Finding Meaning in “Madness”

When someone is “mad” or “psychotic,” should the people around them try to make sense of their experience and of what they are saying? Or should the person be taken to professionals who will listen only in order to diagnose and then prescribe treatments aimed at suppressing or eliminating experiences that are understood to be meaningless?

In the mainstream of mental health treatment in the US, the latter approach is dominant. But what does it mean to be “treated” by people who won’t try to understand you?

When I was a young man having experiences that were “extreme” and arguably quite “mad” or “psychotic,” one of my worst fears was that the people around me would give up on the idea of finding any significance in what I was communicating, and that they would decide to see it as something that simply couldn’t, or even shouldn’t, be understood.

Fortunately I always seemed to keep some contact with at least one person who saw some significance or meaning in what I had to share, and after awhile, I made more sense of it myself and had a better time communicating with others. Now I work as a therapist, helping others explore the significance of their own “mad” experiences.

I was recently interviewed on the topic of “Finding Meaning in Psychosis.” You can check out that interview here:

Thanks to Stacy Duffy for being the interviewer! Also thanks to everyone at Psychosis Summit who contributed to making this happen. (There are 20 additional interviews with a wide variety of perspectives and innovative approaches to psychosis at the Psychosis Summit website, https://www.psychosissummit.com/ )

About Ron Unger

I am a licensed clinical social worker and therapist who works with people diagnosed with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, using a respectful and skill building approach called cognitive therapy for psychosis. I also talk and teach seminars related to this approach. You can read more about me and about how I became interested in this field by going to my blog, recoveryfrompsychosis.org, and clicking on the tab "about Ron Unger."
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