Trauma, Psychosis, and Problems in Human Relationship: Exploring the Connections

Psychosis is often understood as an illness that happens to people, a brain problem that has little to do with what has happened in that person’s relationships with others or in their relationship with themselves.  Much evidence however points to a different reality, where psychosis quite often follows traumatic experience that damages both social and intrapersonal relationships, and where recovery typically involves the restoration of healthy relationships with both external and internal “others.” 

Treatment is different when we conceptualize psychosis as primarily a disturbance in relationships.  The goal then shifts from suppressing “symptoms of psychosis” to first finding healthy ways for us to relate to the person with psychosis and then ways to help them rebuild trust and constructive relationships with family, friends, and others including the parts of themselves from which they may have become alienated.  Let’s explore what is possible when working from this radically humanistic paradigm! 


Learning Objectives:

  1. Discuss the evidence linking traumatic experiences with psychosis and the impact of trauma and psychosis on social and intrapersonal relationships. 
  2. Explain how a paradigm shift to viewing psychosis as relational alters treatment goals, orienting towards building healthy relationships instead of symptom suppression. 
  3. Explore compassionate and empathetic therapeutic strategies for helping individuals with psychosis rebuild connection with others and with alienated and dissociated parts of themselves.  


About the Presenter:

Ron Unger is a licensed clinical social worker, therapist, and consultant specializing in CBT and related approaches for psychosis.  For the past 2 decades he has been providing seminars on therapy for psychosis, working with the intersection of trauma and psychosis, and addressing cultural and spiritual issues within treatment for psychosis, at universities and mental health facilities across the United States and internationally.  His teaching aims to inspire and guide people to relate to the essential humanity in otherwise puzzling extreme states of mind, and to reveal possible pathways people can take toward recovery and healing.  He chairs the Pacific Northwest Branch of ISPS-US, and maintains a blog at 

June 25, 2024
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