Leaving Marcellas

Michael Rock
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Greetings!

My name is Michael Rock.  Until now I have been participating on MadinAmerica.com as a commenter named “Marcellas”.  It is very nice to finally introduce myself to this community under my real name.  Although I only occasionally commented, I have been a regular visitor and reader of MadInAmerica.  I am especially grateful to Corinna West, Dr. Mark Foster, and Laura Delano. It was good to know I wasn’t alone.

I feel like I need to apologize for hiding behind Marcellas. Anonymity is not something I am proud of, nor was it a trivial matter to me.  When I marched with Mindfreedom in Philadelphia last May, I was reluctant to introduce myself to some of you who were harmed by an industry I continue to work for.  I am a group psychotherapist in a large hospital network in Eastern Pennsylvania. I have been working with people in groups for twenty five years.  I love my job, and believe I am helpful. I felt that “Marcellas” allowed me to continue to work quietly for change within the system.

When I read Anatomy of an Epidemic, it seemed obvious (from my admittedly limited vantage point) that the national trends in treatment outcomes closely reflect our local outcomes.  By this time I was already on record as a critic of medications and the chemical imbalance theory, and a skeptic of diagnosis.

I wrote To Mr. Whitaker in 2010 after reading Anatomy of an Epidemic to tell him that I was introducing his book to our team library and intended to discuss it. He was kind enough to write back and wish me luck.

I spent the next three years being more stubborn then loud, and I like to think I made some progress.  I developed a model of behavior chain analysis using CBT, DBT, and Positive Psychology.  I call it “Habits”. It can be presented in a very brief series of sessions (our average length of stay of 7 days).   A central theme of the technique is to assume that anyone can learn to control their thoughts, feelings, and actions. Everyone can learn to explore what they are capable of, rather then limited to.

The model is very popular with our patients.  I use a lot of humor and try to make it entertaining as well as helpful. I consistently receive the highest number of compliments from patients at discharge than any other team member, and I am very proud of this. More importantly, I’ve yet to find evidence that the model doesn’t work.

However, my message indirectly challenges the assumption that “accepting illness” along with “medication compliance” is the best path to recovery. This has made me unpopular with those invested in preserving the status quo.  Obviously there are financial incentives involved.

In January I received my “final written warning” from the hospital, and have been working under threat of immediate termination since then. I’ve been to several meetings in which it was stressed to me how serious they are about firing me, and I believe them.

I am not sure what effect leaving Marcellas will have on my career.  I don’t think there is anything I can do to prevent being fired at this point. Not only am I am small fish in a big pond (I only hold a BS degree in Psychology and work for the largest employer in the area), but I also live in a “right to work state” which translates from Orwellian into “the right to fire anyone at any moment for any reason, or no reason at all”.

Since January I have driven to work every day wondering if the ride home would include boxes of photos from my office.  Sympathetic coworkers tell me that when they fire me I’ll be escorted by security in a public walk of shame. It’s assumed they will want to make an example out of me. So I have this to look forward to.

I want the reader to understand that the people who are firing me are not bad people.  They are trapped in the same system as everyone else. I believe they respect me and like me personally, and it’s very clear to me that firing me is painful for them.  I believe also that the practices at my hospital are not unusual in the current paradigm of care.  From all I can see, my hospital is state of the art in contemporary industrial psychiatry.

I am not bitter about being fired.  I am aware that speaking publicly in this way could blacklist me, and I may never work in mainstream mental health again. I have always been very proud of my work and my reputation, and it is difficult for me to throw these away.  Naturally I am nervous about losing my income (although not as nervous as my girlfriend, who is convinced she will soon be supporting me).

I intend to use the extra time I’ll soon have to write about the narratives of disability, the people I met in the system, and to suggest an alternative to it.

I know there are more out there like myself, working under the same pressures, trying to help people. I expect you are also haunted by the people who come to us for help; trust us, do everything we suggest, and get worse.  Please know that you are not alone.

I know now that I am not alone.  I am Michael Rock.

21 COMMENTS

  1. Welcome Michael! Thank you for your willingness to work within the system for change and for being willing to walk out of there (I see it as a walk of clarity, dignity and integrity!) if you see no reasonable efforts to shift to a healing environment grounded in self-determination and liberation! If they are smart, they will keep you and actually listen to you. If not, you are free and even more dangerous to the status quo!

  2. Michael,

    Great introduction. You’re clearly on the right track. Of course, to some extent, you may feel uneasy about what you’re going through now; if so, that’s perfectly natural; but, from all that you say here, I’d not be worried if I were you. The sort of pink slip you’re anticipating will actually be, in effect, a certificate of honor, and I’m certain you’ll go on to well serve many with these techniques you’ve developed. You’ll find the right venue for your work, soon enough — and do quite well in your future endeavors — by simply holding fast to your own deepest convictions and, thus, living with full integrity. More power to you…

    Respectfully, Jonah.

  3. Much respect! Thanks for being here. It is clear that you have made some some weighty decisions and I applaud you for the courage that it takes to stand up for what you believe is just, in the face of threats to your livelihood.

    I would love to learn more about your Habits curriculum. I work in a recovery education center and have also found that many people appreciate the view that we can develop individual skillsets and perspectives that may help us to navigate our experiences with more empowerment and, ultimately, hope.

    Hey, if work in the system doesn’t pan out, maybe you could explore the luxurious lifestyle of living on student loan surpluses while you research psychoeducational program development or something like that. 🙂

    I really enjoyed your writing and appreciated your seeming tenderness for your former alias, Marcellas. Online identities are certainly strange aspects of ourselves. I personally find transparency to be quite freeing and hope that the transition to being Michael Rock goes well!

  4. Michael,

    I very much admire what you are doing. You are likely reading your situation correctly, but you never can tell what might happen when people actually run into someone who takes a caring, principled stand and sticks to it. Sometimes it brings out good things in others – even those who seem very unlikely.

    If you are indeed fired, I hope you will share with us the model you have developed. You might be surprised where this all can lead you. As I said almost every day of my 15 years in treatment foster care, “disaster as opportunity.”

    I wish you all the best.

  5. Good for you, Michael!

    I’m not surprised by the resistance you encounter. I’d love to read their warning letter(s).

    I was considering taking mental health support worker training with a view to working with clients and opening alternatives. But then a professional who had been through the same program told me I’d never find a job if I stayed vocal about my opinions.

    If you do get fired, I hope you sue their asses off.

    Best of luck.

  6. Hi Michael,

    I also work within the system and struggle with trying to truly support people within services dominated by the medical model. I understand what you are saying and appreciate your courage. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s only by speaking our truth, sometimes to power, that things will change. In the meantime, I am so very thankful for Rob Whitaker’s books and other work, this site and for people such as yourself. thank you

  7. “I am not sure what effect leaving Marcellas will have on my career. I don’t think there is anything I can do to prevent being fired at this point. Not only am I am small fish in a big pond (I only hold a BS degree in Psychology and work for the largest employer in the area), but I also live in a “right to work state” which translates from Orwellian into “the right to fire anyone at any moment for any reason, or no reason at all”.”

    And this makes me think that if I ever tried to write a blog at MIA, I cant think of anything else to write about except that their ought to be criminal charges brought against those protecting this status quo and then make my case for it. There at least ought to be an effort. Millions of people are being gravely harmed in spite of scientific evidence, while those in spite of that evidence are profiting from it. I really think at least some part of the “movement” ought to break off from the idea of persuading professionals to change and making change from the inside, and start an effort to mount a legal campaign that aims to imprison people who are knowingly harming people, especially children, while profiting, with an absence of scientific evidence to support it and more than enough scientific evidence for any reasonable person with no conflict of interest to condemn it.

    I don’t want to live in a world where damaging peoples brains, including children’s, for the sake of behavioral control is a crime against humanity when just any group of nobodies do it — like the soviets — but is perfectly acceptable “medicine” when doctors do it. It’s the same thing, regardless of how people choose to look at it.

  8. “I want the reader to understand that the people who are firing me are not bad people.”

    By that logic, neither were the Nazi’s. I disagree. They have no reason to believe that they are helping people with this paradigm of care and are continuing to do it IN SPITE of scientific evidence. That’s just not acceptable, in my unchangeable opinion. It makes what they do criminal. They have no reason not to know that the drugs don’t treat mental illness, that they cause perturbations of normal brain function, brain damage, increased risk of long-term disability, physical health problems, etc.

    They have no reason to continue harming people in this way, except for the fact that they make a lot of money doing it.

  9. Michael!

    This post gives me courage, and makes me feel better about posting my personal story on MIA. I, too, work in the system, at least to a degree – by working as a professional – a “mental health counselor” for an agency that heavily supports, sustains, and is sustained by the medical model. I thought about using my full name with my story, but opted to use only my first name and a photo. I did this mostly because I don’t want people who consider me their therapist discovering the post ((easily – if they happen to discover it, maybe it was meant to be?) without understanding the whole context. My concern about losing my job is actually directly about the effect it would have on my current “clients.” I plan to carefully leave the job by the end of summer, and I already have plans of working with a friend of mine. I have also been as honest as I am able with my current supervisor about my views on medication and healing, and he knows I do not agree with him. In a way, we have mutually agreed that I will be done by the end of summer, for a number of reasons.

    It saddens me to read about your situation, and I really admire your courage in creating and implementing a model that does not support the status quo of “treatment.”

    I truly believe that doors will be opened to you that you could never have imagined within the system. I have to believe that for myself, or I could not continue my own journey and the creative process (that some call work) of discovering the most effective ways to connect to others and facilitate healing.

    Peace and blessings to you —
    Mary Anne

  10. To work inside or outside the system for change is a personal matter. In my opinion we need people who will do both….one is not better than the other…both are hard.

    One thing we don’t need is martyrs. We have those already with more joining them everyday…

    For those who do gritty work inside the system the trick is to be like an Oak Tree that moves in a hurricane in the face of fierce wind…

    Like the oak tree trick is to bend but not break….to survive…

    • I agree totally but it’s damned difficult to do so much of the time. One mispoken work to the wrong person and you’re sitting in front of the Administrative team where you work. If you weren’t paranoid before you went into the work you certainly become that way before long because you wonder constantly about who you can strust and who you can’t. And the entire time you know that you should be screaming out and shaking your fist against the system that is killing people each and every day. You sit and wonder whether you’re being “careful” so that you can return to fight secretly for another day, like the French Resistance, or whether you’re just being quiet to save your ass and the money you need to survive on. It’s not very enjoyable but I tell myself that someone has to be the first one to somehow penetrate the system and work for change.

  11. Michael,

    If you do get fired, I wonder if a wrongful termination lawsuit would be possible? It sounds like you’re providing excellent treatment with very positive responses from the clients. What exactly are their grounds for firing you? Making them look bad by comparison?

    Well done “coming out” on MIA! I am sure you’ll find a good use for your passions. I’ve been out of the mental health field for about 17 years now, for similar reasons – I was just sick about what passed for “mental health treatment.” And I think it’s worse today than it was in the 90s. I am an advocate for foster kids and work to get them off psych meds and away from labels and into things that really help. Maybe advocacy is a path for you, too.

    Thanks for sharing and for fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves!

    — Steve

  12. Hi Michael, thank you for being so open about this. I am from Europe, but I have the feeling that overhere it is exactly the same. My husband has been prescribed SSRI, benzodiazepines and Zdrugs years ago. After a while he got addicted and we ended up in psychiatry world. We have lost everything due this addiction and due to the fact that doctors seem to have an endless box of Pandora with medication they are trying on him. I have only seen side effects which are much worse than the reason for prescribing. I have had 7 good years together with him before he was put on medication. This kind of medication changes the mind and is making things a lot worse in his case. In my case we also have small children who sadly cannot remember their father without being drugged and depressed by the medication. During all these years I thought we were alone in this situation with doctors who will not stop prescribing, but now I realize it happens to many patients all over the world. I hope a lot of colleagues in this field will follow your point of view.

  13. Hi Michael, Thank you for writing this. I personally have been through losing my job in the traditional system as a result of not just challenging the status quo with my words and actions, but by admitting who I am and telling my own story. I actually just told some of that story in a Madness Radio interview (http://madnessradio.net/madness-radio-politics-language-sera-davidow, if you’re interested!). It can be so painful both personally and because of what it says about where the system continues to be.

    In my life, it was a very painful time that left scars I’m not sure have ever fully healed. And yet, it also opened doors to paths that were ultimately so much more fulfilling in the long run. I hope the same for you, should things actually head in the direction you describe!

    -Sera