to schedule an Online Forum specific for family.

This Online Forum will give family members the opportunity to ask questions of individuals who hear voices, see visions or navigate other alternate realities (who also have extensive experience supporting others with extreme states of mind or consciousness).  Participants are welcome to submit questions in advance.

WHO:   Family members of voice-hearers

WHEN: Wednesday, February 7th from 8:00PM-9:30PM Eastern Time

HOW:  Zoom teleconference platform (one click access from computer and option to download Zoom app onto SmartPhone)

For access code please email info@hearingvoicesusa.org

More info at www.hearingvoicesusa.org

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Videos from the November ISPS-US Conference

We had a great conference this past November in Portland Oregon!  In case you missed it, below are some links to a few of the presentations that got recorded and released onto YouTube.

You might want to start with the keynote presentation, “Sick or Gifted? Bridging the Connection Between Mental Health Issues and Spirituality” by Gogo Ekhaya Esima:

Here are the other presentations:

Developing and Implementing Radical Peer Support in Specialized Early Psychosis Programs, with Nev Jones, PhD & Sascha DuBrul, MSW

The EASA Model of Coordinated Specialty Care for Early Psychosis: Shared Experience Informing Recovery with Ryan Melton, PhD, LPC, ACS, Nybelle Caruso, Natalie Cohrs, Michael Haines & Michelle Roberts

Experts by Experience Plenary, a variety of personal stories and reflections, with
Casadi “Khaki” Marino, PhD, LCSW, Michael Haines, Denise Maratos, EdM & Jennifer Hanley, DNP

Families: A Vital Link to Recovery, with Pat Wright, MEd, Cynthia Rubin Brown, PsyD, MFT, Georgia Case, Anne Marie DiGiacomo, LCSW & Jason Jones

Intentional Intersectionality in Early Psychosis Program Development, with Melissa D. Weise, MSW, LICSW & Julie R. Bermant, RN, MSN, APRN

That’s only some of the cool stuff you can find on our YouTube channel!  We encourage you to subscribe to that channel, so you never miss the new videos that get posted there.

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From “Recovery” to “Transformation and Recovery”

Going mad involves breaking away from, or losing touch with, group norms and ideas about reality. This routinely leads many to even extreme levels of distress and disability, so I am among those who continue to think that promoting whatever might help people “recover” from this distress and disability is vitally important.

That’s why I get involved in projects like producing the the webinar,

that happened on 12/12/17. In this webinar, Paul Grant and Ellen Inverso present approaches they have researched and developed that can often help even severely “institutionalized” people return to an active “sane” life. If only more professionals could learn and practice these methods, we’d have many fewer people permanently disconnected from productive lives, or permanently alienated from society.

But is being productive and connected to the group norms of our society really the highest goal we should be talking about?

Continue reading

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The Need for Service-User Led Research on Psychotherapy: Re-Post from the TRP Collaborative

This blogpost is a repost of something I wrote for the TRP Collaborative, a new intiative started by Nev Jones, Ph.D. to increase service-user/stakeholder involvement in research on psychosis. The TRP Collaborative is a mix of people with lived experience, researchers, academics, activists, and clinicans (plus many members overlap in each catagory). The post I am sharing now is an opinion piece (from my perspective as a therapist) on the need to increase service-user involvement in the development of psychotheraputic practices and techniques in the treatment of psychosis. Check it out and also be sure to visit the TRP Collaborative website for other interesting blog posts on participatory research.

THE  NEED  FOR  SERVICE-USER  LED  RESEARCH  ON PSYCHOTHERAPEUTIC  PRACTICE  &  TECHNIQUE:  A PSYCHOTHERAPIST’S   PERSPECTIVE   

During the early days of psychotherapy, a clinician’s understanding of the therapeutic process was closely associated with personal experience. With the influence of psychoanalysis came an expectation that clinicians should undertake their own therapy. You had to be a patient in order to be a therapist, and it was assumed that you could not adequately understand the psychotherapeutic process without first having been a patient yourself. In this way, knowledge about treatment was primarily derived from a lived-experience perspective. Although it is easy to eschew psychoanalysis for reductive or distancing language (at least in its more classical iterations), it should not be forgotten that the psychoanalytic approach has always been grounded within a framework that sought not differentiate between oneself and one’s patients. All were seen as prone to the same intrapsychic conflict(s) and “common unhappiness” (Freud, 1895).

With institutional pressures forcing the pursuit of “evidence-based” research to determine psychotherapeutic “efficacy,” a radical shift has occurred— no longer is the scientist’s subjective experience considered worthy of serious attention. Instead, research is thought legitimate only when one upholds a (seemingly) objective stance. In turn, the individual participants or “stake-holders” of psychotherapy treatments are no longer active participants within the research and development of therapies. Instead, research is conducted primarily by outside observers and based on targeted outcomes created by third-parties. Although there has been some shift in in recent years, for example, with research into peer-support groups such as the Hearing Voices Network, the extent to which the experience of service-users now influences clinical practice is limited. When participating in research, peer perspectives are often ‘justified’ through a clinical framework, as opposed to clinical frameworks being influenced (or justified) by peer perspectives.

My interest in the TRP Collaborative is to bring back the role of stake-holders/service-users in the development of psychotherapeutic treatments/approaches. As a clinical psychology trainee and therapist, I am particularly interested in how therapy is experienced by those who attend it; what their ideas are for how we can improve it; and what outcomes they personally find meaningful. The TRP Collaborative is one place where this type of dialogue can begin to develop. Together, I look forward to seeing what shifts we can bring to psychotherapy research and practice.

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