South Southwest MHTTC First Episode Psychosis Conference 2024


The 2024 South Southwest MHTTC First Episode Psychosis (FEP) Conference was held virtually from June 5-6, 2024. Participants dedicated to enhancing FEP care, including individuals with lived experience, family members, providers, and researchers, came together to celebrate achievements and explore a future of sustained growth and accountability in FEP care.

The 2024 theme, Pausing with Purpose: Guiding FEP Care with Human Connection, focused on the crucial role of human connection in effective FEP care. The theme underscored the importance of fostering genuine relationships among those involved in FEP care, including team members, young people in services, family and other supporters, as well as connecting with ourselves.

We placed particular emphasis on understanding oppression and advancement related to diversity in perspective, including incorporating lived experiences, marginalized or minoritized groups, and special attention to race, ethnicity, class, urbanicity, and language.

Additionally, we will be adding videos and resources from the conference to ensure continued learning and engagement with the important topics discussed.

Please contact our team if you have questions or need assistance at [email protected] 


Day 1:

Caring For Others Without Losing Yourself 
Presenter: Kristin Neff, PhD (she/her)
Self-compassion involves treating ourselves kindly, like we would a close friend. It means being kind to ourselves as imperfect humans and learning to handle life's struggles with greater ease. This talk will cover the theory and research on self-compassion and its association with psychological wellbeing. It will also discuss the crucial role of self-compassion in reducing burnout for caregivers and teach a practice to maintain balance in challenging caregiving situations.

Finding Connection When Realities Don’t Match
Presenters: Amanda Bowman, LCSW-S, PSS (she/her), Amy Pierce (she/her)
In this 60-min session, we will explore the common challenges providers face when supporting people who experience things that others do not. Join Amy and Amanda as they share both personal and professional experiences regarding this challenge and highlight ideas for staying connected with yourself and the people you support. Attendees can expect storytelling, short examples, and take-home resources.

Social Determinants of Mental Health and First Episode Psychosis: Seeking Mental Health Equity
Presenter: Ruth Shim, MD, MPH (she/her)
The presentation will discuss the intersection of social determinants and first-episode psychosis, focusing on the role of structural racism and oppression. It will also explore solutions for achieving mental health equity.

I’m Not Invisible: Envisioning Rights-Centered Care
Presenter: Leah Giorgini (she/her)
First-episode psychosis can strip away one's identity, obscure one’s history, and shatter one’s vision for the future. Often, this happens through contact with the mental health system rather than the condition itself. At 17, Leah Giorgini faced invisibility after a traumatic childhood of violence, neglect, and parental death led to psychosis. Once a high achiever, she became adrift, paralyzed by medication and low expectations. However, a book on Feminist Perspectives on Mental Health from a progressive therapist helped Leah feel seen and reemerge as a capable individual. Leah tells her story and outlines how connecting the dots of trauma, intersectionality, and occupation can lead to rights-based care that helps people feel seen and empowered.

Day 2:

The National Training and Technical Assistance Center for Early Serious Mental Illness (ESMI TTA Center): TA Center Resources and Practical Tools on Shared Decision-Making
Presenters: Preethy George, PhD. (she/her), Apruva Bhatt, M.D. (she/her), Shannon Pagdon, BA (she/they)
Members of the new SAMHSA funded National Training and Technical Assistance Center for Early Serious Mental Illness (ESMI TTA Center) will (1) present an overview of the ESMI TTA Center’s work and activities and (2) provide practical tools, tips, and resources on Shared Decision Making in the context of working with people with early serious mental illnesses.   

Purpose and Connection in Action
Presenter: Cindy Hadge
This presentation will explore ways to make meaning of experiences labeled as psychosis and strategies for building supportive partnerships. By pausing to understand our own purpose and the perspectives of those we support, we can deepen connections and guide people to become experts in their own experiences. Approaches from the Hearing Voices Movement and Intentional Peer Support will be introduced through the Wildflower Alliance’s values. The presentation is informed by over a decade of work with people and their families and a lifetime of first-hand experiences with voices, visions, and extreme states.

Centering Human Connection in Leadership: How to Foster Collaborative Teams to Advance Early Psychosis Care 
Presenters: Linda C Williams, LPC (she/her), Sharhonda Webster, LPC, (she/her)
During this panel, early psychosis team leaders, Sharhonda Webster and Linda C Williams, will discuss how positive team dynamics can support individuals with early psychosis. They will touch on leadership styles, individualized leadership approaches, managing team conflict, diverse perspectives, and changing team culture.

Trauma, Psychosis, and Problems in Human Relationship: Exploring the Connections
Presenter: Ron Unger (he/him)
Psychosis is often linked to traumatic experiences that damage social connections and a person's relationship with themselves. Recovery involves healing these relationships with others and oneself. This changes the approach to treatment, focusing on establishing healthy connections and rebuilding trust and positive relationships. This presentation explores what is possible when working from this radically humanistic paradigm.

Beyond the Clinic: The Healing Power of Kindness and Community.
Presenter: Gustavo Perez, PhD, (he/him)
This presentation challenges providers face to maintain spaces that support deep human connection: This presentation will discuss specific barriers and responses to barriers faced during the last three years to sustain and expand human connection among program participants and care team members. 


Learn about the top experts who came together to share their knowledge on early intervention and treatment strategies.

Share Resources and Inspiration for Guiding FEP Care Padlet

During the FEP conference, we explored centering human connection at three levels: fostering self-compassion, cultivating genuine relationships in FEP, and building team relationships and community. Conference attendees had the opportunity to share resources that they found helpful in building relationships on a Padlet. Check out some of the great ideas, exercises, books, team-building activities that folks shared.  Our team will aggregate these resources and share a product with this information now that the conference has concluded.

View the padlet here.


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When will I get my CEU certificate?

Conference attendees will receive a certificate noting the total number of CEUs they earned during the conference. CEU Certificates will be sent via email with a downloadable and personalized certificate approximately 3 weeks after the conclusion of the conference.

Who created the music for the conference?

The terrific music played during our conference was created by Scooter Holiday. You can access Scooter's music here: and @scootersings

I'm in room with a group and we're watching the conference together. Will we all be able to get CEU credit?

Attendance for CEU credit will be verified by the zoom webinar attendance roster at the end of each day. Attendees will need to log in with their email so that we are able to capture each person's attendance. If you are watching the conference as a group, we recommend that all team members register and log in for CEU purposes.


The Positionality Project:

The Positionality Project at the South Southwest MHTTC aims to provide resources for the mental health workforce in Region 6 to understand how their positionality shapes their work. This understanding can lead to improved quality of care, better community partnerships, and increased inclusivity. View Resource Here

Texas Mental Health Creative Arts Contest:

The Texas Mental Health Creative Arts Contest shines a light on an often-overlooked topic and shows why mental health matters. To educate people about how common mental illnesses are and to encourage Texans to seek help when they need it, our yearly themes reflect the move toward treating mental illness with the same openness as other illnesses.This contest is held by Texas System of Care, Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health at the University of Texas at Austin, and Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Learn More and View the Artwork


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