By Kevin A. Sensenig
Can schizophrenia/psychosis be a type of innovation? What sort of innovation might the person be
showing as part of the psychosis? Is there an attempt to compensate for this or that, or to resolve
certain questions? Is there an attempt to practice something, or to hone a skill? What of failure?
Note that failure is part of the risk of innovation, and this natural view can allow for some space
for the person. What story is the psychotic person “writing”? Is there a way to temper the action,
so that inner multi-faceted reflection can occur?
Each situation is going to be unique and different. This is part of the challenge of a humanistic
psychiatry. And innovation and creativity may apply to different degrees.
In psychosis, how many givens and default assumptions are there? How easily are conclusions
drawn? What is the impact on logic?
The person innovates an answer to a series of questions.
The person gets so caught up in his or her own world that it becomes disruptive, or leads to a sort
of paralysis. Inner logic unfolds in indecipherable ways. Thus the musician St Vincent’s statement
that she wanted to be “accessible”. Yet her music needs to be decrypted! But it’s very interesting.
In psychosis, points of logic are revealed, but much in between remains unspoken, or not
indicated through speech and action.
The person’s focus on innovation and complete fascination with his or her own world may
additionally lead to the conclusion that nothing is wrong with what he or she is doing, when
confronted with intervention, and the intervention may be seen as interference in the person’s own
reasonable world. The intervention may be seen as unjust, and unreasonable.
There is a clue here: because the person may be working with reason, it may be possible to work
with reason with the person, to decrypt speech or action. This is accomplished through language.
And this once again points to the efficacy of Open Dialogues (as presented by Seikkula and
Arnkil), where words get put to experiences that otherwise would remain embodied in the
It may be possible to work with reason and perception through language and art, where the person
has to innovate, and be creative, with innumerable things possible as expression.
To see psychosis as an attempt at innovation may inform treatment in an exciting way. The
treatment team could be very participatory with the patient’s view. It might chalk up some things
simply to a failed attempt, failure that is sometimes a natural part of innovation, but that failure
which you don’t want to choke off an illumined view, and success at perception.
Earlier I wrote, “The person innovates an answer to a series of questions.” Is it possible for the
treatment team to backtrack in dialogue, to find some of these root questions, and help the person
find new avenues or ask the questions in a different way, and re-work the logic, likely with multifaceted
reflection? This would be dynamite, and as a person who has gone through psychosis, I
identify with such a process.
This paper definitely could be expanded on, and might have very much to do with the psychology
of psychosis, in a very interesting way. The person is actually trying to innovate a way out of a
jam! …or to resolve a question. You could then review what the person is doing, and offer open-ended
guidance toward a deeper resilience and sense of self-reliance.
1. You wouldn’t want to penalize someone for attempting to answer a question in at least
somewhat reasoning manner, although the answers could be challenged. The push to resolve a
question, if present, should be acknowledged.
Open Dialogues and Anticipations: Respecting Otherness In the Present Moment, Jaakko
Seikkula and Tom Erik Arnkil, 2014.
– 7 Principles Of Open Dialogue (a video, Jaakko Seikkula, comprehensive review of OD)