Making Sense of Madness

Contesting the Meaning of Schizophrenia

By Jim Geekie, John Read

© 2009 – Routledge

208 pages | 8 B/W Illus.

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780415461962
pub: 2009-05-06
US Dollars$43.95
Hardback: 9780415461955
pub: 2009-05-11
US Dollars$135.00

e–Inspection Copy

About the Book

The experience of madness – which might also be referred to more formally as ‘schizophrenia’ or ‘psychosis’ – consists of a complex, confusing and often distressing collection of experiences, such as hearing voices or developing unusual, seemingly unfounded beliefs. Madness, in its various forms and guises, seems to be a ubiquitous feature of being human, yet our ability to make sense of madness, and our knowledge of how to help those who are so troubled, is limited.

Making Sense of Madness explores the subjective experiences of madness. Using clients' stories and verbatim descriptions, it argues that the experience of 'madness' is an integral part of what it is to be human, and that greater focus on subjective experiences can contribute to professional understandings and ways of helping those who might be troubled by these experiences.

Areas of discussion include:

  • how people who experience psychosis make sense of it themselves
  • scientific/professional understandings of ‘madness'
  • what the public thinks about ‘schizophrenia’

Making Sense of Madness will be essential reading for all mental health professionals as well as being of great interest to people who experience psychosis and their families and friends.


"Jim Geekie and John Read have written a fascinating book about what psychiatrists call 'schizophrenia'. They address the usually ignored issue of how people who experience hallucinations and delusions make sense of those experiences themselves. They also tackle why it is that experts continue to disagree about what 'schizophrenia' is and, indeed, whether it exists at all. This is a 'must read' for all mental health professionals and everyone else interested in madness." - Professor Paul J Fink, Past President American Psychiatric Association, Temple University School of Medicine, USA

"One can only hope that every new trainee in mental health will first read this book before exposing him - or herself to the confusing amount of theories and categorizations that have become accepted as "knowledge" of madness. Developing an attitude of continuously contesting and questioning accepted knowledge will help close the current gap between subjective experience and professional reductionism." - Prof. dr J. van Os, Dept. Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, Maastricht University, The Netherlands

"At long last, a book that eloquently demonstrates the necessity to listen to subjective experiences of madness in order to gain real insight into sanity, madness and the human condition. Humane, accessible and illuminating." - Jacqui Dillon, Chair of the National Hearing Voices Network, UK

"This is a book that should be read by all trainees in psychiatry." - The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry

Table of Contents

Introduction. The Subjective Experience of Madness. Making Sense of Madness I: Subjective Experience. Making Sense of Madness II: Lay Understandings. What Does the Public Think About ‘Schizophrenia?’ Making Sense of Madness III: Scientific/Professional Understandings of ‘Madness.’ Bringing it all Together. What ‘Schizophrenia’ Really Is. Where to From Here?

About the Authors

Jim Geekie is a clinical psychologist who has been working for Auckland District Health Board in New Zealand since 1995, mostly in the area of early intervention for psychosis. Before moving to New Zealand, he worked in Scotland and England as a psychologist, and before that he spent a few years living in East Africa, where he was employed as a teacher of psychology and philosophy.

John Read is an Associate Professor in Clinical Psychology at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Before that he worked for twenty years as a clinical psychologist and manager of mental health services – predominantly in services for people diagnosed psychotic in the USA and New Zealand. He is the coordinating editor of Models of Madness: Psychological, Social and Biological Approaches to Schizophrenia (Routledge, 2004) and editor of the journal 'Psychosis: Psychological, Social and Integrative Approaches'.

About the Series

The International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis Book Series

ISPS (The International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis) has a history stretching back more than fifty years during which it has witnessed the relentless pursuit of biological explanations for psychosis. The tide has been turning in recent years and there is a welcome international resurgence of interest in a range of psychological factors that have considerable explanatory power and therapeutic possibilities. Governments, professional groups, people with personal experience of psychosis and family members are increasingly expecting interventions that involve more talking and listening. Many now regard practitioners skilled in psychological therapies as an essential component of the care of people with psychosis.

ISPS is a global society. It aims to promote psychological and social approaches both to understanding and to treating psychosis. It also aims to bring together different perspectives on these issues. ISPS is composed of individuals, networks and institutional members from a wide range of backgrounds and is especially concerned that those with personal experience of psychosis and their family members are fully involved in our activities alongside practitioners and researchers, and that all benefit from this. Our members recognise the potential humanitarian and therapeutic potential of skilled psychological understanding and therapy in the field of psychosis. ISPS embraces a wide spectrum of approaches from psychodynamic, systemic, cognitive, and arts therapies to need-adapted and dialogical approaches, family and group therapies and residential therapeutic communities.

We are also most interested in establishing meaningful dialogue with those practitioners and researchers who are more familiar with biological-based approaches. There is increasing empirical evidence for the interaction of genes and biology with the emotional and social environment, and there are important examples of the impact of life experiences in the fields of trauma, attachment, social relationships and therapy.

ISPS activities include regular international and national conferences, newsletters and email discussion groups. Routledge has recognised the importance of our field in publishing both the book series and the ISPS journal: Psychosis - Psychological, Social and Integrative Approaches with the two complementing one another. The series started in 2004 and by 2015 it contained 19 books and 2 monographs, with further publications in preparation. A wide range of topics are covered and we hope this reflects some success in our aim of bringing together a rich range of perspectives.

The book series is intended as a resource for a broad range of mental health professionals, as well as those developing and implementing policy and people whose interest in psychosis is at a personal level. We aim for rigorous academic standards and at the same time accessibility to a wide range of readers, and for the books to promote the ideas of clinicians and researchers who may be well known in some countries, but not so familiar in others. Our overall intention is to encourage the dissemination of existing knowledge and ideas, promote productive debate, and encourage more research in a most important field whose secrets certainly do not all reside in the neurosciences.

This series also includes a monograph strand, which consists of high-level academic texts aimed at researchers, academics and postgraduate students. Within the monograph strand the focus tends to be somewhat more conceptual, and less directly clinical, than in the main strand.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Psychopathology / Schizophrenia