National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy


A Different Kind of Understanding: A Qualitative Exploration of Psychotherapy and Psychosis

Alexandra L. Adame, Ph.D.


This presentation will provide an overview of the results of a qualitative study that focused on psychotherapists’ experiences of working with people struggling with psychosis. There is a diverse and growing body of literature exploring the lived experience of phenomena commonly referred to as psychosis and also the conglomeration of phenomena that is clinically referred to as schizophrenia. It goes without saying that there is a rich literature on psychotherapy and schizophrenia from traditions of psychoanalysis, object-relations, interpersonal, and phenomenology.  However, despite the past prominence of psychotherapy as a potentially valuable resource for people labeled with schizophrenia, there has been a marked shift in the past fifty years to a primary reliance on psychiatric modes of approaching these issues, at least in the United States.  Keeping with the notion that I believe it is important for psychologists to investigate the meanings and lived experiences of psychosis, the current project has focused on people’s first-hand experiences of the therapy process from both the client’s and therapist’s perspectives.  I interviewed a total of five therapists to learn about their understandings of the concept of psychosis, how they envision to process of psychotherapy, challenges they have faced, and motivations for doing the work, among many other topics.  I used the method of Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis to analyze the interviews and will present some of the main thematic findings in this presentation.  Additionally, I have interviewed four former clients who utilized psychotherapy and peer support about their experiences and will discuss some of the preliminary findings of the second half of the project in this presentation.    


Learning Objective 1: Participants will gain an understanding of various theoretical approaches to working with people experiencing psychosis from a psychological, non-medical perspective.

Learning Objective 2: Participants will be able to identity the challenges of this work from both the therapists’ and clients’ perspectives. 

Learning Objective 3: Participants will be aware of the innovative approaches to working with psychosis and schizophrenia such as the Open Dialogue and Hearing Voices approaches. 

Learning Objective 4: Participants will be able to identify specific approaches and qualities of the therapy relationship that can aid in the therapy process.  


Link to brief presenter bios:

 Alexandra L. Adame, Ph.D.


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