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Making Meaning from Visions & Voices: How to Support People Through Altered States and Finding Solid Ground

  • Community Access Inc 17 Battery Place New York, NY, 10004 United States (map)

December 1st 2018

TIME: 10:00AM-4:00PM

In our current mental health system, being diagnosed with a ‘psychotic disorder’ or ‘schizophrenia’ is akin to a life sentence of medication and/or inpatient treatment. However, extreme and altered states of consciousness (experiences such as visions, trance states, unusual beliefs, altered realities, voice hearing, intense elation, etc.) have not always been pathologized and labeled as serious mental illnesses to be treated with intensive medical intervention. Altered states can be ecstatic, blissful, and peaceful; they can also be traumatic, disruptive, and frightening. Almost always, extreme states have the potential to be revolutionary, generative, and meaningful for individuals and mark profound effects for one’s life, well-being, and future.

Current treatments for what is often labeled ‘psychosis’ are invasive and often cause further harm and isolation to both the individual and their family. Although evidence-based support (including psychotherapy) for individuals who experience altered states are virtually non-existent in the U.S., early interventions do exist and have proven radically effective for supporting individuals in leading full and autonomous lives. Such interventions are generally delivered in community settings, and engaged both the family and social networks to address the experience holistically.

This session will introduce participants to alternative frameworks for understanding altered states and experiences often labeled 'psychosis' through the lens of lived experience and network-based therapies. We offer a variety of strategies for providers to support others through the often difficult process of navigating these experiences, engaging with the personal and cultural narratives attached to them, and the process of making meaning from these experiences.

We will explore:

  • Generative and non-pathologizing models, such as spiritual emergency, post-traumatic growth, and human potential

  • Strategies and tools for working with individuals who are experiencing altered states to help them feel safe, supported, autonomous, and capable of wellness.

  • The complex intersections of culture, race, history and mental health, as they intersect with altered states and the diagnostic categories of 'psychosis' and 'schizophrenia' 

  • Learning strategies for collaboratively navigating the cultural embeddedness of support, diagnosis, and explanatory frameworks used to describe altered states.

This class is part of a larger mental health continuing education course series:

Experience Transforms Practice:

A Course on Liberatory Mental Health Care