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International Society Removes ‘Schizophrenia’ From Its Title


International Society Removes ‘Schizophrenia’ From Its Title

At the instigation of its New Zealand branch, members of the International Society for the Psychological Treatments of the Schizophrenias and Other Psychoses ( have just voted, by an overwhelming majority (84%), to change its name to the International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis. The change will be implemented immediately.

The change, proposed by the NZ branch of ISPS, comes at a time when the scientific validity of the term schizophrenia is being hotly debated in the lead up to the publication of the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (see

ISPS promotes psychological treatments for people who experience psychosis (eg hallucinations and delusions), and greater understanding of the psychological and social causes of psychosis. Founded in Europe in 1956, ISPS now has branches in 19 countries, has published 13 books in the last decade (4 of which are by New Zealanders) and has its own scientific journal, Psychosis (, edited by Professor John Read of the University of Auckland. Its 1400 members include psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, occupational therapists, family therapists and researchers, as well as users of mental health services and family members.

In debates preceding the vote the two primary reasons put forward in favour of the change were that the term ‘schizophrenia’ is unscientific and stigmatizing. The construct has little or no reliability (the extent to which experts can agree on who meets criteria for a diagnosis) or validity (the construct’s ability to predict things like outcome or response to treatments). Research has also repeatedly found that ‘schizophrenia’ is one of the most stigmatizing of all psychiatric labels, and promotes unwarranted pessimism about recovery because of the implication that people with this diagnosis suffer from an irreversible ‘brain disease’.

ISPS (International) Chairperson Dr Brian Martindale (a UK psychiatrist and psychotherapist):

“This significant change reflects the ISPS's determination to persuade mental heath services to provide high quality psychological interventions for users and families when psychosis is involved. We need to move on from the stigmatising and false idea that schizophrenia is a single identifiable biologically determined ‘disease’”

ISPS NZ Chairperson Debra Lampshire (who has experienced psychosis and is now a trainer of mental health staff and a staff member of the School of Nursing at the University of Auckland):

“We are very proud that the NZ branch initiated this name change, and delighted that our international members voted overwhelmingly to get rid of this awful, unscientific term, that has damaged so many lives with its connotations of violence and its pessimism about recovery. We need to focus more on the social causes of mental health problems.”

ISPS is not the first to do this. The Schizophrenia Fellowship changed its name to Supporting Families in New Zealand and to Rethink Mental Illness in the UK for similar reasons.


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