Recovery is Possible

The idea of mental “illness” began as a metaphor, comparing mental distress and unusual behavior to physical diseases. The metaphor was well-intentioned, designed to relieve the stigma and shaming that often surrounded problems such as alcoholism or “schizophrenia”. But emotional pain is not “an illness like any other”, that can only be addressed with medication. It is a natural, necessary, and understandable reaction to difficulties and dilemmas that human beings face.

Evidence is mounting that our brains don’t develop “chemical imbalances” such as low levels of calming or feel-good neurotransmitters. In 2011, Ronald Pies, MD, a professor of psychiatry and Editor in Chief Emeritus of the Psychiatric Times wrote: "the 'chemical imbalance' notion [of mental disorder] was always a kind of urban legend . . .” (In fact, antidepressants such as Celexa and Prozac have mostly placebo effect for all but the most severe depression - this may be why your SSRI no longer seems to work, or why it never worked in the first place).

The reality is there are millions of people worldwide with lived experience of severe psychological problems, including “schizophrenia”, who are fully recovered. Without ongoing treatment, they no longer meet criteria for diagnosis, they don’t experience relapse, they are not disabled.

Everyone’s recovery is different. Some people do find their lives are better if they use medication long-term. But, many people have found that “breaking the silence”, talking and thinking about where their sadness or self-harshing or voices or fears come from - what events triggered them - are an essential part of their recovery journey.


Harding et al., 1987: 68% of people with long-term, severe “schizophrenia” discharged from hospital with community support were found to be living without disability or significant symptoms 25 years later. The large majority of the recovered group were not receiving ongoing treatment, including medication.

basic human needs

World Health Organization (de Giralamo, 1996): 50-60% of people in developing countries diagnosed with DSM “schizophrenia” recover without disability. Only 5-25% of people receiving standard treatment in our mental health system achieve this level of recovery.

Seikkula, J (2011): Population prevalence of DSM “schizophrenia” declined by 80% using Open Dialogue family therapy as the primary intervention. These outcomes have been stable for the past 30 years.

Romme, Escher, et al. (1987; 2000): Greater acceptance of voices (“hallucinations”), exploring their purpose or meaning, and engaging with them in dialogue are some of the ways voice-hearers have recovered from negative, often disabling experiences.

Sohler, et al., 2016, found in their comprehensive meta-analysis that neither safety nor effectiveness of long term antipsychotic use has been demonstrated in 60 years of research. Known effects include higher risk of chronic mental disorder, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, brain atrophy, and cognitive slowing.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for psychosis has a well-established safety and efficacy record dating back 30 years. For example, see the American Psychiatric Association News Release: “Recovery-Oriented Cognitive Therapy Shows Lasting Benefits for People with Schizophrenia”.