Professor of Clinical Psychology, Chairperson of the IIPDW Board
John Read is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of East London. John worked for nearly 20 years as a clinical psychologist and manager of mental health services in the UK and the USA, before joining the University of Auckland, New Zealand, in 1994, where he worked until 2013.
He has published over 130 papers in research journals, primarily on the relationship between adverse life events (eg child abuse/neglect, poverty etc.) and psychosis. He also researches the negative effects of bio-genetic causal explanations on prejudice, the opinions and experiences of recipients of anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medication, and the role of the pharmaceutical industry in mental health research and practice.
John is a member of the Board of Hearing Voices Network – England (www.hearing-voices.org). He is also the Editor of the scientific journal ‘Psychosis’ (www.isps.org). John´s books include: Read, J., Dillon, J. (eds.). (2013). Models of Madness: Psychological, Social and Biological Approaches to Psychosis, 2nd edition. Routledge. Read, J., Sanders P. (2010). A Straight Talking Introduction to the Causes of Mental Health Problems. PCCS Books. Geekie, J., Randal, P., Lampshire, D., Read, J, (eds.). (2012). Experiencing Psychosis: Personal and Professional Perspectives. Routledge.
Psychologist, Board member of IIPDW
Olga Runciman is the first and only psychologist in private practice in Denmark to specialize in psychosis. She is an international trainer and speaker, writer, campaigner, and artist. She is a co-founder of the Danish Hearing Voices network. She is a board member for a variety of organizations including Intervoice, Mad in America, The Danish Psychosocial Rehabilitation Organization and others. She is currently finishing her three-year open dialog education as a family therapist.
As a postpsychiatric psychologist, Olga has helped many people taper off or withdraw from their psychiatric drugs and has built up extensive everyday knowledge on how to best help people who wish to do this.
Olga views mental distress from a post-psychiatric perspective and does not believe there is a correct way to frame madness. She believes in opening up spaces where other perspectives can assume a valid role and does not seek to find solutions within psychiatry. Instead, she advocates that we should be moving beyond psychiatry, encouraging an acceptance that not all human problems can be grasped in a modernist technological manner.
Psychiatrist, Board member of IIPDW
Swapnil (pronouns: she/her) was born and brought up in Southern India and currently practices psychiatry in a community setting the United States. She has been trained as a psychiatrist in both countries and strives to constantly place her practice within a social and historical context. She frames much of psychological distress as the outcome of various forms of marginalization and endeavors to uphold the autonomy and dignity of her patients above all else.
Psychiatric Researcher, Board member of IIPDW
Ruth Cooper completed her PhD at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London. She conducts research which aims to improve mental health treatments, using both quantitative and qualitative methods, particularly randomised-controlled trials. She is interested in researching psychosocial alternatives to psychiatric medication and ways to support people who are reducing or stopping these drugs. She is currently working as a post-doctoral researcher at Queen Mary University of London and in the NHS on the RADAR clinical trial (Research into Antipsychotic Discontinuation and Reduction) which aims to establish whether antipsychotic reduction and discontinuation may improve functioning compared to maintenance treatment for people with schizophrenia and similar conditions.
Ruth has authored a number of academic papers, the most relevant being: Cooper, R.E., et al. (2019) Psychosocial interventions for people experiencing psychosis on minimal or no antipsychotic medication: a systematic review. Schizophrenia Research. Moncrieff, J., Lewis, G., Freemantle, N., Johnson, S., Morant, N., Barnes, T., Pinfold, V., Kent, L., Counter-Smith, R., Darton, K., Hunter, R., Horne, R., Crellin, N., Cooper, R., Priebe, S. (2019). A randomised controlled trial of gradual antipsychotic reduction and discontinuation in people with schizophrenia and related disorders: The RADAR trial (Research into Antipsychotic Discontinuation and Reduction): Protocol paper. BMJ Open Cooper, R.E., et al. (2019) Mental health professionals' views and experiences of antipsychotic reduction and discontinuation: a focus group study. PLOS ONE.
Mother of five, Clinical Psychologist, Social Entrepreneur, adult trainer, Board Member of IIPDW
Kleo received her bachelor degree in Psychology (major Social and Clinical Psychology) in 2002, from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece and completed her postgraduate diploma in Human Resource Management in 2008, from the University of Surrey, UK. In 2019 she completed the postgraduate international program “Global Mental Health Policy”, organized by the NOVA Medical School of Lisbon, Portugal, the WHO and the Global Institute for Mental Health.
At the age of 28, Kleo founded ANIMA nonprofit NGO, active in the mental health field since 2005, operating a Psychosocial Rehabilitation Unit and providing several services for people who face challenges in life and/or psychosocial difficulties. The unit supports residents through psychiatric drug withdrawal and promotes social pedagogy instead of “therapy”. ANIMA’s vision is to create safe living spaces for all, accepting everyone’s difference and uniqueness with mutual respect, away from labeling and imposed treatment.
She has introduced the training program “Accompaniment for people in times of crisis without medication and/or hospitalization”, for volunteers, professionals, students and friends/family who wish to support people in times of challenging experiences.
Campaigner and Board Member of IIPDW
Having experienced SSRI antidepressant dependence and a gruelling, protracted withdrawal, Stevie Lewis is a campaigner based in the UK who for the past 4 years has been trying to bring to the attention of the public, UK governments and the NHS the potential for patients to become dependent on antidepressants, and how to recognise and support people in withdrawal.
Lucy is part-time administrator for IIPDW since August 2020. Now in her thirties, she spent the majority of her twenties on psychiatric drugs including antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilisers, stimulants and benzodiazepines. She withdrew from these without support, and now works to deepen her understanding of the issues surrounding psychiatric drugs.
Author and psychotherapist, co-founder of IIPDW
Carina is IIPDW cofounder and past Director. She is an author, PhD and licensed psychotherapist. She is also founder of Family Care Foundation and The Extended Therapy Room Foundation.
The main purpose of The Extended Therapy Room Foundation is to describe and develop, through a social and therapeutic practice, a humanistic knowledge arising from both ordinary life knowledge, art and therapeutic understandings. In daily practice, the Extended Therapy Room aims to be an alternative to the psychiatric system.
Journalist and Co-founder of IIPDW
Robert Whitaker is a journalist and the author of five books, three of which tell of the history of psychiatry and explore the scientific literature regarding the safety and efficacy of psychiatric drugs. He also is the founder of madinamerica.com, a website that features research news and blogs from an international group of writers interested in “rethinking psychiatry.” He spent a year as a fellow at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, where he studied and wrote about American psychiatry through the lens of institutional corruption.
Psychiatrist, Director of Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse
Magnus P. Hald is a psychiatrist, and for the last nine years Director of the Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, University Hospital of North Norway. He has long been interested in the development of a network-oriented perspective on mental health, based on ideas that have come from his working with “reflecting teams” and “reflective processes.” For the past few years, he has been engaged in developing a medication-free unit within the University Hospital, which opened in January 2017.
Physician, Professor, Director of the Institute for Scientific Freedom
Peter has published over 75 papers in “the big five” (BMJ, Lancet, JAMA, Ann Intern Med and N Engl J Med), and his scientific works have been cited over 50,000 times. Peter’s books of relevance for psychiatry are “Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime,” “Deadly Psychiatry and Organised Denial, and “Survival in an overmedicated world.” Peter works as an independent consultant, inter alia as an expert in lawsuits about patients having been harmed by psychiatric drugs or having been forced to take them. Peter is Protector for the Hearing Voices Network in Denmark.
Paulo Amarante, MD, PhD, Post-doctorate
Senior Researcher Oswaldo Cruz Foundation – FIOCRUZ. I am a psychiatrist and sanitary doctor. Researcher and Teacher at the National School of Public Health of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), Rio de Janeiro / Brazil. I am leader of the Research Group "Laboratory of Studies and Research in Mental Health and Psychosocial Care" (LAPS) of the National Research Council (CNPq). I was coordinator of the Center for Studies and Research in Mental Health and Psychosocial Care / LAPS / ENSP / FIOCRUZ. at AUSL Imola / Italy. Invited professor at national and foreign universities, especially in Argentina and Uruguay. More information: http://lattes.cnpq.br/5548618710308950
His academic and political work has been focused on the following themes: psychiatric reform, mental health, epistemology; philosophy of science, public policies and health policies. He is the author of several articles and books Coordinator of the “Madness and Civiization” Collection at Editora Fiocruz, the “Madness Century XXI” Collection at Editora Garamond (Rio de Janeiro) and the “PensarAgir” Collection in Mental Health at Editora Zagodoni (São Paulo). He was Scientific Editor of Revista Saúde em Debate and Director of Editorial Policy at the Brazilian Center for Health Studies - Cebes. Honorary Professor at the Faculty of Psychology at the National University of Rosario (Argentina). Doctor Honoris cause of the Popular University of Madres of Plaza de Mayo (Argentina). President Member of the Consultative Council of the Brazilian Drug Policy Platform. Honorary President of the Brazilian Mental Health Association (ABRASME).
Auður Axelsdóttir is from Reykjavík, Iceland. She is the director of Hugarafl (e. Mindpower) and recovery center, which operates within the Icelandic mental health sector. Auður founded Hugarafl in 2003 along with four individuals with lived experiences, with the aim of changing the way that the mental health system works in Iceland. Thanks to their hard work and unconventional ways in her work, Auður and Hugarafl have cleared the way for a new approach in the service to individuals with mental health problems. Hugarafl works on the principles of empowerment and recovery with the aim to influence the system with their experience, i.e. what works and what doesn’t in recovery. She works with individuals, families and in group situations.
I am a psychiatrist working at a medication free psychiatric inpatient unit at Akershus University Hospital. Our unit offers a mixture of therapeutic interventions, such as psychotherapy, physiotherapy, art therapy and a program called Illness Management and Recovery (IMR). I have an interest for non medicinal interventions, and have several years of experience with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and mindfulness.
Reader in Medical Anthropology and Mental Health
Dr James Davies graduated from the University of Oxford in 2006 with a PhD in social and medical anthropology. He is a Reader in Medical Anthropology and Mental Health at the University of Roehampton and has practiced as a psychotherapist in the NHS. He has delivered lectures at Harvard, Oxford, Oslo, Brown, UCL and Columbia, and has written for The Times, The New Scientist, The Guardian and Salon. He is author four books including the bestseller Cracked: why psychiatry is doing more harm than good. He is co-founder of the Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry, now secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence, Westminster, London.
Founder - Surviving Antidepressants
Adele resides in San Francisco, California, USA and is retired from information architecture & user experience design for software. She went off 10mg paroxetine in 2004 and it took 11 years to recover from the withdrawal syndrome. She has studied psychiatric drug withdrawal syndrome since 2004 and founded the website SurvivingAntidepressants.org in March 2011. Surviving Antidepressants was designed to collect case histories. It has more than 12,000 registrations and receives more than 300,000 page views per month. It has 6,000 naturalistic longitudinal case histories by patients. It provides more than 60 tapering topics (“Tips for tapering [drug]”) and explanations of titration methods (e.g. gradual 10% per month hyperbolic tapering method self-guided by patient). The site content is widely shared on Facebook and other websites.
Professor and Researcher
Fernando Freitas PhD is Professor and Researcher at the National School of Public Health (ENSP / FIOCRUZ / RIO DE JANEIRO). He is co-author of the book Medication in Psychiatry published by Editora Fiocruz. He also is co-editor of the website www.madinbrasil.org
UKCP Reg; MBACP (Accred) Secretariat Coordinator, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence
Anne Guy, PsychD, Psychotherapy & Counselling, BA Philosophy and Sociology, is a psychotherapist in private practice. She is also a member of the Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry and is the secretariat co-ordinator for the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence. Professional memberships include UKCP, BACP & UPCA.
In 2018 she co-authored two reports for the APPG; one analysing the systemic issues underlying patient experiences of prescribed drug dependence & one describing four current service models for supporting prescribed drug dependence in the UK. She is currently leading a project with the primary UK professional bodies for counselling and psychotherapy to create guidance for psychological therapists to enable conversations with clients about prescribed psychiatric drugs, which will be available on a dedicated website by the end of 2019.
Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist
Rex Haigh is a British critical psychiatrist and Medical Psychotherapist in the NHS. His undergraduate training included antipsychiatry and therapeutic communities – and he has followed that path since, as much as possible. He has been a government advisor for personality disorder, and founded two quality networks for therapeutic environments at the Royal College of Psychiatrists. His particular clinical interests are modified therapeutic communities, ecotherapy, and co-creation with service users. He was appointed as Honorary Professor of Therapeutic Environments at Nottingham University in 2015, and helps with several third sector organisations.
Professor of Clinical Psychology - University of Liverpool
Peter is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Liverpool and former President of the British Psychological Society. His research interests are in psychological processes underpinning wellbeing and mental health. He has published widely on the role of psychological factors as mediators between biological, social and circumstantial factors in mental health and wellbeing. His most recent book, A Manifesto for Mental Health, presents a radically new and distinctive outlook that critically examines the dominant ‘disease-model’ of mental health care.
Peter argues that our mental health and wellbeing depend largely on the society in which we live, on the things happen to us, and on how we learn to make sense of and respond to those events. He proposes a reconceptualization of mental health problems; a rejection of invalid diagnostic labels, practical help rather than medication, and a recognition that distress is usually an understandable human response to life’s challenges.
Advocate, Lecturer, Sociologist, Social Worker
I have worked in mental health for the last 25 years, 20 of which in the UK in various community mental health settings. Prior to that, I worked in the theatre and as a lecturer in sociology, philosophy and medical ethics. I am currently involved in a pilot project in Athens using the Open Dialogue approach, and run an advocay and rights group with users of mental health services. I have written a number of newspaper articles arguing for the total abolition of any form of compulsory interventions in mental health, including forced medication and involuntary hospitalization. In my spare time I play the violin.
Independent social scientist, publisher, author, medical journalist and freelance activist of humanistic antipsychiatry
In 1986, foundation of Peter Lehmann Publishing and Mail-order Bookstore (Germany), in 2003, founding of a branch in UK, 2004-2015 in USA. Since 1990, co-editor of the Journal of Critical Psychology, Counselling and Psychotherapy (United Kingdom). Blogger at Mad in America.
Psychiatrist at the Senter for Basal Exposure Therapy, Vestre Viken Hospital Foundation, Norway
Peggy Lilleby has been working as a physician in psychiatry Norway since 2008. From 2015 she has been attending physician at the Centre for Basal Exposure Therapy (BET) at Vestre Viken Hospital Foundation, working systematically with tapering drugs for patients receiving complex psychiatric medication but nevertheless having unremitting symptoms and a low global level of function. The Centre for Basal Exposure Therapy offers intensive psychotherapeutic treatment primarily in inpatient setting for patients having severe and complex treatment resistant conditions.
I started working in public mental health in 1987 and since then have been working in Community Mental Health Centers. I was one of the founders of the Italian Hearing Voices Network and I am very much involved in introducing the Open Dialogue approach within the Italian NHS. I think that mental health is not only a medical problem but rather something related to what has happened in a person’s life, and also that the most important things in the treatment process are an attitude towards ‘recovery’ and the belief that everyone (including the ‘patient’ and family members) have something important to say much more than using the ‘right’ techniques based on the ‘right’ diagnosis.
Social Worker, Lecturer, Author, Publisher of Mad in Sweden
Lasse Mattila has a Bachelor of Science in Social Work and over 25 years of experience working with vulnerable children and adolescents. Lasse is chairman of Förenigen Alternative till Psykofarmaka (The Association for Alternatives to Psychotropics) in Sweden and publisher/editor-in-chief of the web magazine Mad in Sweden. Lasse is also a supervisor within psychosocial work, an author, musician and lecturer in child and adolescent mental health.
Social worker, Licenced psychotherapist, Teacher and Supervisor
How helpers perceives suffering has a big impact on how they try to help and what kind of help they understand is needed. Therefore is of big interest to me how I can work with this question in practice both as a therapist and a supervisor. We live in a society with a very individualistic and biological/medical model of understanding suffering that easily lead us to solutions in forms of medication and individualistic solutions. The risk with this is that we miss poverty, isolation, oppression, violence and problematic relations as a way to understand suffering. How can I help people widen their ways of understanding suffering in order to get access to more kinds of understandings and with that more ways of actions?
Chief Medical Officer - Howard Center, Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry - University Of Vermont Larner College of Medicine
Sandra Steingard, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer, Howard Center, Burlington, Vermont and Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University Of Vermont Larner College of Medicine. She is chair of the Board of the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care, a member of the board of the American Association of Community psychiatrists on the advisory board of Mad In America Continuing Education, and an Associate of the International Institute for Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal. She is editor-in-chief of Community Mental Health Journal and editor of the book, Critical Psychiatry: Controversies and Clinical Implications.
Psychiatrist, currently responsible for the community (inpatient and outpatient) services for 150,000 inhabitants, near Modena, after working 25 years in the Turin area.
From 2015 to 2017 trainee in the three-year OD training in London (in the group of trainers and supervisors). Before the Open Dialogue, the main training was psychotherapy of psychosis (ISPS orientation). In the last 15 years I promoted the writing and publication of many recovery stories in Italy.
I also promoted the translation into Italian of Robert Whitaker’s “Anatomy of an epidemic” and Peter Goetzsche’s “Deadly Medicines and Organized Crime”.
Psychologist and Associate Professor
Alain Topor is a psychologist and associate professor at the department of social work at Stockholm university (Sweden) and professor at the department of psychosocial work at the university of Agder (Norway). After working as a family therapist, Alain moved on to work as a journalist and went back to the psy-field only because of a proposition to participate to the closing of a mental hospital in Stockholm and the development of alternatives to total institutions in the community.
When the mental hospital was closed and the resources moved to the community, he started to wonder in what ways the home visits, open-care centres, co-operatives, meeting points, supported apartments etc. were helping the persons in question and started asking them what they experienced was helpful for them. The encounters with the experience in Trieste, with persons like Roberto Mezzina, Anna Scoppio, David Cooper, Loren Moscher, Marius Romme, Simonetta Di Girolamo, John Strauss, Larry Davidson offered experiences and a concept: recovery.
Alain has published around 50 articles about Helpful professional relationships, Money and recovery, Post institutional landscapes, Social perspectives and work, Micro-affirmations and small things and about A ten years follow-up of persons with a diagnosis of psychosis.
Clinical psychologist, Lecturer and Writer
Birgit Valla is a Norwegian psychologist. She has been the director and lead creator of a community based mental health service called Stangehjelpa, a service developed based on the feedback from the people that ask for help. She is the author of the book “Beyond Best Practice – How Mental Health Services Can Be Better». She has written several articles in Norwegian newspapers and journals. Birgit is an experienced lecturer and speaker and teaches how to build services based on feedback and how to train therapists to get better. Birgit has a strong voice in the public debate in Norway for developing service based on an humanistic understanding rather than assessments and diagnosis. She is the initiator and editor-in-chief of Mad in Norway, an affiliate of Mad in America.
Assistant Professor, School of Health Studies, and Registered Psychotherapist
Marnie Wedlake lives and works in London, Ontario, Canada. As a faculty member in the School of Health Studies at The University of Western Ontario, Marnie’s teaching and research interests are in the broader field of mental health. As a Registered Psychotherapist, Marnie is a member of the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario. She is a trauma-informed therapist who works with people who live with varying degrees of distress, dis-integration and psychosis, as well as those who struggle with various manifestations of existential despair.
Both professionally and academically, the philosophy that guides Marnie is perhaps best captured by her tagline: ‘Wellbeing is not prescribed. It is created. With ownership and intention.’ W: www.marniewedlake.com; www.madnesstalks.com
Marnie is also an ex-mental patient. In the early 1990’s she spent about 4 years embedded deeply in the mental health system. She had almost 600 days as an inpatient in psychiatric facilities where she endured 18 sessions of electroshock. Marnie’s undergraduate and master’s degrees are in psychology, and her PhD is in health professional education. Marnie believes most people share a fundamental desire to experience a greater sense of overall wellbeing, and many are becoming increasingly vocal about this. They are stating their beliefs that overall wellbeing is not created or maintained through processes and systems that medicalize and pathologize how they cope with their burdens, traumas and adversities. Marnie is convinced that wellbeing is a fundamental state that is available to all people. In this regard, she feels ‘modern’ mental health care has lost its way.
Born in 1977 and living in Copenhagen, Denmark. Medical doctor in 2008 and PhD in psychiatry in 2016. Working part time in a post doc position and part time training in psychiatry. Passionate about transparency and integrity in research and providing evidence-based medicine with respect for human rights. Currently conducting a discontinuation trial for individuals with psychotic symptoms. Born as an anarchist, skeptical to the “disease-model” in psychiatry and still trying to find my way in the established system.
Human Rights Activist, Political Advisor for We Shall Overcome
Mette Ellingsdalen is a human-rights activist from Norway. From 2007 to 2014 she was chair of the user/survivor organisation We Shall Overcome (WSO). In this role she was one of the initiators to create the «Joint action for drug-free treatment», that led to the creation of drug-free treatment options in Norway.
Currently she is employed part time as political advisor for WSO, and is responsible for WSOs Human Rights work, advocating for the full implementation of the Convention for the Rights of people with Disabilities (CRPD).
Her work is informed by her own experiences as a former psychiatric patient, where she was prescribed more than 25 different psychiatric drugs and was given multiple electroshocks, and denied the right to free and informed consent. She gives voice to those mistreated and harmed by psychiatric treatment.
Her work includes national and international advocacy, writing and public speaking.
Art Historian, Founder of JAEC Foundation
As an Art historian (Ph.D.), Claudia is a firm believer in the healing power of beauty, kindness, and community. She believes there continues to be a tragic misconception and dangerous stigmatization of mental illness and that the current medical paradigm of diagnosis and treatment serve to aggravate the situation.
She is a board member of Mad in America and an advisory board member of the Inner Fire Healing Community in Vermont, the only medication-free center in the USA. She recently completed her one-year trainer's program in Open Dialogue in the UK.
Claudia is the founder of the JAEC Foundation (Justice, Action, Education, and Compassion), based in Switzerland. JAEC supports and promotes alternatives to the mainstream psychiatric system and hosts multiple online support groups and workshops for psychiatry clients, their families and communities, as well as professionals in the field.
Together with Olga Runciman (Psycovery), JAEC is hosting an online discussion group on diagnosis, the use of psychotropic drugs, and tapering. Encouraging a natural dialogue on the lived experience, visions, and resources beyond mainstream mental health care, we aim to help clients of psychiatry feel less alone on their journey.
Claudia feels that IIPDW is vital to gather research and data, create awareness on psychotropic drugs, and educate on tapering. IIPDW represents hope for all of those caught up in the system and the possibility of changing it.
Sami Timimi is a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist in the UK National Health Service and a Visiting Professor of Child Psychiatry and Mental Health Improvement at the University of Lincoln, UK. He writes from a critical psychiatry perspective on topics relating to mental health and childhood and has published over a hundred and thirty articles and tens of chapters on many subjects including childhood, psychotherapy, behavioural disorders and cross-cultural psychiatry. He has authored 5 books, co-edited 4 books, and co-authored 2 others. His latest book, Insane Medicine: How the Mental Health Industry Creates Damaging Treatment Traps and How You Can Escape Them, is available in serialised form on the Mad in America website. You can find out more about him at samitimimi.co.uk.
Dr Miriam Larsen-Barr is a clinical psychologist in New Zealand who has a long history in the service-user movement and brings multiple lenses to her work as a clinician with both lived experience of successful antidepressant withdrawal and family member experience of antipsychotic withdrawal.
Her doctoral research project, The Experiences of Antipsychotic Medication Study (TEAMS), produced a freely available thesis exploring lived experiences of antipsychotics from first prescriptions through to attempted discontinuation. This included the online TEAMS survey that has since been used to inform several other research groups, and an interview study exploring how people who successfully stop antipsychotics manage their experiences during and after withdrawal.
After several years working in public mental health services with children and adolescents facing severe mental-health challenges and young adults experiencing a first episode of psychosis, she now locates herself in peer-led spaces and operates a small service-user informed private practice.
Miriam continues to advise on other withdrawal initiatives and research projects, publish her findings, share information and resources with the community, and provide therapy for people who want to develop the strengths they need to manage withdrawal safely for themselves and others. She maintains her involvement in the service-user movement and is one of the founding members of Aotearoa Therapists with Lived Experience Network (ATLEN).
Clinical psychologist, researcher
Raffaella Pocobello, PhD in Clinical Psychology in 2011 at the University of La Sapienza, is a researcher at the National Research Council in Rome. Her research focuses on evaluating human rights-aligned mental health approaches such as Open Dialogue, Recovery Houses, peer-supported and co-produced services. She is currently the chief investigator of the HOPEnDialogue project, which aims to investigate how Open Dialogue practice is implemented internationally and its impact in different contexts. During her research, she found a lack of scientific knowledge regarding psychiatric drug withdrawal and wants to contribute to address this issue.
Therapist & guide, founder of Inner Fire
Beatrice Birch, executive director and founder of Inner Fire and a Hauschka Artistic Therapist, began her professional career as a teacher in an inner-city Waldorf School in Bristol, England in 1975. Deeply inspired by the healing aspects of Waldorf Education, she later completed a three-year medically based training in Hauschka Artistic Therapy in Gloucestershire, England. She has since worked as a therapist, lectured and consulted in multiple capacities over the past 35 years in the United States, United Kingdom, Holland, and Taiwan. Beatrice has worked in her private practice, larger medical practices, and both public and private therapeutic residential communities with both adults and children struggling with a variety of conditions including cancer, heart disorders, asthma, addictions and other mental and “soul” health challenges. Beatrice has also worked in maximum-security prisons as a facilitator of the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) and guided watercolor painting as part of an artistic therapy program she developed in a medium security prison. At Inner Fire, which she founded in 2013, Beatrice focuses on her work as a therapist and guide, in addition to overall program direction and development.
Inner Fire is a not for profit, licensed TCR, proactive healing community in southern Vermont, offering striving individuals the choice to recover from traumatic and debilitating life experiences which typically lead to addiction or mental (soul) health challenges, while strengthening themselves on a deeper soul spiritual level, but without the use of the mind altering, psychotropic medications. Beatrice is not against medications as they could have their place for shorter periods of time in an emergency, but she believes in the power of choice. Inner Fire supports individuals who want to avoid medications in the first place, support those who long to taper to a level which works for them which could mean off, or who are reeling from the horrendous withdrawal symptoms of the benzodiazepine they had tapered from previously.
Inner Fire was catalyzed by remarkable individuals who approached Beatrice stating: “I hate being medicated, isn’t there a choice?” Having worked for years in English NHS clinics where homeopathy, anthroposophical medicine and the artistic therapies were used, Beatrice knew there were alternatives to the psychotropic medications dished out far too randomly. She shared what she could but when these individuals finally left the rehab and not finding choice, chose suicide over living the zombie type existence, disconnected from their clarity of thinking, heartfelt feeling and intentional willing; from what makes us human, she knew she had to find her colleagues and simply offer a choice. What people choose is their business, but a choice had to be visible. Beatrice sees their suicide as a sacrifice, as a wake-up call.
Healing is a right and should not be a privilege. Beatrice’s heart aches as she knows that Inner Fire, which by necessity is private pay, will not truly be what its intended to be until striving individuals from all walks of life, regardless of their financial resources, are welcomed to engage in the program and reclaim their lives. Since its beginning, The Support a Seeker Fund has supported three individuals and depends on the generosity of those with financial means to support those striving souls without such means.
For more information: www.innerfire.us , please scroll down on the home page for an interview giving a picture of the Inner Fire comprehensive program which recognizes the human being as having a body, soul and spirit. Contact for Beatrice: firstname.lastname@example.org
Clinical Psychologist and Assistant Professor at the Yale School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry
Rebecca Miller, Ph.D., is a psychologist and Assistant Professor at the Yale School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry. She serves as Director of Peer Support at Connecticut Mental Health Center in New Haven, using her lived experience with mental and physical illness to inform her work. Her publications and other scholarship have focused on peer support for persons diagnosed with serious mental illnesses, person-centered and recovery-oriented approaches, alternative experiential approaches to clinical training, and deprescribing in psychiatry. She received her MA and PhD in Clinical Psychology from Long Island University and her BA from Barnard College.
Lived experience practitioner
Mark was born in Zimbabwe and moved to the UK aged 19 to work as a pastry chef hoping to be a high flyer in the chef world. His hopes however were over-shadowed by his experiences of psychosis and the treatments which followed.
During his eighth psychiatric inpatient admission in 2015 and 5 years of being heavily medicated on anti-psychotics, mood stabilisers and anti-depressants Mark watched Eleanor Longdens’ video ‘the voices in my head’ and started attending his local hearing voices group, which offered different perspectives and supported him to realised change was needed.
In early 2016, with the help of his clinical psychologist and psychiatric nurse Mark started his long term goal of tapering off all his medications. After 18 months of what felt like a lonely journey and bad decision at the times due to how difficult it was Mark managed to come off all his medication.
Mark has since been working in various roles in National Health Service (NHS) over the last 5 years, and is currently working in a lived experience leadership role. Mark is also completing his MSc in Mental Health Recovery and Social Inclusion.
Researcher & Training Psychiatrist
Mark Horowitz is a training psychiatrist and researcher in London, who has a PhD from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London on the action of antidepressants. When he tried to come off these drugs himself he was given a short, sharp education in the pain of withdrawal and the lack of knowledge in the medical field about this topic.
Since then he has tried to bring more awareness to the topic of safe de-prescribing of psychotropic drugs through his academic work, including an article published in The Lancet Psychiatry on how to safely taper antidepressants and in JAMA Psychiatry on how to taper antipsychotics. He has also worked with the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the UK to publish their guidance on how to safely stop antidepressants. He is in the process of setting up a deprescribing clinic in the NHS that will help patients from around the country come off psychiatric medication.
He is currently the clinical research fellow on the RADAR trial in London, based at UCL, looking at the effect of gradually tapering people with schizophrenia off their antipsychotics. He is associate editor of the journal Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology and the guest editor for an influential collection of papers on the topic of ‘Discontinuing psychotropic medication’. He has authored chapters of the Maudsley Prescribing Guidelines on how to stop mood stabilisers, antidepressants, antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, z-drugs and gabapentinoids. He is the lead author of the forthcoming textbook the Maudsley Deprescribing Guidelines.
He is a member of the Critical Psychiatry Network and is interested in humanistic, non-pharmacological ways of managing difficult emotional experiences. He believes that centring informed consent about psychiatric drugs and the experience of patients will transform the mental health system for the better.
Lived Experience Advisor, Patient and Public Involvement Contributor
Sandra Jayacodi, a practising solicitor had to leave her profession following years of battling with bipolar and psychosis. She used her lived experience to became a volunteer and a trustee for a mental health charity, then became an Improvement Fellow at the NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) North West London (now known as NIHR Applied Research Collaboration NW London), a peer researcher at the McPin Foundation; a lay chair for Imperial Biomedical Research Central Public Advisory Panel and a patient and public involvement contributor for various health care and academic organisations.
Within Central North West London NHS Trust Sandra holds many roles, including Service User Advisor on the Improvement Academy Board and the Physical Health Strategy Steering Group where she is helping improve communication and clinical decision making between clinicians, patients and families around the use of antipsychotic medication. Sandra uses her lived experience to educate others about the importance of making an informed choice about treatment options, where the potential side effects are always discussed, along with the dangers of overprescribing and the need for regular medicine reviews.
Sandra is also a member of the Lived Experience Advisory Panel for the Research into Antipsychotic Discontinuation and Reduction (RADAR) study led by professor Joanna Moncrieff and the Patient and Public Involvement Co-applicant for the RADAR long term follow-up study. Her involvement in this study had inspired her to reduce and discontinue the antipsychotics she was on for almost 15 years.
Nicole is a Physician Assistant residing in Virginia, USA. She obtained a BS at James Madison University in 2000 and then went on to complete the Master of Physician Assistant program at Eastern Virginia Medical School in 2004. She practiced in urgent care and occupational medicine settings until debilitating iatrogenic illness from benzodiazepine and other psychiatric drug withdrawal left her unable to work.
Nicole has lived experience: Misdiagnosed adverse effects from a Xanax prescription led to a prescribing cascade that resulted in 5+ years of psychotropic polypharmacy (two benzodiazepines prescribed simultaneously, a Z-drug, an antidepressant, a stimulant, and an antipsychotic). In 2010, Nicole was negligently advised to rapidly withdraw in a medical 'detox' center, ultimately resulting in a severe and protracted withdrawal syndrome that persists to date.
Nicole hopes to continue to use both her medical and lived experience to advocate for more education and awareness around psychiatric drug risks and harms as well as for changes in prescribing and deprescribing (withdrawal) practices.