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February 14, 2020 by Laura Galbusera & Miriam Kyselo | HUMANA.MENTE Journal of Philosophical Studies

The Importance of Dialogue for Schizophrenia Treatment: Conceptual Bridges Between the Open Dialogue Approach and Enactive Cognitive Science


In this paper we focus on the psychiatric approach of Open Dialogue (OD) and seek to explain why the intersubjective process of dialogue, one of OD’s core clinical principles, is effective in schizophrenia treatment.

We address this question from an interdisciplinary viewpoint, by linking the OD approach with a theoretical account of the self as endorsed by enactive cognitive science.

The paper is structured as follows: first, we introduce the OD approach and focus in particular on the principles that are characteristic of the dialogical therapeutic attitude. Second, we clarify our stance on the concept of schizophrenia by relying on insights from phenomenological psychiatry. Third, we introduce an enactive perspective on mental disorders, which elaborates on phenomenological psychiatry and conceives of the self as a self-organizing system, brought forth through interactional processes.

Based on this enactive approach, we draw clinical implications for schizophrenia. In the fourth and final part, we propose conceptual bridges between the OD and the enactive approach by bringing to attention the intersubjective nature of the human self and the inherent vulnerability entailed in both the self’s maintenance and in the practice of dialogue.

We then propose that the dialogical stance adopted by OD is effective in supporting the recovery of a balanced sense of self precisely because it provides an intersubjective space in which clients can safely experience and maintain the basic structures underlying the socially constituted self. Since our analysis touches upon fundamental structures of the therapeutic relationship, we hope that it will also be useful to inform general psychiatric practice and help advancing a more integrative understanding of psychotherapy for schizophrenia.

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