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Jim Poulter Author of Books on Aboriginal Culture and Child Protection
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What Are My Voices Really Telling Me?

– Exploring the symbolism of psychotic experiences with mentally ill offenders through the use of story and metaphor

Journal article published in New Paradigm, December 2003, VICSERV, Nth Fitzroy, pp.6-23.


The article maps the development and course of a number of existential therapy groups I devised and ran during my seven year career at Thomas Embling Hospital, a secure forensic hospital for the criminally insane. The purpose of the groups was to prepare patients with stabilised illnesses for re-entry into the community. The paper begins with an historical review of existential approaches to mental illness and the development of constructivist approaches to therapy. This leads into a discussion on the competing paradigms of mental illness and how the delivery of rehabilitation programs at Thomas Embling had to be rethought and restructured in order to address the existential problem facing these patients. These issues were of critical importance. Not only did the patients face the problems of identity faced by all patients with a mental illness, but these patients had commonly also committed homicide, usually of a family member. These issues were opened up for discussion by the patients in the late 1990’s and began a process of them mutually mapping their life journeys through illness, offence, incarceration and rehabilitation. At the initiative of the patients themselves, this in turn led to various therapeutic and psycho-education groups being mounted. These groups were given esoteric names such as Odyssey, Phoenix and Delphi which symbolically matched their purpose. It was found that the patients responded well to discussion their own psychotic experiences through story and metaphor and a couple of the stories devised for this purpose are recounted in the paper. The process model of rehabilitation that resulted directly from the journey mapping process undertaken by the patients is also included as an appendix.


This article can be referenced through the New Paradigm journal or can be gained free of charge from myself as an email attachment.

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