An introduction to the Power Threat Meaning Framework

21st August 2018

SRN Director Frank Reilly introduces Dr Lucy Johnstone’s summary of the Power Threat Meaning Framework. Lucy will deliver a session about the framework at the ‘A Disorder for Everyone’ event in Edinburgh this September.

The Power Threat Meaning Framework (PTMF) has attracted a great deal of interest inside and outside services, nationally and internationally since its publication in January. Representing 5 years of work by a collective of practitioners, lived experience and researchers, PTMF looks at wider determinant of health and challenges clinicians and service planners to look beyond their narrow field of influence.

The key concepts: what has happened, what was the effect/affect, what did it mean and how do we survive; are core to SRN’s work in communities. The stories we tell of our lives are important. They situate us, they give us meaning. They can also create a trap where our stories of suffering become more important than our stories of triumph that celebrate our hard won experiences and knowledge that can be so important to us and others. Those stories of survival and of thriving are crucially important. They underpin recovery.

SRN recognises that there has been a significant amount of debate about the Framework since its publication both from within the British Psychological Society and within our communities of lived experience. SRN invites you to join the discussion online or at the ‘A Disorder for Everyone?’ event on the 28th September in Edinburgh (details below).

Frank Reilly, Director, Scottish Recovery Network

The Power Threat Meaning Framework  – Dr Lucy Johnstone

The Power Threat Meaning Framework is a new perspective on why people sometimes experience a whole range of forms of distress, confusion, fear and despair. It is an alternative to the more traditional models based on psychiatric diagnosis. It was co-produced by psychologists, service users and others, and applies not just to people who have been in contact with the mental health or criminal justice systems, but to all of us.

The Framework summarises a great deal of evidence about the role of various kinds of power in people’s lives; the kinds of threat that misuses of power pose to us; and the ways we have learned as human beings to respond to threat. The Framework also looks at how we make sense of these difficult experiences, and how messages from wider society can increase our feelings of shame, self-blame, isolation, fear and guilt.

The Framework can be used as a way of helping people to create more hopeful narratives or stories about their lives and the difficulties they may have faced or are still facing, instead of seeing themselves as blameworthy, weak, deficient or ‘mentally ill’. It highlights the links between wider social factors such as poverty, discrimination and inequality, along with traumas such as abuse and violence, and the resulting emotional distress or troubled behaviour. It shows why those of us who do not have an obvious history of trauma or adversity can still struggle to find a sense of self-worth, meaning and identity. In addition, the Framework offers a way of respecting culturally-specific understandings of distress without seeing them through a Western diagnostic model.

A Disorder for Everyone?

28th September 2018 from 9.30am until 5pm
Norton Park Conference Centre, Edinburgh

Challenging the culture of psychiatric diagnosis and exploring trauma informed alternatives. Lucy Johnstone, Jo Watson and Nollaig McSweeny welcome dynamic and passionate speakers who also challenge the mainstream narrative of ‘diagnosis and disorder’ in favor of non-pathologising, trauma-informed alternatives. This event includes an introduction to the Power Threat Meaning Framework.

To book your ticket (various prices) and for more information about the event visit the Eventbrite page.

The event offers as many free places as possible to people with lived experience, as well as discounted rates for other groups. If you would like to negotiate a cheaper rate or for group bookings of more than 5 people contact