Recovery and self-identity development following a first episode of psychosis

Cogan, Nicola and Schwannauer, Matthias and Harper, Sean (2019) Recovery and self-identity development following a first episode of psychosis. Journal of Public Mental Health, 18 (3). pp. 169-179. ISSN 1746-5729 (

[thumbnail of Cogan-JPMH-2019-Recovery-and-self-identity-development-following-a-first]
Text. Filename: Cogan_JPMH_2019_Recovery_and_self_identity_development_following_a_first.pdf
Accepted Author Manuscript

Download (628kB)| Preview


Purpose: The onset of psychosis typically develops during adolescence, a crucial period for beginning the transition from family to independence and developing a stable sense of self. Recovery amongst adolescents experiencing early onset psychosis has not yet been investigated with reference to its influence on self-identity. The purpose of this paper is to explore the impact living with early onset psychosis has on self-identity for adolescents in recovery. Design/methodology/approach: A purposive sample of ten adolescents aged between 16 and 18 years from an Early Intervention Service in the Scottish National Health Service were recruited. All had experienced at least one episode of psychosis and were within three years of first contact with the service. Semi-structured interviews were adopted to capture adolescents’ perspectives concerning their experiences of recovery from psychosis and the impact on self-identity. All interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed and thematically analysed. Findings: Qualitative analysis of adolescents’ accounts revealed how recovery from psychosis involves working with individual explanatory frameworks concerning uncertain identities and status ambiguity, a decrease in referent points and unfavourable social comparisons (emphasising loss, grief and self-criticism). Research limitations/implications: Supporting adolescents experiencing early psychosis involves education, rebuilding relationships with self and others and providing access to psychotherapeutic interventions to aid self-identity development when needed. Originality/value: The originality of this paper lies in the importance of identity, recovery, human reconnection, advocacy and community reintegration for adolescents experiencing psychosis. Public mental health campaigns to tackle the stigma surrounding psychosis are essential to assisting adolescents in developing their sense of self through their recovery journeys.