Working with distressing psychosis: The challenge of developing meaningful therapeutic outcomes

The aim of the workshop will be to explore how we deliver meaningful and effective psychological therapy to individuals experiencing distressing psychosis.


The NICE guidelines indicate that psychological therapy (CBT in particular) should be offered to every individual experiencing schizophrenia. This work presents a number of challenges for the individual therapist and the aim of this workshop will be to critically explore what models are available and what research shows to be effective in working with psychosis. The fears and challenges therapists have in working with this client population can often hinder creative development of therapy and this workshop aims to explore how we can offer a more meaningful therapeutic experience for the client and what our shared aims for therapy can be. The idea of distress is central to our psychological understanding of psychosis. There are a number of sources of potential distress surrounding the psychotic experience and developing our understanding and awareness of this is central to the development of effective therapeutic work.

The workshop will draw on Chadwick’s ideas around person-based cognitive therapy and his notion of radical collaboration, as well as incorporating ideas from narrative therapy. CBT models of psychosis, such as Garety’s and Morrison’s will provide the theoretical underpinning for much of the discussion. However, there will be a focus on the real-life application of these ideas in working with diverse communities and the range of individual experience of psychotic phenomena. The workshop will take a normalising approach to understanding these experiences and on learning from the individual client, through case discussion and presentation.

Psychological theory underpinning the workshop

CBT for psychosis and CBT based Family Interventions are the NICE recommended treatment choice in working with psychosis, and this workshop will be developed predominantly from a CBT framework, incorporating some ideas from narrative therapy and trauma based psychological interventions. The workshop is based from the psychological understanding of the impact of the psychotic experience and the interpretation of the experience in creating distress within the client, and how therapy aims to reduce this distress.

Learning outcomes and objectives

  • Understanding psychological theories around therapeutic work with psychosis
  • Developing creative approaches to working with psychosis
  • Exploring and overcoming some of the fears/challenges many therapists face in working with psychosis


Dr Alison McGourty has worked with psychosis within the NHS for nearly a decade, both in research and in clinical work, and since qualifying as a Chartered Psychologist has chosen to specialise in this area. Alison currently works in a psychosis service offering individual and group therapy, as well as psychological consultation to the CMHT. She has run various workshops on psychosis, including an invited workshop for the BPS DCoP annual conference (2010). Alison has given lectures on working with psychosis on the DPsych Counselling Psychology programme at City University and has been involved in teaching medical students at King’s College London on this topic also. Alison regularly runs teaching sessions within the NHS for staff working with psychosis, as well as running workshops for the voluntary sector who provide services for NHS clients.

Booking Information

Workshop fee

BPS Members £130 (+VAT)

Non-BPS Members £195 (+VAT)

How to book

Register online on the BPS Shop

To pay by cheuqe or invoice, complete and return the registration form


Society's London Office

30 Tabernacle Street



Fri, 30/09/2011 (All day)
BPS Learning Centre