Psychosis in the Family – The Journey of a Psychotherapist and Mother
Psychosis in the Family is a book I researched and wrote in response to my son’s illness. Psychosis is an illness with no agreed cause or cure. It is my story as a mother desperately trying to help my son avoid a lifelong sentence of medication.
However there is a second storyline – my personal journey as a psychotherapist. Through looking at psychosis I had to admit on a daily basis the existence of other states of reality and the power of the unconscious. I was already in my third year of training at the Centre for Counselling and Psychotherapy Education studying how unconscious forces affect us all. It seemed like I was living and breathing the course itself.
My training as a transpersonal therapist led me to acknowledge, yet move beyond, the awareness of my individual self as a separate isolated consciousness and recognise that there exists beyond ourselves a powerful force that nurtures our growth and evolution.
In becoming an Autogenic Therapist, I was able to recognise that unconscious processes in the body such as involuntary muscular tension needed to be addressed as well as simply the psychology of the mind. Autogenic therapy is a mind-body therapy that recognises the total psychophysical self – an essential step to understanding the unconscious.
The final but most important part of my quest to understand unconscious forces came through my desperation to understand psychosis and help my son. I discovered through the internet, the work of Professor Franz Ruppert – a Family Constellation Therapist who had written a paper called Psychosis and Schizophrenia: Disturbed Bonding in Family Systems. I attended his very first seminar in England.
As a result I came to acknowledge the very powerful unconscious forces in the family system and recognise that transmission of trauma happened across several generations. So for instance large social events like war which affected earlier generations could be directly experienced as current personal psychological difficulties. I came to realise that the cause of my son’s illness might not lie within his own direct experiences.
As a result I trained to become a Family Constellation Therapist. However I had to really look at the skeletons in my own cupboard or as we call it, look at the ghosts within my own genes. My book includes that personal journey of discovery.
My book therefore integrates three separate theories of the unconscious through personal narrative which I believe is both unique and highly readable.
Janet Love’s book Psychosis in the Family stands with such extraordinary works as Milner’s The Hands of the Living God, and Dorman’s Dante’s Cure in evoking the experience of psychosis. But this time it is seen from within thefamily of the sufferer, particularly from the mother’s point of view, herself a psychotherapist, yet as a mother exposed as totally as anyone could be to the disintegrating impact of psychosis, yet also paradoxically healing and regenerative. This amazingly vivid account grips the attention from start to finish, evoking poignantly what so many have experienced, the sheer excruciating, unfathomable, ungraspability, of the experience and nature of psychosis on any single model. The devastation wrought by the inadequacies and bureaucratic closedness of our mental care systems is painfully articulated, yet it is not anti-psychiatric, and one of the heroes is a psychiatrist. Familial, and intergenerational, fault lines are agonisingly evoked, yet without going down the ‘schizophrenogenic family’ model. This is a book full of pain, full of madness, yet full of sanity. Psychotherapy is affirmed, but does not get off scot free either! It is both a clarion call about the failures of our services, yet an awesome message of hope and overcoming! (201 words)
Heward Wilkinson, UKCP Fellow, Chair of UKCP Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy Section, Integrative Psychotherapist, Psychiatric Nurse, and author of The Muse as Therapist: a New Poetic Paradigm for Psychotherapy.
“I recommend this book as a moving account of a woman’s struggle to get help for a son suffering from psychosis. It vividly portrays the problems faced as families try to cope with mental illness, against a background of confusion and sometimes indifference amongst mental health professionals”
Professor Richard Bentall, author of ‘Madness Explained’ & ‘Doctoring The Mind’