At a glance

​The best way to communicate with someone with psychosis is to be supportive and not judgemental.

It can be difficult to communicate with a person who is experiencing psychosis because they may:

  • be difficult to understand or follow
  • speak very quickly or very slowly
  • change topics very quickly
  • have difficulty with concentration and remembering things
  • have beliefs that you do not share
  • be distracted by things they hear, see or perceive that you do not sense
  • be lethargic or sluggish
  • use words or phrases that you might not understand.

When supporting someone experiencing psychosis you should:

  • talk clearly and use short sentences, in a calm and non-threatening voice
  • be empathetic with how the person feels about their beliefs and experiences
  • validate the person’s own experience of frustration or distress, as well as the positives of their experience
  • listen to the way that the person explains and understands their experiences
  • not state any judgements about the content of the person’s beliefs and experiences
  • not argue, confront or challenge someone about their beliefs or experiences
  • accept if they don't want to talk to you, but be available if they change their mind
  • treat the person with respect
  • be mindful that the person may be fearful of what they are experiencing.

Tip: Use the same language that the person uses to describe their experiences (e.g. – if the person refers to a voice that they hear as “Rodney”, you should do the same).

- A person with lived experience of a mental health condition

If you are worried about someone showing signs of psychosis, you should approach them privately, somewhere without distractions, to talk about their experience. How the person behaves will determine how you need to interact with them. Give them the space they need to feel comfortable and avoid touching them.

Note: If this type of discussion is outside the scope of your role, then it is important to let your supervisor know of your observations. Also ensure you follow your organisation’s reporting and recording requirements.


Psychosis mental health first aid gui​delines​
These guidelines provide an overview of common symptoms, how to talk to someone who is experiencing psychotic symptoms and what to do in a crisis situation. 
Type: Guideline
Length: 14 pages
Produced by: Mental Health First Aid Australia

This website provides an overview of psychosis and includes a podcast where Reka shares her experience of psychosis.
Type: Web page
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Produced by: Mind

A straight talking introduction for parents, carers and family members of young people who hear voices or see visions
This booklet provides an overview of voices and visions, how they can affect people and tips for providing support.
Type: Booklet
Length: 16 pages
Produced by: Voice Collective

What to do when someone close is in psychosis
This video provides advice on what to do when a person is having a psychotic episode, as told from personal experience.
Type: Video | Closed captions
Viewing time: 6.30 minutes
Produced by: The Relationship Blogger

Current as at: Friday 22 December 2023
Contact page owner: Mental Health