Madness Radio: Toby Watson on Ethical Psychotherapy


It was a long haul from being a psychiatric patient in 1992 to graduating with a masters in counseling in 2011. I flunked out of my first attempt to get a graduate degree because I was in a school that didn’t support my experience as a psychiatric survivor, and because I just wasn’t ready to make my way through the complicated process of becoming a therapist given how much abuse I myself had experienced at the hands of therapists and other mental health professionals. It took finding a more supportive school — the Process Work Institute — before I could actually survive and thrive as a student becoming a therapist. In this Madness Radio interview (recorded more than a year ago but only now getting broadcast), I talk with clinical therapist Toby Watson, who uses limited medications in his practice and has a very different approach to being a therapist. Above all we need to understand how power relations shape professional relationships and what we can do to use power with awareness so that people don’t get hurt or exploited. And we need to learn how to be with people in places of great pain and suffering such as suicidal feelings, rather than using force and control, which are really just ways for professionals to feel safe and protected — from liability and professional criticism. 

You can listen to the whole interview on the latest episode of Madness Radio:

Madness Radio: Ethical Therapy Toby Watson

Can psychotherapy be a replacement for medication for psychosis and extreme states? Should therapists hospitalize suicidal clients against their will — even when they could be traumatized by the very care intended to protect them? Dr. Toby Watson, clinical psychologist, discusses how to be an ethical therapist in an era of medications, diagnostic labels, and forced treatment.


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


  1. Thank you for the good work you are doing. I have listened to all your radio interviews on the Internet. They were a life-saver for me. I discovered them at a time when my son got sucked in the mental health service (in Britain) and I thought that they were going to maim him for life or even kill him by forcibly medicating him. Thanks to you I discovered Peter Breggin’s books which helped me to get my son off these poisonous drugs behind doctors’ backs. The worst bit was that these doctors were really sincere well-meaning people who thought that they were doing the right thing by him. They have been literally brainwashed at medical school into believing what they were taught, And yes, how are they to know if they haven’t had a breakdown themselves that what they are taught is wrong?

  2. I always enjoy the fresh, humane perspectives on Madness Radio. Thanks for helping to foster truly inspirational dialogue.

    And the reminder that recovery can be a “long haul” is important for me. I’m med free now for 4 months after 16 years of multiple meds/doses and discovering it’s indeed a process. It’s requiring a tremendous amount of compassion for self and others and a willingness to be, at times, so uncomfortable! I’m so grateful that gives me a space in which to connect with co-survivors and shared experience.


  3. Hi Will Hall,
    Interesting Post, I happen to hold the wonderful title ‘BBC Radio Oxford’s Resident Agony Aunt’  and this morning on Lou’s show  we tackled the subject of ‘Honey Trapping’ – the practise of using a private investigator to ‘trap’ your other half.  These people set up a situation where your partner meets an attractive person in a bar or similar and then ‘test’ them to see if they will stray.  I don’t know what you think, but I reckon it’s pretty immoral and I said so!