National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy

Constrained by Language: How to Write About Schizophrenia
While Simultaneously Rejecting the Diagnostic Category

Alexandra L. Adame, Ph.D.


As a psychology professor and ally of the psychiatric survivor movement, I often encounter difficulties in how I write about schizophrenia and psychosis in my research when I reject the medical modelís conceptualization of such terms.  Over the past year I have been engaged in a qualitative study in which I have been interviewing therapists (and former clients) about the process of psychotherapy for schizophrenia as an alternative to psychiatric interventions. The therapists I have spoken to also struggle with the use of such medical language to describe such experiences, and these conversations have led me to focus on the issue of language and how it constrains and complicates the way that we think about human suffering and well-being.      


I. Introduction the current project (psychotherapy as an alternative to psychiatry for schizophrenia)

II. My past and current observations as a qualitative researcher and psychologist who has run into the limitations and misconceptions that using medical language can lead to.

III. Examples of this dilemma from current study (conversations with other therapists)

IV. Broader implications for both the c/s/x movement and dissident mental health professionals who do not want to perpetuate the medical modelís ability to define peopleís experiences in a reductionist way. 

V. Discussion with audience about further directions and suggestions to break free from the constraints of psychiatric/psychological language.