If someone has just had a psychotic episode, it is very hard to express that experience in words. That is why we started with a pilot with more experienced participants: people who are farther along since their first psychotic episode. What I especially loved to see is that Martin and Inge have a very safe way of interacting, that truly reflects their own life experience. These people have already talked to lots of people about being susceptible to psychotic episodes, for example to their psychiatrists. But the process with the Riebeeks is different. When you are being videotaped, you perceive what you say and do as a form of perfomance, and the time and attention that the Riebeeks invest make it feel more meaningful and significant. That creates depth. In addition, the rigorous format that they use makes it feel ritualistic. And it is precisely those things - depth and ritual - that are such powerful factors in the healing process.
As far as I'm concerned, the experiment with Martin and Inge Riebeek has been a succes. We are now looking into whether their way of working can also be applied by other people with first-hand experience, and by artists.
Interview Jim van Os,
professor of psychiatry
and head of the Brain Centre at UMC Utrecht (NL)