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Course Cost:
February 01, 2020 10:00 am until February 01, 2020 4:00 pm

CCMH, 2-18 Britannia Row, London N1 8PA, UK



About the conference

The two top presenters, both experts in the field of ‘narrative medicine’, will explore the vital necessity of hearing what has happened to a person living with distress rather than telling them they’ve got a mental illness and giving them a diagnosis and some pills.

Dr Lucy Johnstone

Dr Lucy Johnstone

"The aim is to move, in simple terms, away from the “What is wrong with you?”
towards the “What has happened to you?” question."

Dr Lucy Johnstone is an expert clinical psychologist with many published books on mental health and a lead author in a funded initiative within the Clinical Psychology division of the British Psychological Society proposing an alternative to psychiatric diagnosis (The Power Threat Meaning Framework).

In her presentation, Lucy will explore how people have a right for alternative ways of making sense of their distress, their behaviour and their symptoms rather than just being given a diagnosis and some pills.

Dr Johnstone will discuss some of the following:

  • Diagnosis is often presented as the only way of thinking about distress
  • Diagnosis works well for physical illness but illness models are not suitable for mental distress
  • Diagnosis can be victim blaming "The child has conduct disorder", “ The teenager has bipolar" etc.
  • Diagnosis does not support people to tell their story, and so their life story often remains unheard
  • Diagnosis can be hugely damaging in terms of telling a person in distress that they have an illness. 'We turn people with problems into patients with illnesses.' (Lucy Johnstone)
  • Diagnosis can give the message that the best people to help you are medical staff who know about drugs rather than deeply empathic people who are not afraid of intense emotion and know how to connect with you verbally and non-verbally on a profound level

Psychiatric labels don’t make any reference to a person’s life context hence can deny the impact of lived experience. In short, Dr Johnstone will explore a non-disease model of human suffering acknowledging that distressing symptoms are a natural reaction to bad things happening in our lives. She will then discuss interventions for recovery. 
(The above adapted from Mad in America and The Power Threat Meaning Framework, BPS )

Dr Dan Hughes


Dr Dan Hughes will demonstrate how to work effectively with intense emotions and unbearable experiences without resorting to psychiatric diagnosis and pills. He will build on Lucy Johnstone’s presentation by modelling good practice of what she has covered, namely to be curious about what has happened in the client’s life, ascertaining what meaning they have given to key life events, how they responded to threat (may involve developing debilitating symptoms) and enabling them to see the link between their life story and their current distressing mental states. Dan will demonstrate how to respond to distress with PACE (play acceptance, curiosity and empathy) including helping the client to find words for their experiences. In 2000, Dr Rita Charon (GP) coined the phrase ‘narrative medicine’. She considered it vital to hear about a patient’s life rather than simply hear about their physical symptoms. Charon talks of 'The courage to bear witness… standing with the person in the glare of their pain ... to accompany in this way so noone has to be in the glare of sickness alone'.

Through moving case material, Dan will illustrate the truth of Charon’s words: 'Stories help to find clearings [a place to pause and look back at your life so far] within the clearing of storytelling we come together (Rita Charon).

Benefits from attending this conference and what you’ll learn

  • Feel empowered to challenge diagnosis and medication when offered to a child/teenager or adult as the only way of understanding and defining their distressing symptoms
  • Learn more about the Power Meaning Threat Framework and alternative ways of recovery from distress
  • Understand the danger of giving a diagnosis without every hearing the client’s story
  • Learn how to hear the client’s story and help them to tell it in the first place
  • Observe the art of narrative medicine demonstrated for you in profoundly moving ways (children, teenagers and adults)
  • Feel empowered to consider causes of human distress as opposed to putting people in diagnostic boxes
  • Be moved by powerful therapeutic work that supports the healing process

More about Dr Lucy Johnstone

Dr Lucy Johnstone is a UK clinical psychologist, trainer, speaker and writer, and a long-standing critic of biomedical model psychiatry. She has worked in adult mental health settings for many years, alternating with academic posts. She is the former Programme Director of the Bristol Clinical Psychology Doctorate, a highly regarded course which was based on a critical, politically-aware and service-user informed philosophy, along with an emphasis on personal development. Lucy has authored a number of books, (including ‘Users and Abusers of Psychiatry, 2nd edition 2000) articles and chapters on topics such as psychiatric diagnosis, formulation, the psychological effects of ECT, and the role of trauma in breakdown. Lucy was a contributor to the Division of Clinical Psychology ‘Position Statement on Classification’ 2013. She is currently convening a group of leading UK clinical psychologists and mental health experts who are working to develop an evidence-based and conceptually coherent alternative to the current diagnostic systems.

Lucy’s latest book: A Straight Talking Introduction to Psychiatric Diagnosis

More about Dr Dan Hughes

Dr Dan Hughes has achieved international acclaim for his profoundly transformative therapeutic work with the most troubled and traumatised children and young people. Dan’s empathic way of relating to children and young people can bring about major changes often in a few sessions. He is a Clinical Psychologist and author of many books including Building the Bonds of Attachment - Awakening Love in Deeply Troubled Children and Principles of Attachment-Focused Parenting. He has decades of ground-breaking and profoundly moving clinical practice with very traumatised adolescents who have moved into violence.

More about Dr Dan Hughes:

Books by Dr Dan Hughes: Special Offer Discount Prices

BuildingtheBond HealingTrauma

'Building the Bonds of Attachment'- 30% discount off RRP
Order from publisher Rowman and Littlefield: (using the code RLFANDF30)
More information:  pdf flyer

'Healing Relational Trauma with Attachment Focussed Interventions'- 25% discount off RRP
Order from publisher W W Norton and company: (using the code WN606)
More information:  pdf flyer

More books by Dr Dan Hughes: please click on the book images for more info/to buy

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CCMH, 2-18 Britannia Row, London N1 8PA, UK