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Psychosis or Meaningful Experience? Process Oriented Approaches to Altered and Extreme States of Consciousness

Process Work (also called Process Oriented Psychology) has an innovative and non-pathologizing view of the altered and extreme states of consciousness that usually get called “psychosis.” Rather than dismiss such states as mental illness — as something to be discarded — Process Work takes the position that such states contain something meaningful and important that is trying to emerge.

Viewing disturbing states this way creates new options for responding to, and integrating, these states, rather than putting all the emphasis on suppression.

You can get a fascinating introduction to the Process Work approach in the upcoming webinar, “Mental Illness or Meaningful Experience? Process Oriented Approaches to Altered and Extreme States of Consciousness.” This webinar will occur on Friday 8/17/18, from 12:00 to 1:30 EDT.

In this workshop we will take an aerial tour of key Process Work attitudes, concepts and vocabulary as they relate to out-of-ordinary states of mind. We will frame unusual states in terms of internal conflict and field phenomena rather than diseases and disorders. Participants will get a sense of how to map “process structure” — what is familiar, what is emerging, and the barrier between the two. We will also examine channels of awareness and how to reach someone who appears to be unreachable.

We will then discuss practical skills you can use to understand and communicate with themes that emerge in altered states. We will examine the idea that unusual beliefs (often called delusions) are actually metaphorical expressions of something that wants to become better known; not just for the experiencer’s benefit but for the benefit of the broader group.

Finally we will explore the four phases of conflict — different postures we can take toward things that bother us. Identifying and moving between the four phases is key for those wondering how to approach people who strongly identify with psychiatric labels and the medical model, as well as people who don’t believe in the psychiatric framework at all.

The presenter, John Herold MA, draws from his training in Process Work, personal lived experience with out-of-ordinary states as well as his time as a psychiatric patient to host a candid, funny, interactive and educational workshop. Come join him for a non-pathologizing adventure!

John is a psychiatric survivor, facilitator, advocate, trainer and speaker. He has experienced altered and extreme states of consciousness and was involuntarily hospitalized in 2012. John is the founder and director of Puget Sound Hearing Voices, now entering its fourth year of weekly meetings. He is passionate about spreading non-pathologizing ways of understanding experiences that often get called mental illness. Last summer John was named an Inspirational Person by Intervoice: The International Hearing Voices Network. John holds a master’s degree in Process Work and lives in Gig Harbor, Washington. Learn more about John’s work at and

ISPS-US webinars are free to ISPS members, with a donation of $5-$20 requested from others, though no one turned away for lack of funds. Please do register at this link if you want to attend!

You might also be interested in how Process Work relates to mystical and otherworldly states, as well as what we usually call “psychosis,” in the article Shamanism, Process Work, and Extreme States by Gary Reiss.

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