A Disorder for Everyone! - Challenging the culture of psychiatric diagnosis...

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Cornwall Offices

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St Austell

PL26 8lg

United Kingdom

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"A Disorder for Everyone!" - Challenging the culture of psychiatric diagnosis and exploring trauma informed alternatives in association with The Women's Centre Cornwall

AD4E is coming to Cornwall! This will be our 21st event and we are delighted to be supported by The Women's Centre Cornwall

Contributors include Dr Lucy Johnstone, Matt Ball, Dr Akima Thomas, Michelle Springer-Benjamin, Pat McArdle, Kate Atkinson, Maggie Parks, Viv Gordon, Nollaig McSweeeny and Jo Watson.

When you buy your ticket please consider donating a small amount via our "donation" option to support free and cheap places for people who can't afford to pay.

Who Attends?

This day is for anyone who is interested in and concerned about the current debates in 'mental health.'

It provides a space to explore the critical questions of the day around the biomedical model and the narrative of 'diagnosis and disorder!'

Attendees from past AD4E events have included people who identify as the following :-

people with lived experience of emotional distress, supporters of people with lived experience, survivors, psychologists, journalists, activists, counsellors, service users, service refusers, psychotherapists, mental health support professionals, psychiatrists, managers and individuals with a general personal interest.

About the day

The event features not just professionals but people from a diverse range of backgrounds who have an essential contribution to make to the debate.

Lucy Johnstone presents the current debates and controversies about psychiatric diagnosis. It is increasingly acknowledged, even within the mental health establishment, that categories like 'schizophrenia', 'bipolar disorder' and 'personality disorder' lack validity. The assumption that distress is best understood as disease can have very serious consequences for the individual, their identity, and their path to recovery. In the morning Lucy will present alternatives to diagnosis which can help people to make sense of experiences of distress, however extreme, and which are based on working together to explore personal meaning.

Other Listed speakers will make up the rest of the day as well as an afternoon workshop.

About Lucy

Dr Lucy Johnstone is a UK clinical psychologist, trainer, speaker and writer, and a long-standing critic of biomedical model psychiatry. She has worked in adult mental health settings for many years, alternating with academic posts. She is the former Programme Director of the Bristol Clinical Psychology Doctorate, a highly regarded course which was based on a critical, politically-aware and service-user informed philosophy, along with an emphasis on personal development.

Lucy has authored a number of books, (including 'Users and Abusers of Psychiatry, 2nd edn 2000) articles and chapters on topics such as psychiatric diagnosis, formulation, the psychological effects of ECT, and the role of trauma in breakdown.

Lucy was a contributor to the Division of Clinical Psychology 'Position Statement on Classification' 2013. She is currently convening a group of leading UK clinical psychologists and mental health experts who are working to develop an evidence-based and conceptually coherent alternative to the current diagnostic systems.

Lucy's book is available here: A Straight-Talking Introduction to Psychiatric Diagnosis,

& check out Lucy's articles for Mad in america here:

Twitter - @ClinpsychLucy

Read Lucy & Jo's article in BACP's Therapy Today (April '17)

030 to 033 Just listen to their stories TT_Apr17.pdf

About Jo

Jo Watson is a psychotherapist, trainer and activist who started out in the survivor and rape crisis movements of the 1990's. She has worked therapeutically for the last 20 years with people who have experienced trauma. Jo actively challenges the biomedical model in mental health both inside and outside of her work and links emotional distress to psycho-social causes. (Trauma, oppression, lack of positive attachment etc.)

Jo believes that in many cases the identification with a ‘diagnosis’ is damaging and counterproductive to a satisfactory healing process and that alternative routes to understanding distress should be offered.

Jo founded the facebook group 'Drop The Disorder!' in September 2016 as a place where the issues surrounding the biomedical model can be discussed. Jo is organising and promoting "A Disorder For Everyone!" which is presently making its way around the UK.

Twitter - @dropthedisorder

AD4E website:

Order the book 'Drop the Disorder!- Challenging the culture of psychiatric diagnosis' here!

About Nollaig

Nollaig McSweeney qualified as a mental health nurse in the UK in 1997 and worked in acute psychiatry for quite some time before she realised that the so-called ‘science’ behind it was highly questionable. This insight was largely sparked by reading Rosenhan’s 1973 study – On Being Sane in Insane Places. Nollaig is a valued member and contributor of "Drop the disorder' facebook group and is an activist for change.

About Matt

Matt Ball is a mental health nurse practitioner and psychotherapist, facilitating psychotherapy, supervision, group work and training at Humane Clinic Adelaide. Matt’s is interested in extraordinary realities,’ psychosis’ and trauma and cultural meaning, and the human-to-human relationship approaches to personal distress and meaning. Matt has led the training of 150 staff in the Maastricht approach to hearing voices in the public mental health system in South Australia. He continues to pursue the reality of a public mental health system that does not medicalize human distress as a potentially humane and just approach to anyone of us who may seek support in the context, the existential dilemma.

He is the Founder and Co-Director of the Humane Clinic, a trainer with Blue Knot Foundation, the current chair of ISPS Australia, was awarded the 2017 Australian Mental Health Nurse of the Year. Matt’s work is informed by his own lived experience of madness and unmadness, both in his personal and his professional journey. He has recently lest the public mental health system, this time as a worker, and continues to be an activist for change and exposure of the structural bullying and corruption that underpins the maintenance of the dominant discourse in Australian mental health services. In 2019 he is hoping to share the explanatory concept of Dissociachotic – as a way for people to move away from the labelling of voices, visions and other extraordinary experiences as ‘psychosis’ towards a more humane understand of legitimate human realities.

Matt's AD4E Presentation is called 'Dissociachotic: seeing non psychosis'

The biological idea of schizophrenia and psychosis is far-fetched, but continues to 'other' a person in distress. Dissociachotic explains how extreme states of ‘psychosis’ are understandable - emerging and evaporating within the human to human relationship, towards meaningful shared experiences

About Akima

Dr Akima Thomas OBE is a feminist activist and comes from a background in nursing and social work. Founder and Clinical Director of Women and Girls Network a holistic therapeutic service working with women and girls surviving gendered violence. Akima has pioneered working from a trauma informed approach and has developed a strengths based non pathologising clinical model; the Holistic Empowerment Recovery Model (HER) integrating healing of mind body and spirit. More recently Akima has researched women’s healing journey chronicling their strategies of resistance rebellion and resilience to ensure survival.

About Michelle

Michelle Springer Benjamin is a womanist activist currently working in the VAWG sector as a Training Manager. Worked for the NSPCC as a Senior Training Consultant. Professional journey includes qualifications in social work, counselling, coaching. Loves ritual and ceremony that reminds us as women of who we truly are and our divine femininity.

About Viv

Viv Gordon is a theatre maker and arts activist. She write and perform shows that creatively articulate trauma narratives based on her lived experience as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, connecting the personal with wider, socio-political themes and perspectives. Viv's work is a campaign to forge survivor voice, visibility and community and agitate for change.

This year Viv previewed ORAL, a gobby opinionated show about sexual abuse, dentistry and civil rights co-commissioned by Strike a Light and The Sick of the Fringe. She holds a Develop Your Creative Practice Grant from Arts Council England to develop relationships with survivor artists, activists and academics in the UK and USA. Viv is currently making a new solo show called Cutting Out, reflecting on the scale and severity of abuse in the UK.

About Maggie

Maggie Parks has a background in the statutory sector having worked for the Probation Service for 8 years. She has been working with issues of violence against women since the early 1980s when she was on the Management Committee of Nuneaton Women’s Refuge. She was a founding member and Coordinator of Worcestershire Rape Crisis Centre where she developed and delivered numerous training courses on issues of sexual violence and abuse. She managed the Women's Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre Cornwall (WRSAC) from 1998 leading it from its early inception as a completely voluntary organisation to become a professional third sector agency recognised as a Centre of Excellence and rebranding as The Women's Centre Cornwall in 2018.
She is a member of various local, regional and national boards and forums and is a recognised trainer and conference speaker. She was previously a Trustee and Board Member of Rape Crisis England and Wales and is currently a Board Member of the Ending Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW).

About Pat

Pat McArdle has been an activist, campaigner for social justice for over 30 years. She has worked in the community and voluntary with people going through homelessness and tough times in the UK and Ireland. Pat is currently CEO of Mayday Trust and has lead the organisation through a radical transformation over the last 8 years from a traditional supported housing provider to a national influencer for systemic change.

Pat began work in Handsworth in Birmingham advocating for people diagnosed and sectioned within All Saints psychiatric hospital. She has held various positions in the voluntary sector including being the first Director of Cork Simon Community and 2 national positions working with the Foyer Federation as Head of Network Services and Director of Services for YWCA England and Wales.

Pat believes that people experiencing homelessness have become institutionalised and trapped in services through a pathologising and deficit focused system.

About Kate

Kate Atkinson's professional background is in Mental Health Social Work but her own mental health challenges led to a prolonged ‘psychiatric career’. Diagnosed with anxiety and clinical depression she experienced a range of interventions including inpatient treatment, ECT, different therapies and 25 years on medication of one sort or another. She has now been medication free for three years and continues to work hard on dropping her disorder.

For the past 11 years Kate has been employed a Service User Consultant by Cornwall Foundation NHS Trust using her lived experience to inform and support the engagement of people in their own care as well as in the planning and delivery of services.

Delegates will attend one of 2 afternoon workshops

Workshop 1

Title: An Introduction to the Power Threat Meaning

Facilitator: Dr Lucy Johnstone

Summary: Lucy will outline the key principles of the framework and show how it can be used in practice to understand and make sense of emotional and psychological distress.

Check out the trailer for the Power Threat Meaning Framework Launch

Workshop 2

Title: The Trauma informed approach and Beyond.

Facilitators: Dr Akima Thomas & Michelle Springer-Benjamin

Summary: This workshop will provide a space and an opportunity to reflect on promising practice and the integration of trauma informed principles. Akima and Michelle will facilite an open discussion where participants will be encouraged to think critically and creatively about trauma informed approaches to working with emotional distress.

What people have said about the event...

"The whole day has been a transformative experience. I have always been uncomfortable with labels but felt I had to go along with it. Now I feel empowered to offer the people I work with the option at least to explore alternative ways of understanding their pain." (Participant Birmingham)

"I feel like I am at the beginning of an exciting and liberating journey. Thank you Lucy" (Participant on Birmingham )

"I've been told I am ill for the best part of 20 years and given the 'meds' to go along with it. This has never felt right, now I know it isn't right." (participant Bristol)

"A Disorder for Everyone is not your average event. I have learnt that I need to unlearn! I am re-evaluating everything!" (Participant Birmingham)

"Everything about today has been validating, I really needed this course!" (participant Edinburgh)

"Lucy's straight forward, common sense approach was just what I needed at the moment. Her message is simple: Listen to people, to their stories and help them make their own sense about their lives" (Participant Birmingham course)

"I have no idea what to make of it all, but I feel like i'm at the start of a mini personal revolution!" (Participant London)

"I arrived today with two 'illnesses', I'm leaving with the knowledge that all my pain and distress makes total sense." (Participant Liverpool)

"Inspirational, exciting but most of all hopeful" (Participant Brighton)

Check our Counsellor Cath Norris talking about her experience of AD4E

Professor Peter Kinderman's thoughts about the events

The musical slideshow of our Manchester event!

A review written by participant Monica Glover about our Birmingham event in April 2018

For in depth reviews please check out the website


Cornwall Offices

Sation Approach


St Austell


PL26 8lg

Making this event as accessible as possible to people who are unable to afford the fee / full fee is a key consideration for us. As a result we have been as efficient as possible and do not provided lunch or programmes etc. It is a 'no paper' event and all resouces and presentations are made available via the website via passwords afterwards.

We hope you support the decision to run the event cost effectively for this reason.

Images from AD4E London - Amnesty International, 8th June 2017

Image from AD4E Birmingham April 2018


Our events feature numerous contributors and we cannot guarentee that every speaker booked will attend. If an advertised speaker cannot attend we will do our best to replace them with someone equally spectacular! :)

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Date and Time


Cornwall Offices

Station Approach


St Austell

PL26 8lg

United Kingdom

View Map

Refund Policy

Contact the organiser to request a refund.

Eventbrite's fee is nonrefundable.

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