United State

The ISPS-US 19th Annual Meeting

Love + Justice in Engaging Psychosis and Extreme States

Our Annual Meeting will be online, October 23-25, 2020.

Register by October 23.

Conference Links

About the Meeting

Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted. – MLK, Jr.

The socioeconomic and political landscape in the United States determines healthcare access and delivery. Vastly imperfect and fragmented medical, legal and social service systems impact how we care, and don't care, for people experiencing psychosis and extreme states. With the basic human needs of millions unmet, with jails and prisons the default mental health treatment providers for thousands, and with divisive public rhetoric and policies leading many of us to check out, numb and exhausted, the possibilities for meaningful change can seem more elusive than ever.

The 19th Annual Meeting of ISPS-US will convene a diversity of ideas, perspectives, and approaches that inspire a way forward and unite us in our commitment to continue challenging the status quo. From innovative models of mental health treatment developed across borders, to collaborations aimed at removing systemic barriers, to common-sense ideas hiding in plain sight, ISPS-US will showcase how care and recovery are alive and well, often in unexpected places. Celebrating this compassionate and effective work, and refusing to adjust to the unconscionable, is our mandate for the conference.

Planned in the southern United States for the first time, in the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement, ISPS-US will bring together a vibrant community of researchers, clinicians, peer support specialists, and deep-thinkers, including people with lived experience and their families and allies, to share our hopes and visions for the new decade. Martin Luther King, Jr. said "the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice", and "hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that" In this spirit, we reaffirm our belief that healing, recovery, and transformation, so urgently needed, are indeed possible and are happening every day. Please join us for this inspiring event.


Keynote Speaker: Chacku Mathai

The Role of Love, Psychosis and Other Extreme States in Undoing Racism

Even in the pursuit of social justice and liberation in our communities, we remain at risk of recreating the qualities of society that outraged us in the first place. How do we avoid the trap of unconsciously carrying the conditions of racism, white supremacy, and psychiatric oppression into our vision and construction of a liberated society? Embracing what we already know about the qualities of love, compassion, empathy, and respect is a good place to start. We must do more, for example, to demonstrate the transformative shift from traditional stances of therapeutic neutrality to the more engaged and liberating practices of restoring personhood and social justice for individuals and families.

Yet, this, and even love, will still not be enough. Our extreme states may actually be a call for a return to collectivism, rather than individualism. We are called to challenge what we know, believe, and set as policy in order to address the collective trauma of our oppression and colonization. We can start with the limiting beliefs we hold about ourselves and each other. Why do we cling to these beliefs, even if they seem to oppress us and those we love? In this keynote presentation, Chacku Mathai offers some compelling stories of key principles and practices for individual and collective healing and justice that he encountered and discovered through his own extreme states of being, crises, and ancestral practices.


Chacku Mathai is an Indian-American, born in Kuwait, who became involved in consumer/survivor/ ex-patient advocacy and peer support when he was 15 years old. Chacku's personal experiences with trauma, suicide, and disabling mental health and substance use challenges, including being diagnosed with psychotic disorders, launched Chacku and his family towards a number of efforts to advocate for improved services, social conditions, and alternative supports in the community. He has since accumulated over thirty years of experience in a wide variety of roles including international, national, statewide, and local board governance and executive leadership roles.

Honoree: Michael Garrett, MD

Psychosis Seen As An Autobiographical Play Staged Not In A Theater But In The Real World - Connections Between Psychosis and Ordinary Mental Life

A purely biological view of psychosis that regards psychotic symptoms as neurological disturbances rather than meaningful expressions of a person's emotional life imposes a stigmatizing Otherness on persons suffering from psychosis that, in the minds of some people, sets them apart from their community at large. Appreciating connections between extreme states and ordinary mental life can diminish the stigma of mental suffering that may seem incomprehensibly strange to people who have not had psychotic experiences. When people see analogies between their own mental life and psychotic states, the distance between themselves and the seemingly alien Other diminishes and they are better to regard persons suffering psychosis as essentially quite like themselves, having the same human needs and fears and aspirations that we all share. This presentation will explore connections between psychosis and ordinary mental life by comparing the structure and function of psychotic symptoms with three aspects of ordinary experience.

  1. The relationship between persecutory delusions and the not uncommon more ordinary experience of feeling that one is 'overreacting' to some anxiety provoking event
  2. The continuity of delusional narratives with fairy tales and the fantasy life of healthy young children
  3. Personal 'myths' that ordinary adults build from a sequence of memories of varying degrees of historical truth from which they create a narrative explanation of how they came to be who they are

The presentation concludes by thinking about the narrative content of a psychosis as an autobiographic play staged not in a theater but in the real world. It has a cast of characters, a plot, and a meaning expressive of the author, as do all stories. Our task as family, friends, and clinicians is to listen for the meaning of the story and to respond from the heart.


Dr. Garrett is currently Professor Emeritus of Clinical Psychiatry at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. He is also on the faculty of the Psychoanalytic Association of New York (PANY) affiliated with NYU Medical Center in New York City. He received his medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and completed his residency training in Psychiatry at Bronx Municipal Hospital Center. He has a particular interest in the integration of cognitive behavioral and psychodynamic approaches to the psychotherapy of psychosis, as detailed in his recent book, Psychotherapy for Psychosis: Integrating Cognitive Behavioral and Psychodynamic Treatments. Guilford Press/New York (2019).

Program Committee

Chair: Ellen Dean, MSW
Beth Broussard, MPH, CHES
Nancy Burke, PhD
Serena Chaudhry, DSW, LCSW-BACS, MPH
Alberto Fergusson, MD
Beverly Gibbons, PhD
James Gorney, PhD
Rachel Waford, PhD
Pat Wright, MEd

ISPS-US announces the Rodney Waldron Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Perugia 2021 International Conference

Co-constructing healing spaces for psychosis

September 1st-5th, 2021
Download Brochure

18th Annual Meeting Archive

Psychosis, Citizenship, and Belonging: Forging Pathways toward Inclusion and Healing

Program Schedule
Abstracts, Audience, Learning Objectives & References
Continuing Education
Hotel Information
Omni Hotel Directions and Parking
Accessibility, Volunteering, Scholarships
Saturday Night Dinner
Presenter Biographies
Print version of meeting brochure
Refund Policy
Things to do in New Haven
Nearby Restaurants
Map of Omni Mezzanine

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