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Ein Mensch steht vor einer Texttafel. Auf dieser steht: INTAR annual conference

INTAR’s conference Rethinking Psychiatric Crisis: Alternative Responses to “First Breaks” was held Nov 23, 2009 at New York University’s Kimmel center, with more than 300 participants.

First-person accounts consistently show that treatment can compound the ordeal of early psychiatric crisis– especially those resulting in hospitalization. In addition to the disorientation of psychosis, or the bleak depths of depression, treatment itself can be an ordeal.


Even when offering welcome relief and safety, conventional biomedical responses can involve coercion, social isolation, the adverse effects of powerful medications, and suspension of life plans. Research suggests that lowering medication dose or delaying its use can reduce the disruptive effects associated with conventional treatment of first breaks. When combined with non-coercive, labor- intensive practices that draw upon kin and/or peers, viable alternatives to hospitalization have proven feasible. Although little known in the U.S., experience elsewhere suggests that such alternatives may provide gentler, more flexible, less disabling means of negotiating early crisis.


This conference will assemble experienced practitioners, seasoned researchers and informed users of such alternatives. It will explore their history, present-day problems and challenges, and prospects for expanding options for responding to psychiatric crisis in this country.

Viele Menschen an Tischen in einem großen Saal

Read more about the conference and an interview with Peter Stastny at Mental Illness Watch here.

Conference Presenters Included:

Robert Whitaker, author of Mad in America

Jan Wallcraft, co-editor of the Handbook of Service User Involvement in Mental Health Research

Jaakko Seikkula, Professor of Psychotherapy in Norway and Finland; co-developer, Open Dialogue approach to family and network therapy in psychosis

Alma Menn, former Co-Director of Soteria House

Sue Estroff, author of Making It Crazy: An Ethnography of Psychiatric Clients in an American Community

Kim Hopper, co-editor of Recovery from Schizophrenia: An International Perspective and author of Reckoning with Homelessness

Ken Thompson, Associate Director of the Center for Mental Health Services, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Ein Mensch an einem Pult. Auf dem Pult steht: New York University

Key Note: Why do we need Alternatives?

Will Hall host of Madness Radio and co-founder, Freedom Center
Listen to Audio recording of Will Hall’s Keynote speech here.
Visit Will Hall’s website here.

Discussant: Sue Estroff

Introduction to Key Alternatives Soteria , Open Dialogue, Survivor/Peer Driven Alternatives

How do we know these alternatives are safe and helpful?

Closing Panel:

Alternatives, Capabilities and System Transformation
Robert Whitaker, Andy Blanch, Ron Bassman, Ken Thompson



First Break and Crisis Alternatives, UK

Family Involvement and Self Determination

Crisis Residential Alternatives, USA

Trauma of First Break and Traditional Interventions

Medication and  First Break

What is happening to young people?: Critical Look at Prevention Programs

Advocating for Alternatives in the Age of Health Care Reform

MultiMedia Show

Ein Mensch sitzt auf einen Stuhl und spielt ein Cello

Bonfire Madigan Shive

Speak Out,
Lauren Tenney

The 2009 annual conference was held in in collaboration with the Center to Study Recovery in Social Contexts, and with additional support from Community Access, The Empowerment Center and Mental Disability Rights International.

Volunteer photographers Brian MacKinnon, Will Hall, and Krista MacKinnon recorded the pre-conference retreat in Rye, NY, and the conference itself at NYU’s Kimmel Center.

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