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Psychosis, the Medical Model and Recovery. Philip Thomas Professor of Philosophy Diversity & Mental Health Institute for Philosophy Diversity & Mental Health Centre for Ethnicity & Health University of Central Lancashire Preston PR1 2HE Lancashire. Outline. What does ‘Recovery’ mean?

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psychosis the medical model and recovery

Psychosis, the Medical Model and Recovery

Philip Thomas

Professor of Philosophy Diversity & Mental Health

Institute for Philosophy Diversity & Mental Health

Centre for Ethnicity & Health

University of Central Lancashire




  • What does ‘Recovery’ mean?
  • Schizophrenia and the medical model –the concept of ‘deterioration’ and ‘degeneracy’
  • What is the prognosis of schizophrenia?
  • Deconstructing Psychosis and the Silencing of ‘Schizophrenics’

Critiques of the medical model should not be interpreted as an attack on those who find medical accounts of their distress helpful.

Whatever their chosen framework, individuals have the right to have their understandings of their distress respected, whether medical, social, political, or spiritual.

what does recovery mean
What does ‘recovery’ mean?
  • Shorter Oxford English Dictionary:
    • Recovery from illness (medical)
    • Recovery of something that was lost (narrative)
    • Recovery of something that rightly belonged to me (moral)
recovery as recovery from illness
‘Recovery’ as recovery from illness
  • Biomedical model
    • Disturbances in bodily function, pathology, physiology, biochemistry
    • Treatment, drugs or somatic therapies
    • Restoration of ‘normal’ function
    • Loss of symptoms = recovery (of health)
Schizophrenia: Origins

‘Dementia praecox consists of a series of clinical states which have as their common characteristic a peculiar destruction of the internal connections of the psychic personality with the most marked damage of the emotional life and volition.’

Emil Kraepelin, 1913

recovery schizophrenia and the medical model
‘Recovery’, Schizophrenia, and the Medical Model
  • ‘Defect states’, ‘deterioration’ and poor outcome
  • Duration of untreated psychosis and early intervention services
  • Medication for life
  • Lower your expectations
outcome of schizophrenia in the west
Outcome of schizophrenia in the West
  • Kraepelin reported only 13% of his patients recovered.
outcome of schizophrenia in the west1
Outcome of schizophrenia in the West

Richard Warner (1994)

  • The outcome for schizophrenia has remained relatively constant in the West, despite the introduction of new technologies – drugs, therapies and services.
  • The state of the economy is the single most important factor influencing the outcome of schizophrenia.
outcome of schizophrenia in non western cultures
Outcome of schizophrenia in non-Western cultures
  • WHO IPSS 1973 – schizophrenia had better outcome in economically disadvantaged countries than industrialised nations.
  • Kua et al (2003) two thirds of patients in their study in Singapore had good or fair outcome at 20 years
  • Thara et al (2004) in Madras – only 5 out of 61 patients followed up over 20 years had been continuously ill. 76% of men in the study were in employment
four ways that psychiatry silences schizophrenia
Four ways that psychiatry silences schizophrenia
  • Individual – narrative loss, loss of personhood and madness (McCabe et al, 2002)
  • Institutional - meaninglessness of psychosis in psychiatry (Bracken, P. & Thomas, P., 2005)
  • Social – stigma and social distance lead to isolation and powerlessness (Read et al, 2006)
  • Political – the power of psychiatry to speak about madness (Foucault)
For the survivor movement recovery involves speaking out, the act of reclaiming language, or, as Coleman (1999) has put it, having a voice.

The single most important barrier to recovery is the diagnosis of schizophrenia.

Bleuler, M. (1978). The schizophrenic disorders: Long-term patient and family studies. New Haven, Yale University Press.

Bracken, P. & Thomas, P. (2005) Postpsychiatry: Mental Health in a Postmodern World. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Ciompi, L (1980) The natural history of schizophrenia in the long term. British Journal of Psychiatry, 136, 413-420.

Foucault, M. (2006) History of Madness and Civilisation. (Trans. J. Murphy and J. Khalfa) Routledge, London.

Harding, C. M., G. W. Brooks, et al. (1987). The Vermont longitudinal study of persons with severe mental illness: I. Methodology, study sample, and overall status 32 years later. American Journal of Psychiatry144(6): 718-726.

Huber, G., G. Gross, et al. (1975). A long-term follow-up study of schizophrenia: Psychiatric course of illness and prognosis. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 52: 49-57.

Kua, J., K. E. Wong, et al. (2003). A 20-year follow-up study on schizophrenia in Singapore. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 108(2): 118-125.

McCabe, R., Heath, C., Burns, T. and Priebe, S. (2002) Engagement of patients with psychosis in the consultation: conversation analytic study. British Medical Journal, 325, 1148 – 1151.

Read, J., Haslam, N., Sayce, L. Davies, E. (2006) Prejudice and schizophrenia: a review of the ‘mental illness is an illness like any other’ approach. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. 114, 303-318

Thara, R. (2004). Twenty-Year Course of Schizophrenia: The Madras Longitudinal Study. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 49(8): 564-569.

Warner, R. (1994). Recovery from Schizophrenia: Psychiatry and Political Economy. New York, Routledge.