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1st Step

1st Step is an assessment and treatment program for people who are experiencing a first episode of psychosis — an experience where you might have trouble telling the difference between what is real and what isn’t. Referrals are welcome from anyone, including families, doctors and community partners.

The term “psychosis” describes conditions that affect the mind, causing a loss of contact with reality or trouble deciding what’s real and what’s not. “Early psychosis” or “first episode psychosis” means someone is experiencing psychosis for the first time. Psychosis is a medical condition that affects the brain.

Often these symptoms can feel so real that you may not realize you are experiencing psychosis. Because psychosis affects a person’s mind, feelings, and behaviour, everyone who experiences psychosis experiences it differently.

“You’re not in it all alone”: A mother’s story of her son’s psychosis

Symptoms of psychosis include:

Psychosis usually begins in the late teens or early twenties. It can affect anyone. We are not sure why some people experience psychosis and others don’t. Most professionals agree that genetics, substance use, and/or extreme stress can start psychosis.

Why reach out?

In short, so you can be well again. We can help you achieve key goals that will improve your life and relationships. Together with your family and friends, 1st Step will offer ongoing support and care to reduce relapses. Most people who suffer from psychosis at an early age respond extremely well to treatment and can live a full and active life.

“I am thankful for the support I received from the 1st Step Early Psychosis Intervention Program at CMHA. After two hospitalizations and a resulting diagnosis of bipolar disorder, I needed help to work through what having a mental illness meant for my life. The 1st Step team helped me to envision my future and recovery without limits. I made small goals and took steps toward my recovery like returning to volunteering, working a part-time job, and completing a postgraduate college program. Not only did the 1st Step team facilitate a return to my life, they facilitated a positive outlook of what my life could be. I now have an opportunity to share my experience as a Peer with other experiencing their first episode of psychosis.” – Past 1st Step participant

The key to recovery

The key to a successful recovery from psychosis is getting help fast. Psychosis has an impact on your life at home, school, and work. Our team of professionals can help. To better understand your needs, we will do a comprehensive assessment that will include a medical screening, a medical history, and psychiatric interviews. Together with you, we can then develop a treatment plan. Treatment may include counselling, medication, group activities, family education, and finding support for your day-to-day living. Our goal is to support you and your family in finding balance in your life and recovery from psychosis.

Who do we serve?

We serve people in Waterloo or Wellington who are:

Some of the services offered to clients attending 1st Step:

1st Step Program Inclusion Criteria

The sooner you speak with us, the sooner we can help you start your recovery process.


Outside of Waterloo Wellington?

If you live outside of Ontario, contact your family physician or local mental health centre.

Learn more about psychosis through these great resources:


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