Understanding Extreme States: An Interview with Stephen Harrod Buhner

This interview with Stephen Buhner was conducted by Matt Stevenson,  a young man who has recovered from challenges associated with multiple “severe” psychiatric diagnoses and who is building a bit of a reputation on the Mad in America site by interviewing leaders about alternative ways of conceptualizing distress, as well as about about paths to recovery outside the mainstream system.

Understanding Extreme States: An Interview with Stephen Harrod Buhner

One day on the ISPS listserv, psychologist Paris Williams shared a chapter from a book in which an herbalist and alternative healer named Stephen Harrod Buhner described his approach to working with the extreme states of mind commonly labeled as “schizophrenia” by psychiatrists. The chapter was entitled “On the Healing of Schizophrenia” and the book is Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm.

Buhner described concepts which I knew from my study of psychoanalytic approaches to these problems, such as profound fragmentation of the mind into part-selves to counter overwhelming anxiety, and the great care and lengthy time frames necessary to help severely traumatized people regain trust in the outside world. Buhner described how the dedicated healer could painstakingly be permitted access to the fragmented inner world of a terrified person and help them reintegrate their mind. Of “schizophrenia,” Buhner said, “The cultural paradigm or view of the condition is itself dysfunctional, to the extent that the paradigm is crazy.” (Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm, pg. 503)

Finding myself intrigued by this man who’d never trained in psychiatry or psychology but who nevertheless worked effectively with people in severe distress using self-developed theories, I tracked Buhner down. I asked him to speak to me about these issues, and here is what resulted:

Read the interview in its entirety  here  Be inspired!

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