UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Understanding insight development in early psychosis : a narrative approach Macnaughton, Eric


Intervening early in the course of psychotic illness (e.g. schizophrenia) may significantly improve prospects for the recovery, both in medical and psychosocial terms, of the individuals who experience these conditions. Engaging such individuals in care, however, remains a challenge. One barrier to engagement is lack of insight, or the low illness awareness that is considered to be a typical characteristic of people who experience psychotic illnesses, particularly in their early phases. The dominant view of this phenomenon is that it is primarily related to the illness itself and thus is biologically based. There is reason to believe, however, that understanding the psychosis experience is also an interpretive process, and that the meaning of this experience for the individual arises out of dialogue between the person, mental health professionals and significant others. There is also reason to believe that the relationship between insight and recovery may not be as straightforward as presumed. While the dominant view sees insight as a crucial condition for recovery, emerging evidence suggests that insight once gained may lead to depression and demoralization. Insight thus may be understood as an interpretive, dialogical process that is fundamentally narrative in nature, the consequences of which may be divergent. Using qualitative methods (constructivist grounded theory complemented by narrative analysis), the present study sought to understand the process by which insight developed in early psychosis, and sought to explore the relationship between insight and the early stages of illness management and recovery, as reflected by the written and oral accounts of twelve individuals who were within the first three years of illness. Overall, the results suggest that insight development in early psychosis can be conceptualized as the process of coming to an acceptable, adaptive explanation. More specifically, the results first of all suggest that insight development involves finding or negotiating an account of illness that fits or can be accommodated with the individual’s own story of the psychosis experience. The process also involves finding an account of illness and its treatment that can be envisioned as a helpful rather than disruptive aspect of the individual’s future biography.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International