ISPS UK Executive Committee

We have 14 executive committee members  who are elected to serve for a 4 year term of office. They come from many different lay and professional backgrounds:


Steph Allan

Steph discovered ISPS online and was excited to become a member. An adult returner to education, Steph is working on a PhD within the Psychosis Research Group, with a particular focus on complex issues within implementation for digital psychosocial interventions. Steph has personal experience of psychosis, voice hearing and hospitalisation. From her experiences, she is passionate about approaches to mental distress which foreground compassion and are mindful of inequality.

Neil Caton

I have lived experience of psychosis and of early intervention services alongside other community services. I sit on various involvement groups. I have also worked as a service user consultant for the early intervention service where I ran an involvement group and contributed service user perspectives to various working groups. I work as a support worker so have a good empathy with other caring professionals. I am a current trustee of ISPS and have been for some years.

I am firmly committed to psycho social approaches to psychosis and have a special interest in Open Dialogue, The Hearing Voices Network and The Soteria Network.

Eamonn Flynn

I have a long career in business, finance and management of arts charities. I appreciate and remain impressed how the arts can help people connect to each other the world over.

As a member of a carer’s group in Haringey, I am appalled how awful treatment in NHS mental services can be experienced by our loved ones. I feel it is vital to keep looking for better and kinder ways of understanding psychosis to help people find their own way. Families and carers are front line and I support the ISPS aims to find a range of approaches towards supporting people in distress.

AlfAlf Gillham

Alf is a retired Consultant Clinical Psychologist, having worked in the NHS for 35 years.  He has a long standing interest in psychosis especially in psycho-dynamic and psychological approaches to understanding it.  This has led to a long standing interest in emotion and psychosis, which led to him contributing as one of the editors of the book: Psychosis and Emotion, part of the ISPS book series.  Alf has been fortunate to attend three of the ISPS international conferences and has found them to be unique and amongst the best conferences that he has been to.  In the 80s Alf did psychoanalytic training at the Scottish Institute of Human Relations.  He has taught on the Clinical Psychology training course in Glasgow University for 25 years. Alf has been on the committee since 2007. He currently lives in both Scotland and Greece and has 18 year old twins.

Akiko Hart (Chair)

Akiko is the Hearing Voices Project Manager at Mind in Camden and a Committee Member of the English Hearing Voices Network. As part of her work at Mind in Camden, she helps set up, facilitate and sustain Hearing Voices groups and networks in a variety of settings, including the community, in-patient units, children and adolescent mental health services, prisons, secure units and Immigration Removal Centres. She has previously worked as the Director of Mental Health Europe, and has a keen interest in the differences and overlaps in mental health provision in different national and regional settings.

She has written about and spoken on a number of topics at conferences across Europe, including promoting alternatives to the medical model, de-institutionalization and legal capacity. Her research interests include critical suicidology, psychosis and dissociation.

Val JacksonVal Jackson

Systemic psychotherapist, supervisor, trainer and UKCP registered.

Before qualifying as a family therapist in 2003 Val worked as an occupational therapist, mostly in mental health services in the UK and overseas. When she heard Jaakko Seikkula talk about Open Dialogue in Harrogate in 2003 it immediately made sense to her, and she spent the next 11 years trying to spread the word, unable to understand why such a logical approach wasn’t being used in the UK. From 2006 to March 2015 she worked in the Early Intervention in Psychosis Service in Leeds, West Yorkshire. Val is currently involved in coordinating and teaching on the Foundation Diploma in Peer supported Open Dialogue, Network and Relational skills. She is also a trainee trainer on the Open Dialogue UK 3 year course.

Val had an aunt with a diagnosis of schizophrenia who lived and died in an asylum. She never met her, and her aunt was never talked about and maybe this is why she is passionate about developing better services for families and clients.

Cycling, gardening, skiing and swimming also inspire her as do her family, friends and ‘Breaking Bad’!

Abd-al-Jalil Kane Abdullah

I have had an interest in interventions for people suffering from psychosis since I was a teenager after my Uncle became unwell and was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. This had and continues to have a profound effect on my understanding of both Mental Health the societal system that surrounds it.

Although I originally have a Neuroscience and professional writing background, I developed an interest in psychosocial approaches to psychosis, and have been working for Community Housing and Therapy, who run five therapeutic communities for clients with Psychosis, for last five years. Both as a practitioner and in a managerial position I have developed an understanding of the importance the business and financial side has on the charity as well as the clinical practice within the services. More recently working as the Clinical Contracts Lead, I have been working with NHS and Local Authority Commissioners on promoting and marketing our services, as well as the Lead for CHT’s Post-Graduate Diploma in Psychotherapy for Practitioners within a Therapeutic Environment, a two year work based diploma aimed to support staff in developing as practitioners working with psychosis from a psychoanalytic perspective.

Jen KilyonJen Kilyon

Jen became involved in ISPS about 6 years ago when she first heard about the organisation. She was attracted by its international nature because she believes there is a huge amount we can learn from other cultures and how they approach mental distress. She also appreciated the fact that the organisation welcomed all those committed to promoting a more humane approach to psychosis regardless of their status or allegiance to a “psychological model”. She first became involved in campaigning for more choice in mental health services around 10 years ago when her son first experienced psychosis. She was shocked at what passed for “treatment” and felt the need to move on from my 30 years as an educationalist to become an activist for change in this system. She has worked on many local and national projects and is also a trustee for the Soteria Network where she is helping to set up the first UK Soteria House.

Bill McGowanBill McGowan

Bill has been a mental health educationalist for the past 30 years.  He recently retired as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Brighton, where he taught across the full range of pre-registration and undergraduate mental health nursing and post graduate health and social care courses. His remit also included masters and doctoral research supervision. Bill’s work also included consultancy, training, research and organisational development within the voluntary sector and during this time, he developed a particular interest in the promotion of resilience and positive mental health through befriending or social mentoring initiatives.  Bill was interested in the ‘design of atmosphere’ within care settings and the application of therapeutic community principles to mainstream mental health care settings and was a member of the Editorial Group of Therapeutic Communities (International Journal for Therapeutic and Support Organisations) between 1994 and 2005.  He developed an interested in innovative and creative approaches to teaching and learning particularly in the area of ‘social learning’ and in the challenges presented by the mainstreaming of carer/user  ‘experts by experience’ within professional educational programmes. Bill had a modest publication output but focused his energy on presenting papers regularly at local, national and international conferences and developed a strong conference organizing portfolio over 25 years.

Bill has been a committee member of the ISPS UK group for the past five years and is currently involved with colleagues in setting up the first Mental Health Nursing Conference within the ISPS UK Conference programme.

John Read

I worked for nearly 20 years as a Clinical Psychologist and manager of mental health services in the UK and the USA, before joining the University of Auckland, New Zealand, in 1994, where I worked until 2013. I have served as Director of the Clinical Psychology professional graduate programmes at both Auckland and, more recently, the University of Liverpool.

I have published over 140 papers in research journals, primarily on the relationship between adverse life events (e.g. child abuse/neglect, poverty etc.) and psychosis. I also research the negative effects of bio-genetic causal explanations on prejudice, the opinions and experiences of recipients of anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medication, and the role of the pharmaceutical industry in mental health research and practice. I have been on the international Executive Committee of ISPS since 2003 and the Editor of the ISPS’s scientific journal ‘Psychosis’ since 2009. My books include: READ, J., DILLON, J. (eds.). (2013). Models of Madness: Psychological, Social and Biological Approaches to Psychosis, 2nd edition. Routledge.

John Richardson

After being hospitalised and given labels of psychosis and schizophrenia, John believes that society needs to establish more humane and meaningful ways of treating people with these experiences. He is enthusiastic about putting lived experience at the centre of understanding and giving a voice to the unheard. He is also a filmmaker who specialises in creating films around the subject of mental health and hosts a podcast called ‘coffee and psychosis’.

Alison SummersAlison Summers

Alison is a psychodynamic therapist and psychiatrist working in an NHS psychotherapy service and with the charity Freedom from Torture. Her current work is mainly as a psychotherapist but previously she worked for over eleven years as a consultant psychiatrist in an Early Intervention psychosis team. Within ISPS UK, Alison has been chair of the UK network since 2013, and a Trustee for several years before this.  She also co-edits the ISPS book series and is co-ordinating the planning group for the 2017 international conference.

Rachel “Rai” Waddingham

Rai is a trainer and consultant specialising in developing respectful approaches to supporting those who struggle with voices, visions, overwhelming beliefs and post-traumatic reactions. She managed the London Hearing Voices Project from 2007 – 2015, where she launched an innovative project developing a sustainable network of Hearing Voices Groups in London’s prisons and forensic hospitals as well as establishing Voice Collective to creatively support children and young people who hear voices, and their families. Rai is a media spokesperson, a trustee of the National Hearing Voices Network and a co-opted board member of Intervoice. She hears voices, sees visions and – during her 20s – spent years in hospital diagnosed with schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder. Rai is passionate about the role of self help and peer support in recovery from extreme states of mind. She is committed to increasing the range of alternatives within, and without, the mental health system. For more information, see

Angela Woods

Angela Woods is an Associate Professor of Medical Humanities at Durham University and Co-Director of Hearing the Voice, a major international research project on the experience of voice-hearing funded by the Wellcome Trust. Originally trained in literary and cultural studies, her research draws on concepts, methods and insights from the arts and humanities to develop interdisciplinary approaches to the study of psychosis, working closely with experts by experience and clinicians in the North-East. Angela received the 2017 Intervoice Research Award in recognition of her research on identity and shame and her role in the world’s first exhibition on voice-hearing: Hearing Voices: Suffering, Inspiration and the Everyday. Before moving to the UK, she was Chair of the Emerging Writers’ Festival in Melbourne, Australia.

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