Conference 2011

Challenging our Understanding of Psychosis

and Exploring Alternatives for Recovery

Thursday, November 3rd 

Friday November 4th, 2011

Hart House

7 Hart House Circle, University of Toronto, Toronto – Ontario



The conference provides a forum for an extraordinary group of writers, social psychiatrists, clinicians, researchers and activists to come together with an engaged and receptive audience for two days of  dissertation, discussion and debate. The conference will challenge and stir questions about the mainstream conception of psychosis and other forms of mental distress, and reflect on a broader conception with a deeper regard for the social, societal and environmental roots of psychosis. Even more important, the conference will focus on the transformative psychological work that is being done in the area of psychosis and recovery, and offer some compelling examples of recovery practices and approaches, some of which are informed by the lived experience of psychosis and the power of personal transformation.

The opening speaker, Robert Whitaker, will provide a journalistic overview of the problems attached to biomedical treatment and the psycho-pharmaceutical industry, specifically the alarming rise of medication use, drug dependency and the rise of disability, addressing what he terms as an ‘epidemic’. These are huge problems that must be confronted, and they are not just the purview of the mental health system. They pose a moral and health challenge for all of society. North Americans are among the highest per capita consumers of psychiatric drugs. One has to ask whether this is in any way a good thing, or a sign of progress. In the spirit of Robert Whitaker’s book, Anatomy of an Epidemic, we are asking “what is our critical response to increasing numbers of people on psychiatric medication and on ‘disability’; and, what are the alternative, social, practical and human responses to extreme states of distress that are helping people recover?”

All of our guests, experts by experience, by training, or both, will address these questions and challenges, and demonstrate the value of critical psychiatry/psychology in rethinking psychosis and in developing alternatives for recovery. Their workshops and presentations will offer a critique of the bio-medical conception of psychosis, and re-assert the role and value of psychology in treatment and personal transformation. They will provide a broad perspective on the human and social nature of psychosis, and seek recovery in the same terms through human understanding and social inclusion. They will pose alternative approaches that are trauma-informed, and that integrate psychology, mindfulness, spirituality, human rights/social justice and wellness. They will argue for a paradigm of care that seeks psychological healing, which is humanistic, compassionate and empowering. They will demonstrate that the best recovery work is about taking charge of one’s own psychology. In all of this, they will address the underpinning of recovery; as Bentall says, it depends on the ‘supportive relationship and kindness’.


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