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Community Integration Conference & Workshop

The "Crowning Fortune" of Purpose

June 23 - 24 | Skirball Center Los Angeles, CA

Purpose organizes you and gives you meaning. It’s like the trunk of a tree from which you grow the branches of your personal goals, your identity, the way you form and hold onto your relationships, and your world view. Without purpose, life lacks coherence, the world appearing disassembled and chaotic, like floating dust in the light. To put it metaphorically in the context of modern life, purpose is both your idea of a destination and your GPS; when you lack it, you’re lost. From a longer life span and better health to greater resilience and the ability to act efficiently, the physiological and psychological results of a strong sense of purpose are innumerable. However, a sense of purpose is not merely a matter of knowing where you’re going in life. It also has to do with your sense of your own value to others and to the larger community. “What’s my purpose here on earth?” is a question about whether – and how -- you will add value to your family, community, country, or planet. It’s a question with difficult and painful parallel queries: “Do I matter?” and “Does my absence matter?”

Of all the social injuries experienced by psychiatric patients—from stigma and ostracism to the loss of social support and self-determination—purposelessness is the constant. In fact, there is a rough correlation between treatment and purposelessness: The more treatment a person receives and the more they spend their days in treatment, the less time or energy they have to create purpose and live accordingly. This raises the possibility that we might be contributing to purposelessness by the very act of treating the results of lacking purpose -- so that “low motivation,” “treatment non-compliance,” and a supposed lack of “life skills” are actually signs that a person has no map for the future, rather than problems that require more psychiatric and psychological interventions.


Here enters community integration work, which focuses on helping a person reintegrate into the world, and which places their life goals front and center in their pursuit of change. This year’s Community Integration Conference seeks to help attendees appreciate purpose in its rightful place as the “crowning fortune” in all our lives, and specifically in the lives of the people who seek our help. Through this focus, we aim to allow the often-neglected problem of purposelessness to enter and inform our work.

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