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ISPS Webinars

Process Oriented Approaches to Altered and Extreme States of Consciousness, with John Herold

Process Work (also called Process Oriented Psychology) has an innovative and non-pathologizing view of altered and extreme states of consciousness. Rather than dismiss such states as mental illness — as something to be discarded — Process Work takes the position that such states contain something meaningful and important that is trying to emerge.

This workshop takes you on an aerial tour of key Process Work attitudes, concepts and vocabulary as they relate to out-of-ordinary states of mind. Viewers will get a sense of how to map “process structure” — what is familiar, what is emerging, and the barrier between the two. Practical skills are then discussed which you can use to understand and communicate with themes that emerge in altered states.

John draws from his training in Process Work, personal lived experience with out-of-ordinary states as well as his time as a psychiatric patient to offer a candid, funny, and educational presentation.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Psychosis Recovery: A Group Program

In this presentation Eric Morris provides an overview of the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) approach to supporting the recovery of people with psychosis. The trans-diagnostic and functional model of ACT targets common processes that can amplify the impact of psychosis. ACT normalises the experience of suffering, while also providing methods to create a flexible sense of self and a meaningful life in the face of unwanted or engrossing experiences. ACT offers a pathway to better psychological health and wellbeing through the cultivation of experiential openness, self-awareness, engagement in life, and self-compassion. Due to the emphasis on values-directed action and personal meaning ACT is consistent with personal recovery, and is highly acceptable by clients.

"Slow Psychiatry: A Way forward" with Sandra Steingard, M.D.

Dr. Steingard discusses the problems that have arisen from an overly medicalized approach to conceptualizing what falls under the label of psychiatric conditions. She then proposes a model in which psychiatry continues to assume an expert role in the use of psychoactive drugs but does so in a drug-centered rather than a disease-centered way. She explains the distinction between these approaches. She then discusses need-adapted approaches and outlines how psychiatry, using a drug-centered model, can work with people in distress, their families, and other clinicians in a more humane and democratic way.

Sandra Steingard, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer, Howard Center, Burlington, Vermont and Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University Of Vermont College of Medicine. For over 20 years her clinical practice has primarily included patients diagnosed with schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses.  

"Promoting Healing After Psychosis: Using Holotropic Breathwork"

Most current approaches to psychosis emphasize the suppression of those experiences, but in doing so prevent the person from working through the issues that instigated the psychotic experiences in the first place. In this presentation, Sean Blackwell and 2 people who have worked with him present a very different approach. Within a safe retreat setting, people are guided in using holotropic breathwork, moving into deeply healing experiences. Find out how this works, and hear from some of those who utilized this approach and come out healed, able now to create the lives they want without further need for drugs or other forms of suppression!

"Recovery-Oriented Cognitive Therapy: Resiliency, Recovery & Flourishing"

Paul M. Grant, Ph.D. and Ellen Inverso, Psy.D. discuss an approach they have helped to pioneer: recovery-oriented cognitive therapy (CT-R). CT-R is an empirically-supported treatment for people diagnosed with "serious mental illness" that operationalizes recovery and resiliency in a person-centered, strength-based way. The approach applies across the range of severity, and includes a way to understand the challenges (low energy, disorganization, grandiosity, hallucinations, aggression, self-injury, etc.) that can keep people from engaging and getting their desired life, along with strategies for action to promote that life to its fullest. Individuals can go from feeling defeated to flourishing, from chronic institutionalization to life in the community. There is a successful integration of adaptive beliefs and confidence that enables individuals to thrive in the life of their choosing.

This presentation focuses on theory and science supporting the model, the basic protocol, team-based approaches, as well as successful implementation in a large mental health system - all producing significant culture change. For additional information after you watch the webinar go to

"Psychosis: Key Psychoanalytic Concepts" with Danielle Knafo Ph.D.

In this presentation, Dr. Knafo explains key psychoanalytic concepts that help us to understand and treat psychosis or psychotic phenomena. These concepts include: regression, projective identification, psychic retreats, attacks on linking, islands of clarity, and finding meaning in symptoms. She emphasizes the discoveries, since Freud?s time, that have deepened the understanding of the psyche, allowing the attribution of meaning to symptomology, and permitting human encounters that initiate profound change through insight and communication.

Danielle Knafo, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, psychoanalyst, and professor in the clinical psychology doctoral program at LIU Post, where she chairs a specialty concentration on Serious Mental Illness. She is also faculty and supervisor at NYU?s Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. She is a popular speaker and a prolific author who has published seven books and dozens of articles on psychoanalysis, creativity, gender, psychosis, trauma, technology and perversion. She maintains a private practice in Manhattan and Great Neck, NY.

"Shamanic Spiritual Emergencies: The Dialectic of Distress and Spirituality" with Dr. Ingo Lambrecht

Throughout shamanic history, extreme states have been configured in relation to states of distress and spirituality. It is however not clear to what extent these states are separated, the same or if integration is at all possible.

This presentation explores the different positions possible when faced with psychotic distress and spirituality. It draws on Ingo?s experiences during his extensive shamanic training as a sangoma, a South African traditional healer, as well as his work as a clinical psychologist . It considers some indigenous and current models and interventions of spiritual emergencies, from a perspective well outside of materialism.

"Compassion for Voices: Science and Application" with Charles Heriot-Maitland

In 2015, Charles and his collaborators released a short film called "Compassion for Voices". Since then, the film has been widely viewed, translated into different languages, featured in TV documentaries, and has been frequently used as a resource for education, training, and therapy in mental health. But what is really going on in this film? What are the ideas behind it? What can we do with these ideas to actually improve our relationships to voices? In this talk, Charles explores the scientific understandings and research behind each aspect of the film, and then demonstrates how these can be translated into real-life practices, techniques, and experiences for voice-hearers. Some feedback from voice-hearers who have watched the film is also presented.

"Introduction to Dialogic Practice" with Mary Olson

Dialogic Practice emphasizes listening and responding to the whole person in a context rather than simply treating his or her symptoms. In psychiatric settings, this is accomplished primarily through a treatment meeting, or Open Dialogue. Arising from the influence of the philosophical writings of Mikhail Bakhtin on systemic family therapy, Dialogic Practice can also be effectively applied to more ordinary couple, group, and family therapy, as well as community work in schools.

This conversation, or dialogue, is not about the person, but is instead a way of being with the person and living through the situation together. Referred to as Withness Practices by Tom Andersen, M.D., this process mitigates the sense of isolation and distance that a crisis can produce and gives the person at the center of the dialogue greater voice and agency. Ultimately, this allows them to participate more meaningfully in both the conversation and the resulting decisions about their own lives.

After eliciting the persons point of view at the meeting outset, there is typically a back-and-forth exchange between this person and the therapists both to develop a more lucid way of expressing the situation and to create a shared language. The voice of each participant is then woven into this conversation to create a new fabric of meaning and engagement to which everyone contributes.

Mary Olson, PhD is an internationally-recognized leader in the development of Dialogic Practice. She is the founder of the Institute for Dialogic Practice in Haydenville, MA and is a faculty member of both UMass Medical School and the Smith College School for Social Work. She has written numerous articles and book chapters on Dialogic Practice, including The Key Elements of Dialogic Practice in Open Dialogue (2014, with Jaakko Seikkula & Doug Ziedonis), and maintains a private practice in Western Massachusetts.

"Madness and the Family: Practical Methods for Transforming Troubled Family Systems" with Paris Williams

It's well established that for many people who experience psychosis and other extreme states, childhood trauma and problematic family dynamics lie at the root of their distress. It's also clear that regardless of whether or not a person's psychosis is clearly rooted in problematic family dynamics, providing effective support for the person can be very difficult for caring family members. In this presentation, Dr Paris Williams will outline what he feels are some of the family dynamics that are so problematic, he will outline practical methods for developing more beneficial family and relational dynamics, and invite discussion around these themes.

"Supporting the Transition from Passivity to Agency in Recovery

In their presentation for this online meeting, Lewis Mehl-Madrona MD and Barbara Mainguy MA plan to "explore the interface and the movement between at least two different worlds in which people diagnosed with psychosis interact. First and dominant is the biomedical world in which the solution to virtually all of life's woes is to take a pill and not to make personal, relational, or lifestyle changes. Important to recognize, we believe, is that these beliefs are as prominent for medical illnesses as they are for the so-called psychiatric illnesses. Then comes the Recovery Community in which people work from passivity (the biomedical model) toward agency in which they can actively contribute and create their recovery.

"We want to suggest that most psychiatrists are so saturated in the passivity model that they do not recognize when patients present from the agency model. We suggest that the two models are more widespread than mental health and represent fundamental differences in approaching health and disease. We review some of our results in working within both worlds. Specifically, the people with whom we work within a Recovery model improve and those within the passive, biomedical model, do not."

Lewis and Barbara will be discussing what they have found may assist people in making this shift from passivity toward agency, especially telling stories of characters with agency to indirectly implant ideas of the possibility of agency. With patience, and with the practice of "radical acceptance," they have found that this can be very effective!

An Introduction to the Hearing Voices Network USA

The Hearing Voices Network (HVN) is over 25 years old and has chapters around the world in 26+ countries. It represents a partnership between individuals who hear voices or have other extreme or unusual experiences, professionals and allies in the community, all of whom are working together to change the assumptions made about these phenomenon and create supports, learning and healing opportunities for people across the country. Founded around the philosophy that those who hear voices, see visions and/or have other unusual experiences are not necessarily experiencing a symptom of illness, HVN groups create opportunities for people to discuss what happens for them in a non-judgmental environment that supports the process of making meaning and learning to walk through the world as a voice hearer. Spend an hour with Lisa Forestell and Marty Hadge, both voice hearers, as they introduce you to the history and values of the Hearing Voices movement. Perhaps, by the conclusion, youll want to get involved too!

About the presenters:

Lisa Forestell is a Director with the WMass Recovery Learning Community (RLC). She is a voice hearer, an HVN facilitator, train-the-trainer, and a member of HVN-USA Board of Directors dedicated to bringing HVN to the US. A staunch ally and peer to all those who choose their own life path regardless, in spite of and because of the obstacles they have faced. Marty Hadge after years of receiving traditional mental health treatment, including multiple psychiatric hospitalizations, has found meaning and value to the experience of hearing voices and other extreme states through the healing environment of the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community and Hearing Voice groups. Marty is a trainer for the HVN USA. He was a Key Note Speaker at 2113 Alternatives Conference and currently works as a Community Bridger for the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community.

Admitting Uncertainty about Illness and Reality": A Key Step Toward Dialogue with Ron Unger

When we are sure that the source of a persons experience is an illness, we are then led to see that experience as invalid, and our focus naturally shifts to attempts to suppress it. This helps us maintain our sense of having a grip on reality while the other person is then forced to choose between either insisting on the validity of their own experience (appearing to us as lacking insight into their illness) or joining with us in defining their own experience as invalid and in attempting to suppress it. Under these circumstances, true dialogue, in which our own experience meets the experience of the other, is impossible. It is only when we accept and communicate the uncertainty of our own position, and the uncertainty about what truly is illness, that we can engage people in conversations which are sufficiently non-polarized as to allow exploring options for mutual improved understanding and perhaps mutual recovery from our difficulties and misunderstandings.

In his presentation during this meeting Ron Unger will draw on ideas from the Hearing Voices Movement, CBT for psychosis, Open Dialogue, and from various spiritual traditions as well as personal stories and experiences in order to highlight the value of dialogues that transcend certainty, and to identify practical ways to do this even when talking with someone whose experience is extremely different, disturbing and/or apparently dangerous. We will explore ways use such dialogue to find positive value at times in psychotic experiences as well as to cope with distressing aspects. In the process of letting go of own certainty in this way, we can model for the person we are helping how they might let go a bit of their own certainty, allowing us to meet in a way that is squarely centered in our mutual fallible humanity, a great starting place!

Ann-Louise Silver on "Frieda Fromm-Reichmann and Her Current Relevance"

What can today's mental health workers learn from Frieda Fromm-Reichmann?

Fromm-Reichmannemphasized that psychotic communication contains meaning, that within every seemingly "hopelessly deranged person" there is a beleaguered ego. As the therapist persists in reaching out, and respects the patient and his or her struggle, communication gradually becomes clearer, and the persons special talents can flourish.

So how do we do all that?

One person highly qualified to share Fromm-Reichmann's insights into this process is Ann-Louise Silver, the presenter for this meeting.


Ann-Louise Silver, MD has specialized in the history and development of interpersonal psychoanalysis, studying the lives and works of Harry Stack Sullivan, Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, Harold Searles and others in the Baltimore-Washington area who contributed to this field and who were contributors to ISPS in its formative years. She worked for 25 years on the medical staff of the now-closed Chestnut Lodge Hospital. She organized its 1985 Symposium, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Frieda Fromm-Reichmann's arrival there. Among the presenters was Joanne Greenberg, author of the autobiographical novel, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, which inspired many of us to choose the work of its "Dr. Fried" for our own careers. Dr. Silver edited and contributed to the book growing from that symposium, Psychoanalysis and Psychosis. She is a Teaching Analyst at the Washington Center for Psychoanalysis and is on the faculty of the Washington School of Psychiatry, and the founder of the Columbia (Maryland) Academy for Psychodynamics. She was the founding President of ISPS-US, serving in that role for the organization's first decade. She is in the private practice of psychoanalysis and psychiatry. Visit her office through her website, - See more at:

"Responding to Extreme States with Loving Receptivity: Honoring the Spirit's Transformative Journey" with Cardum Harmon, Dina Tyler, and Michael Cornwall.

The Bay Area Mandala Projectis an alternative services planning and implementation group seeking to make really radical changes to how mental health services are provided. Their focus is on offering services that will allow people to minimize the use of psychiatric drugs while addressing trauma and community and spiritual issues. You can read about their innovative diversion system aimed at providing family members and their loved ones voluntary alternatives to hospitalization and/or long term dependence on other mental health treatment or psychiatric drugs here.

Cardum Harmon, Dina Tyler, Michael Cornwall, PhDare key members of the Mandala Project, and they will be the presenters for this meeting, which will address "Responding to Extreme States with Loving Receptivity: Honoring the Spirit's Transformative Journey" All three have lived experience of "psychosis" or "extreme states" as well as extensive exprerience helping others with those states.

In this meeting, they will share effective ways to be with people in intense spiritual experience by focusing on loving receptivity and the importance of honoring one's spiritual journey. We will explore the strategy of being with instead of "doing to", as an accessible tool for averting prolonged crisis and supporting healing. We will discuss a diversity of research on this topic, hear about the effects and impact of undergoing altered states with a spiritual component and learn how to support individuals as a strategy to counteract the stigma and the negative impacts such experiences can cause in the lives of individuals and their families.

Bertram Karon, on "Who Am I to Treat This Person?"

Bertram Karon speaks on the topic of "Who am I to treat this person? What it feels like to treat a 'seriously mentally ill' person."

For those of you who don't already know Bertram, he has extensive experience providing therapy for people diagnosed with schizophrenia and researching such therapy, and is co-author of the book "Psychotherapy of schizophrenia: The treatment of choice." You can read, or watch and listen, to a bit about Bertram and his perspective atthis link, or read an article which is available for free, "The Tragedy of Schizophrenia Without Psychotherapy.