Helping Young People Diagnosed With Psychosis Develop Identities


New research underlies the need for addressing identity in young patients during early stages of psychosis.


The tender early years of a child’s life are a time when they can explore and develop their personal identity; however, it may also be the time a young person first experiences psychosis. If this is the case, their personal identity and self-worth may be in jeopardy. A recent study1 concluded that improved training is needed to help these young people with psychosis develop their identity safely. 

“The onset of psychosis in adolescence or young adulthood has the potential to dramatically interfere with identity-related processes,” study co-author David Kealy, PhD, assistant professor with the University of British Columbia Vancouver’s department of psychiatry, said to the press. “This creates an entire level of vulnerability for youth to contend with in their early psychosis recovery.”2

Using data gathered from more than 300 multi-professional clinicians working in early psychosis intervention programs in British Columbia, researchers discovered only half of those surveyed had a high level of confidence in addressing identity issues in treatment. This demonstrates there may be a gap between clinicians’ recognition of identity development and their ability to help patients with this issue in a meaningful manner.

The stigma around psychotic disorders may make it even more difficult for a young person to develop a positive sense of self, Kealy explained. Shelly Ben-David, PhD, RSW, LMSW, assistant professor at UBC Okanagan’s School of Social Work and study lead author, elucidated the need for a solution.

“Our findings indicate a need for early psychosis programs to invest in identity-related training for clinicians,” Ben-David commented to the press. “Next steps are to work closely with the community to explore the impact of identity-focused interventions in the early stages of psychosis.”2

Ben-David, Kealy, and their colleagues determined their findings solidify the need for early psychosis programs centering identity to be made available to clinicians. Training mental health professionals on this matter may significantly improve the lives of their young patients diagnosed with psychosis.


1. Ben-David S, Kealy D, Hanson J, Ortiz R. Perspectives on personal identity in the early stages of psychosis: A survey of Canadian clinicians. Early Interv Psychiatry. September 2, 2020. Epub ahead of print.

2. University of British Columbia Okanagan campus. Helping youth diagnosed with early stages of psychosis. News release. Science Daily. October 14, 2020.

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