Heteronormative Violence of Mainstream Psychiatry: A Cautionary Tale

Peter Gajdics
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In 2013, California became the first state to pass legislation banning licensed professionals from trying to change the sexual orientation of minors from homosexual to heterosexual. In 2014, similar legislation passed in New Jersey, with other states, including New York, Massachusetts, and Ohio, following suit. However, “reparative therapy,” which grew in popularity with psychiatry’s increased medicalization of same sex erotic desire throughout the 20th century, is hardly a practice of a bygone era. In June 2014, the Republican Party endorsed the support of reparative therapy in Texas, while organizations such as the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality continue “treating” homosexual men and women in an effort to change their sexual desires to heterosexuality–all with dire consequences to individuals undergoing such treatments.

I was in a form of reparative therapy in British Columbia, Canada, for six years, after which I filed a medical malpractice suit against my former psychiatrist, “Dr. Alfonzo,” for treating my homosexuality as a disease. If these new laws are to be criticized, it is that the use of “change” therapies on people older than 18 should be prohibited as well. I was 24 when I met Dr. Alfonzo, 31 when I left his therapy, and almost 40 when the lawsuit ended in an out-of-court settlement in 2002. Nearly twenty years after leaving the therapy, I am still affected by the consequences of those six years of “treatment.”

It was 1989, and I had just moved from my hometown in Vancouver, Canada. I had come out to my Catholic family two years earlier, and since then our relationship had escalated from constant criticism to outright rejection. Isolated and confused, I sought professional help with psychiatrist Dr. Alfonzo. In turmoil, I asked this doctor how I could best come to terms with my homosexuality as well as with the psychological effects of the sexual abuse I had endured as a child.

Alfonzo seemed to offer hope in a form of treatment based on the principles of “Primal Therapy,” first “discovered” in the late 1960’s by American psychologist and psychiatric worker Arthur Janov. The goal of Alfonzo’s practice was to erase the mental imprints of biological parents via intense, primal sessions, and then to replace these with the “healthy imprints” of surrogate parents (a woman hired to act as our new “mommy,” and Alfonzo, acting as our new “daddy”). “Primals” were twofold: all sessions began with me lying on a large sheeted mattress in the middle of Alfonzo’s dimly lit “workroom,” situated between his private office and the outside waiting room. Keeping my eyes closed, I “moved” as if walking, breathed gutturally, and focused on a specific painful memory from my childhood. If I felt surges of anger, which I often did, I was told to jump quickly to the “batting station” in the corner of the workroom, kneel, pick up the aluminum baseball bat, and strike another rolled-up mattress while staring at a red “X” marked on the wall before me. Talking was prohibited for the first two months of therapy; only “primal sounds” were permitted.

Within six months of beginning therapy, Alfonzo told me that I would never be happy as a homosexual, presented me with conflicting causation theories, and directed me to release my anger and to feel my pain in an effort to “unlearn the error” of my homosexuality. If I dared say I was really gay, Alfonzo became enraged and threatened to throw me out of therapy. If I persisted in arguing with him, his loud, accented voice overshadowed my own. He would point his finger down at me in a menacing and condescending manner, cocking his head to one side. I would know enough to stop talking immediately. No one had the last word when it came to Alfonzo. My already low self-esteem plummeted.

Six months later, Alfonzo ordered me to move, along with four of his other psychiatric patients, into a therapeutic house he called the Styx. At his instruction, we built a makeshift 4’ x 6’ sound-insulated “screaming room” in the basement that we used for self-administered primal sessions. Alfonzo had us compose a written charter, which was “edited” and approved by him, detailing his expectations about what foods we would eat (vegan), and what activities would not be tolerated (smoking, drinking, sex in the house). Nightly meditation was implemented. Members were discouraged from leaving the house during non-work hours except in the company of other members, and from having social contact with anyone outside the therapy. Visitors were forbidden, except for other patients sent by Alfonzo for three-week residential stays or “intensives.”

Alfonzo prescribed increasingly higher doses of medications, which he said were necessary if I was to benefit from his therapy. The medications included a combined or overlapping use of Rivotril, Surmontil, Elavil, Sinequan, and Anafranil. Rivotril, I learned early on, belonged to a class of medications called benzodiazepines, which were generally used as a sedative or to decrease seizures or anxiety. Surmontil, Sinequan and Elavil, all tricyclic antidepressants, were often prescribed in cases of clinical depression. Anafranil, my fourth “tricyclic,” while normally used in cases of obsessive-compulsiveness, was prescribed specifically to deaden my sex drive. Weekly intra-muscular injections of Ketamine Hydrochloride, a hallucinogenic, soon followed. Although we knew that “K” was most commonly used as an animal anesthesia (for horses, cats, dogs, rabbits, and rats, among others), Alfonzo told us that he would be using it on us “mostly during the nurturing sessions to help remove the patient’s observing ego.” When it finally occurred to him, over a year after first injecting us, that he’d never received informed consent, he quickly drafted a form, called all the Styx members to the office, and told us to “shut up and sign it.” Often he double-prescribed my monthly prescriptions, instructing me to bring the extra medication back to him for his personal use. In private, he disclosed intimate details of his life to me, including facts about his own breakdown from which he claimed never to have fully recovered.

Styx members were referred to as “family.” We were required to spend time with him at house meetings and during visits to his private home. We were given chores: to cook his meals, to clean his office and home, to care for his pets (one of which, a dog, he’d had us drug and steal from a nearby farm), to help him write his autobiography, and to renovate his retirement home on a remote island (where he said we’d all one day live communally). If any of us had “a feeling” about any of our many duties, Alfonzo told us to “work it in private,” and not in front of patients who weren’t “part of the family.”

Over the next two years of therapy at the Styx and the office, Alfonzo systematically denigrated my homosexuality, characterizing it as learned behavior and comparing it to a drug addiction. He told me that I needed to carry my “cross” with dignity by remaining celibate and not act on my “insanity.” In deep primal sessions, howling and beating a mattress in Alfonzo’s office, I began to accept–or, at least, not contradict–the doctor’s beliefs that I had self-identified as gay because of poor parental role modeling, the childhood sexual abuse I suffered at the hands of a stranger in a public washroom, and the consequent years I spent “acting out” that abuse by training my body to respond only to men.

As my primal sessions deepened, Alfonzo prescribed ever-higher doses of medications, and I became increasingly unable to function. By late 1992 I was 28 years old and the side effects I suffered as a direct result of the medication included short-term memory loss, breathing difficulties, blurred vision, dry mouth, constipation, urinary retention, involuntary twitching, excessive sweating, weight gain of almost forty pounds, and visual hallucinations. Generally, I felt numb and spaced out all the time.

One icy winter morning in 1993, I stood from my bed and something inside of me unhinged. I collapsed, feeling the air rush past me as if I’d been plunged down an endless elevator shaft. A Styx housemate found me sometime later, conscious but lying motionless on the floor, still feeling as if I were falling through space, the endless landscape of my shattered mind, rootless to myself and my surroundings. Alfonzo added the anti-psychotic Nozinan to my regime of four concurrent medications and placed me on medical disability. He prescribed yet more Anafranil in order to deaden my same sex attractions–which, despite not being sexual with anyone for over three years, remained–saying that I would never be able to “flip to the other side” as long as I was obsessing about “the gay side.” The medication made me feel numb, lifeless, passive. Any light that had remained alive in me was switched off: erections were eliminated, fantasy and arousal eradicated. Fear of the world, my vulnerability, and dependence on Alfonzo, however, increased. On a number of occasions when we’d discuss my increasing passivity, he told me that homosexuals were passive by nature. “You need to work harder at the bat,” he said. “You need to push through your passivity. Remember: your unexpressed anger is what’s keeping you from your heterosexuality.” In the most bizarre form of treatment yet, he ordered me to bottle my feces and sniff them whenever I was attracted to a man, in order to help remind me “where homosexual men stick their penis.” When none of that worked, the doctor threatened to hook my genitals up to electrodes. “Without my help,” he told me once, “you’ll probably just get AIDS and die.”

In early 1995, Alfonzo told all of us at the Styx that unless we corrected our life patterns by practicing more “tough love” on one another outside of our workroom, none of us would make it in the world “out there,” nor would we ever be allowed to live with him in his new home. We took his advice to heart. No longer did we work out our feelings in the basement; instead, we brought our primal rage upstairs into our living room, our kitchen and our bedrooms. We became like caged primates, and the house structure quickly disintegrated. Finally, in late 1995 we agreed to disband.

From the Styx I moved directly into a bachelor suit on my own. Because I was still being weaned off the remaining few medications, for the next year I returned for prescriptions. During each of these visits, the doctor continued to make derogatory comments about gays. I said nothing, feeling numb inside when he spoke.

By the time I visited Alfonzo in mid-1996, I realized how many years I’d lost in a futile effort to change. I dreaded returning to his office, but knew that I had to be weaned off the medications. My best defense seemed to be to say as little about my life as possible, get my prescription, and leave. During our last visit, he told me he was concerned for all his former “children,” but in particular for me, since I had stepped back out into the world “with all those homosexuals.” His words sent a jolt through my body, as if I was hearing the hatred in his voice for the very first time.

“I’m one of those homosexuals,” I snapped back at him. “And nothing’s going to change that fact. I can’t hide from the world my whole life, and homosexuals are as much a part of the world as anyone.” I continued to look him in the eyes, not backing down. He said nothing; then, a moment later, turned back to his desk, wrote another prescription and made an appointment for the following month. I never kept it.

I spent much of the next two years in solitude, shell-shocked, weaning myself off all the medications while struggling with memories of Alfonzo and “the family.” Despite the doctor’s ongoing attempts to revert my sexuality to its “base heterosexuality,” there had been no heterosexual in me waiting to emerge. Instead, I felt more like a shell with its innards scooped out.

Gradually, I thawed out and deprogrammed from the therapy. The panic attacks I’d suffered through for years soon dissipated, despite Alfonzo’s constant warnings that they would necessitate a lifetime of medication. With the assistance of a new, healthier, counselor, I not only dealt with issues relating to my childhood sexual abuse, but also with Alfonzo’s systematic attempts to erase my gay identity.

In May 1997, I mailed a five-page letter of complaint to British Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. Though Alfonzo had 14 days to respond to the complaint, he didn’t respond for seven months. He sent in a 500-page rejoinder, in which he denied all inappropriate conduct. The College consulted an independent psychiatrist who advised them that Alfonzo’s behaviour was considered “acceptable within the framework of his therapeutic model.”

Following a two-year investigation, Alfonzo was directed to attend a conduct review by one of the College’s committees. For two hours they questioned him about everything from his attitude toward homosexuality, to his use of Ketamine on patients and the fact that Styx members had witnessed his own Ketamine-enhanced primal sessions, where he told us he was Christ and that he’d been crucified in a past life. When asked about his use of excessive overmedication, Alfonzo said that such high doses were required for me because I was “quite mentally ill.”

“Are you trying to tell us, Dr. Alfonzo,” the Chair responded, “that this young man is a very, very, very damaged human being who required 550 mg of medication per day just to function?”

After a moment, Alfonzo turned to me. I turned to him. Then we both turned back to the Chair and he said, “Yes.” I caught the eye of one of the Committee members, a woman doctor. She winked at me.

“He looks great now,” Alfonzo added. “Obviously my therapy worked.”

In the coming months, two independent psychiatrists reviewed Alfonzo’s practice. Five months later I received a copy of that review, which amounted to a slap on the wrist, and concluded that the doctor was “clearly trying his best with a difficult patient mix,” and that he was “well-intentioned and approached his work with diligence.” He was not instructed to alter his forms of treatment.

I filed a medical malpractice suit against Alfonzo in 1999, four years after I left the Styx. The Court scheduled a four-week trial, and over the next year and-a-half, two more independent psychiatrists interviewed me for twenty hours. In December 2001 I attended the Defence’s Examination of Discovery, along with my lawyer, Mackenzie, two Defence counsel, and Alfonzo. Throughout the next seven hours I answered every one of Defence’s questions about my childhood sexual abuse to my active sexual history, my coming out process, and my deteriorating relationship with my family–all of which, I was well aware, had nothing to do with the facts of my claim. With each passing moment I felt myself being opened up and ground down: I felt exposed and exhausted, had trouble focusing, remembering, understanding what could possibly have motivated me to stay with this doctor, to have once said that he was helping me, that I felt safe with him, that I was better off with his therapy. When asked about my “visiting bars frequented by male homosexuals,” suddenly it struck me just how homophobic the context of the suit truly was: would anyone ever be asked if they visited bars frequented by female heterosexuals?

Finally, when Defence asked what harm or ill effects the doctor had caused, I felt as if I were being asked to articulate how my rapist had damaged me. I tried to tell them something of the emotional harm his therapy caused, but after so many years and all that had happened, my words felt stilted, inadequate, pointless.

Six months later my lawyer, Mackenzie, a gay man himself, told me his firm had decided to settle out of court. “This is a business decision,” he advised. “It’s about money.” He mentioned the “shit in the bottle,” and said that, “within the confines of Alfonzo’s paradigm it had its own internal logic.” I was shocked, tried to argue, reminded him of why I filed the suit in the first place: to create legal precedent; to bring public awareness to this kind of abuse; to stop people like Alfonzo from inflicting this type of harm on anyone else. My lawyer was reassuring. He told me that physicians would be dissuaded from practicing similar therapies because the doctor’s Mutual Defence Organization sent documentation of all malpractice suits to all Canadian doctors.

Months of offers and rejections later, in December 2002 I received a settlement of $30,000.

In the aftermath, I tracked down and read through every one of the Association’s bulletins. No details of my suit in any shape or form appeared. I called Mackenzie fourteen months after settling. He told me that if the Association chose not to document my case, there was nothing he could do about it after the fact. I also read through four years of bulletins from the College of Physicians and Surgeons. The details of my complaint were never outlined.

Today, 25 years since first meeting Dr. Alfonzo and almost 20 years since leaving the Styx, not one day passes where I do not think about what happened to me, and worry what might still be happening to others. Use of psychiatric medication has only increased since I was referred to Alfonzo in 1989. I had never heard of “reparative therapy” when I started my own therapy; at 24 years old I just wanted to end my feelings of emotional distress. Despite new laws in California and New Jersey, and others that will likely follow, I am left to wonder: What has really changed? The American Psychiatric Association may have ceased classifying homosexuality as a mental illness over 40 years ago, but this has not stopped some of its practitioners from treating it as one.

For those practitioners who do continue endorsing the use of reparative therapy, and especially for those individuals who would like to believe that they can “change” their sexual orientation, I would say that “change” therapies “work” by dissociation: The person undergoing treatment is viewed as separate from their sexuality, and so they dissociate themselves from everything they have conflated with the idea of “being gay.” In retrospect I now understand that I had always objectified my sexuality; throughout the six years of my own therapy I had talked about “leaving homosexuality” as if “the gay world” was a thing in itself, some “thing” that I could leave behind, move beyond. But if my own experiences have taught me anything it is that a change to the “map” of my identity from homosexual to heterosexual will never change the “territory” of my experience from same-sex to opposite-sex desire. A map is not the territory it represents.

Reparative therapy confuses the map for the territory: The patient erroneously believes that by changing their map of identity they will also, perhaps through an act of providence or magical thinking, change their territory of experience. They don’t. What they do experience while in treatment is cognitive dissonance (identifying as heterosexual while experiencing same-sex erotic desire), and they often leave treatment dissociated, depersonalized, depressed, and, at times, suicidal.

Enacting laws to make it illegal to practice reparative therapy on minors is only a start. Reparative therapy may be a lie, but the lie begins not with the idea that we can change from gay to straight, but with the belief that we are who the culture tells us we are, that a change to the map of our identity is a change to the territory of our experience. And no one, no matter what age or sexual identity, is safe from that.

39 COMMENTS

    • I agree with Peter, we need to ban all Ex Gay Therapy and lock up any anti-gay Christian psychotherapist who do it, if they do not stop their torture of LGBTQ people. Investigators will be needed to search out and arrest these anti-gay Christian psychotherapist who continue to treat LGBTQ people as if they are mentally ill because we now know they do it by hiding what they are doing and even where they are doing it. They are killing LGBTQ people with poison psychiatric drugs. That is criminal. Criminals need to be locked up. Thanks Peter for being brave and exposing these criminal psychiatry cults who are harming LGBTQ people and straight people as well.

  1. Wow, powerful story told equally powerfully.

    “What they do experience while in treatment is cognitive dissonance…and they often leave treatment dissociated, depersonalized, depressed, and, at times, suicidal.”

    I think you’ve nailed the overall effect of misguided psychotherapy for a lot of people. Shame-based psychotherapy is more common than not, from what I’ve seen and experienced.

    Good for you for challenging this on your own! Horrible stuff you describe, and it needs to be called out, as tons of people are getting hurt daily from these judgments made by self-appointed “Gods of humanity.” I don’t think so….

    • “Shame-based psychotherapy is more common than not, from what I’ve seen and experienced.”
      True, it’s not restricted to homosexuality. Domestic abuse victims are forced to think what they did wrong to “invite” abuse and other such nonsense and told that it’s their personalities that are flawed.

  2. Hi Peter,

    I am glad you have published this information. I also hope you are heailing from your time in the 5th circle of Hell.

    What stood out for me most was the College having an independent psychiatrist claim that the behaviour was “acceptable within the framework of his therapeutic model”.

    In the public service this is what’s called ‘contracting out’. Pay an independent to do an investigation, they tell the lies and you accept them on good faith. It’s slippery behaviour.

    To me, if the College accepts this type of behaviour it says a whole lot about them.

    I wish you luck with your future

    Kind regards
    Boans

    • I agree with you, Boans, what is considered “appropriate” or “acceptable” psychiatric care by mainstream medicine, bears no resemblance to appropriate treatment of human beings I’ve ever heard of. But apparently, “doctors” behaving as homocidal psychopaths is actually what is typical for the psychiatric industry.

      Peter,
      That was a beautifully written, and heartbreaking story. I’m so sorry you were subjected to such appalling maltreatment. My son was also sexually abuse as a small child, and now claims to be gay. I’ve been warning him to stay as far away as possible from psychiatrists and their drugs for years, but he is currently thinking of going into psychology as a profession. He would be a compassionate healer, however. I pray for my children’s well being every day, am so proud of what a strong survivor my son is, and will love him no matter what his personal preferences are. But, I do still hope for the miracle of grandchildren some day. My best to you.

  3. Am glad you made it through all of this and survived. This man and what he did to you is the worst form of quackery. We’re supposed to trust doctors and your story is an example of why we all must remain vigilant and must evaluate every little thing that doctors of all specialties want or tell us to do. Thank you for sharing your story.

  4. Eeek, drugged up and told you’re evil for fancying men.

    I’m glad it is now illegal in California. I hope this spreads to other states soon.

    I met a man who had suffered electroshock “Therapy” to try to, “Cure,” his homosexuality. It didn’t work (I can testify to that!). He advised me to never try it – I wasn’t planning to!

  5. As much as I am for banning psychiatry from having any legal prerogative whatsoever, I am also against the banning for consenting adults of any kind of “therapies” they voluntarily engage in, be it “conversion therapy”, “astrology therapy” or “homeopathic therapy”.

    Respecting people’s freedom means respecting people’s freedom even when they do something that they see later as a mistake. Otherwise, we are just validating the psychiatric enterprise, namely, the notion that a group of self appointed, unaccountable “mind guardians” know what’s better for people and that these “mind guardians” should have a prerogative to interfere with people’s freedom “in the best interest of the patient”.

    The travesty is not that until 1974 the APA considered homosexuality a “mental illness”. The travesty is that 40 years later, 50% of Americans will be eligible at some point in their lives for a psychiatric label. The battle I am up against is psychiatric labeling. What people voluntarily decide to do to correct or not correct their own behaviors is not my business and, frankly, it should not be government’s business either.

    • I couldn’t agree more. I’m very uncomfortable with the idea that legislation will decide what are acceptable psychoanalytic therapies and what are unacceptable ones. Group think enshrined as legislation does not help individuals to choose a therapy that they think may benefit them, and may very well benefit them. We are in the realm of the mind, not the body here. An unfortunate truth that people often can’t protect themselves from the Svengali -like nature of a psychiatrist and will continue with the same person because they are afraid not to/the psychiatrist has a hold on them. I can’t help thinking of the episode of Seinfeld where Elaine tries to leave her psychiatrist. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYAzjJRZ6HA Very funny, but painfully true.

      • I really don’t agree that people should be able to sell stuff that is unambiguously poisonous as therapy (whether it is a chemical or a psychological method) and the data on reparative therapy is so bad it is clear it has no benefit but incredible ability to damage.

        I want to thank Peter for clearly and bravely writing about his abysmal experience, and I hope we can all support changing laws so experiences like that quite a bit less likely to occur.

        • We’ll have to agree to disagree :).

          On these issues, I am firmly libertarian. This conviction, in addition to my own experience as survivors, it what drives my anti psychiatry activism, Adults deemed competent should be free to engage/not engage in therapies of their choice and to take/not to take as many psychotropic drugs as they want -in fact, I am also for the legalization of so called “illegal drugs”.

          If we let government dictate which forms of behavioral control for non criminal defendants are acceptable, we are basically conceding psychiatry’s main point, namely, that there is a need for “experts” deciding for society at large which forms of counseling or drugging are “good” and which ones are “bad”. I do not concede that point, so I find the point raised in this article moot.

          I am not talking about minors here, that’s a different issue altogether. I agree that in the case of minors restrictions make sense, just as they exist for consumption of alcohol which is legal for adults.

          Adults have a basic right to do with their lives whatever they please, even making mistakes that they later regret.

          • To cannotsay2013: In general I agree with the rights of adults to do what they please, make their own mistakes, etc. But I don’t agree that mental health professionals should be able to do whatever they please. For example, even though adults generally have the right to have sex with whatever consenting adults they please, therapists at least in many states can be arrested for having sex with their clients, and I think that’s OK. Because offering therapy and then seducing people is so often harmful. Pretending to offer therapy and instead offering abuse and lies, as reparative “therapy” does, is similarly abusive.

          • Ron: that’s easy. I am for the abolition of ALL forms of “government sponsored mental health”. ALL as in NO EXCEPTIONS. Since many in the mental health industry make a living out of my tax dollars, that’s an unrealistic short term, so what I am pushing for is that at least government doesn’t pick winners and losers when it comes to “therapies”. Letting government do that validates psychiatry’s basic point that somewhere, somehow “experts” know better than the people what’s good for the people. And as I said, I am not conceding that point. An adult who goes to therapy and has sex with the therapist is as responsible for the outcome as the therapist (assuming there is no coercion that would make the sexual contact qualify for “rape” in a non client/therapist setting).

            While I do not concede either the “blame the client” line that seems to be popular as of late in mainstream psychiatry to attack the survivor movement, I do believe that competent adults who VOLUNTARILY use psychiatric services and who seek government regulation of those services undermine the mission of the survivor movement. Freedom to choose, means that, including making bad choices.

        • Unambiguously poisonous, like homeopathy? “Good” or “bad” therapies seem to be in the experience of the client. Perhaps we should ban all forms of psychotherapy, which many people claim to be rubbish. I can’t go along with people who want to limit other people’s right to a therapy they feel may help them. The problem is often with the powerful influence of the psychiatrist, when it becomes impossible to break free. That becomes abuse.

          • Hi Rossa, when I say “unambiguously poisonous” I mean exactly what I say. Not like homeopathy, which might use a highly dilute poison that actually doesn’t harm. “Reparative” therapy basically focuses a poisonous force, the hate of parts of society for sexual differences, and lies about them, into an intense relationship that pretends to be helpful but turns the person against themselves.
            There may be people who don’t like psychotherapy, but most often people seem to be helped, with a small minority being worse off. Reparative therapy is quite different: pretty much no one “helped” and a long trail of intense psychological damage. It is itself a potent form of abuse, and should be recognized as such.

          • Thank you, Ron, I just want to chime in to re-enforce what you say, I have such an aversion to the idea “reparative” therapy. I feel it is to the spirit exactly what medical psychiatry has been–so invalidating to our nature and process. I feel it enables our most self-traumatizing and wounding voices, which, indeed, makes it toxic. It’s a bad product and needs to be recalled.

  6. Peter, Peter, Peter–welcome back to the real world. Was it brainwashing? identifying with the aggressor? misplaced faith in expert opinion?

    Complicated by the expectation of professional help, it is all kinds of things obscurely concealing one another, all doing their injury to your ego and self-esteem at one and the same time. I want to compliment you on how you worked with the analogy of the map of identity needing to remain commensurate with the territory of experience, and how you are still diligent both about questioning yourself and staying true to yourself.

    Many people suffer in less freakish interventions, but theirs (and for me, ours) are still full of horrendous malfeasance, or at least chilling dismissal of the personal interests the ineluctably took in what they were facing that no one could face for them. Psychologists love to throw words around that they like for proving their expertise, such as “inappropriate”, but do they not know about involuntary and coercive and deceptive practices or something? What “appropriate” matters for in relationships should count in private practices, too.

    Also, you did something for the good of all in bringing a lawsuit. Even if they just responded (the trade group, that is) with damage control, you won financially and on paper. So it was a token remuneration for pain and suffering, but its your victory, nevertheless. Your sharing the significance of your plight and of how you defended yourself might serve to stimulate the legal process for someone else who has clear grounds for a case.

    Lastly, you know, the way that psychiatry gets its power guarantees that doctors who go off the rails will go off it in ways that appear most bizarre in their own right, but that bear all the marks of standard treatment protocols and the sought after compliance that they are used to create. It’s a profession that bases its methods on a headgame from front to back. So when it goes from bad to worse, it shows its flaws and misjudgements in its own distinctive way.

    Thanks for telling your story. Have you seen the recent follow-up on the hoax of Satanic Ritual Abuse that psychiatry (and many famous people) tried to sell the public on a coupld of decades ago? The story very recently showed up in Psychiatric Times online. The same as your case, no real reprimand allowed.

  7. To all,

    A final thought on this matter. I sincerely believe that psychiatry and psychology are belief systems. Not really religions, in the sense that they do not appeal to some supernatural entity that guides their work, but they do believe in a sense of “behavioral orthodoxy” that can be voted in/out into books, be it the DSM or “practitioner guides”.

    My solution to the practices endorsed by psychiatry/psychology is the same as for religious practices:

    – People should be free to engage or not engage in any “therapy”, drugging of their choice, just as they engage in religious practices.

    – Government should not spend a single dime promoting psychology/psychiatry just as it doesn’t spend a single dime promoting religion.

    – Psychiatry/psychology should have no validity whatsoever on legal matters just as no religion has. This is compatible with having your therapist testifying in some capacity just as pastors testify to help their parishioners but the fields of psychiatry/psychology/mental health should have exactly the same validity as individual religions have on these matters: none whatsoever.

    – Government should have no role whatsoever beyond what I say in the next point to regulate these therapies in the same way it doesn’t tell Christians/Muslims/Jews/Buddhists/Mormons, etc how to practice their stuff. Nobody forces you to be an orthodox Muslim, but if you chose to be one, you’ll have to put up with you being unable to eat pork without having government being able to force Islam that they accept that you eat bacon.

    – Finally, even in the case of religions, government does not validate every practice, such as putting the lives of minors in danger by parents who do not believe in blood transfusions (although adults are free not to accept said transfusions) or the fact that polygamy is illegal even though several faiths condone it (Islam, fundamental Mormonism, etc). These restrictions for the most part apply to cases where the life of a minor has been demonstrably put in physical danger (ie, making a minor believe in Allah vs Yahweh has not been shown to be such a danger) or legal situations where there is a societal interest at stake (such as polygamy). Note though that we are increasingly libertarian and the second issue is less and less relevant. A federal judge recently truck down Utah’s prohibition of common law polygamous marriages in the aftermath of the US Supreme Court decision on DOMA. I would not be surprised if at some point in the future https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reynolds_v._United_States is overturned.

    So this is why I find the point raised in this article moot. In fact, I find it damaging to the survivor movement. Giving government a say in the regulation of “mental health therapies” implicitly concedes psychiatry/psychology’s basic point and continues to validate their oppressive role in society.

  8. To cannotsay2013: Thanks for clarifying the nature of our disagreement. I definitely don’t buy the notion that the source of the oppressiveness of various mental health interventions is the involvement of government, even though I would agree that governments can be part of the oppression. And I don’t agree that any kind of oppression should be allowed between initially consenting adults.

    I say initially consenting, because people can easily fall into a pattern of continuing to consent because of the nature of the mental health oppression itself. In reparative therapy, it might be the self destroying nature of the therapy that leaves the person without the will to leave. In the case of psych drugs, let’s imagine a person persuaded to take a drug which then itself takes away the ability to evaluate the effects of the drug, and if the person is kept on it, oppression can continue with no ability to resist. Under your scheme, this would be perfectly legal, even if the person was made into a complete zombie forever who had no ability to ever again question what was happening to him or her.

    I think government has a role in outlawing varying kinds of fraud and abuse, and what’s important is just to get it correctly identifying what is fraud and abuse. I don’t expect you to agree, but I thought I’d explain my own view a little more.

    One other point: psychology certainly involves beliefs, but it involves beliefs about things that can be tested, for example about what leads to distress and disability or not, even if these issues are so complex that what the tests mean remains controversial. It’s not like beliefs about what happens to your soul after you die.

    • Yes Ron,

      I think that the source of our disagreement is clear. I do not believe in the concept of a “nanny state”. Individual freedom is really a binary concept. And with freedom, comes responsibility.

      When it comes to basic rights, the US constitution and US Supreme Court case law make it very clear that people are assumed to have them by default and thatthey can only be taken away in very narrow circumstances and with due process. People over the age of 18 -for the most part, since in the case of alcohol consumption, the age of consent in most states is 21- are presumed to be competent to make their own decisions. Deeming a person incapacitated is a long process in which the burden of proof lies in the petitioner. It gives the person targeted for incapacitation the benefit of the doubt .

      We could have a legitimate debate that not everybody matures at the same age and that picking 18 seems arbitrary. I believe that that is a very slippery slope. Take the freedom of speech included in the first amendment for instance. I am sure that many people -last year prominently Martin Bashir- would appreciate in retrospect some sort of mouth police that would have prevented them from saying something stupid that ended up costing them their jobs. And yet, the principle of prior restraint has been deemed unconstitutional except in the narrow case of national security issues https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near_v._Minnesota .

      I apply the same principle to people’s freedom to do “therapy”, “taking drugs”, “trusting astrologers”, etc. You get the idea. Doing otherwise in the case of so called “mental health” validates psychiatry’s reason of being.

      In fact, this is something that Thomas Szasz also warned about, namely, that psychiatry also serves the interests of those who see in psychiatry/psychology an excuse to justify their own misbehavior or that “exclusion from the DSM” would allow certain patterns of behavior to be deemed “normal” officially and they could use said exclusion and the power of institutional psychiatry to promote their “normality”. The most prominent case of this phenomenon is, of course, homosexuality, but there are others.

      My point is simple: no psychiatric label or “therapy” is a legitimate form of objective medicine. As such all of them should be treated as the “belief system” they are. There is plenty of case law about what to do in cases in which people engage in practices derived from their own beliefs. The struggle is to make sure that psychiatry moves in that direction.

      Right now, each of us who has received a DSM label is officially member of a legally prosecuted minority, just as blacks were prior to 1964. This is not a figurative statement. Both federal and state laws are full of provisions that say that those who have been assigned a DSM label have less civil rights than those who don’t. Some people love this “oppressive minority status” in the same way that some people love affirmative action. I don’t. I had a pretty decent life before I was officially declared “subhuman” by a psychiatrist ( a life in which I made mistakes of my own) and I want to go back to that life. I am not going to legitimate the psychiatric quackery by agreeing to the notion that government has a role to play in legalizing forms of behavioral control people voluntarily engage in.

      Finally, as to psychology involving “beliefs about things that can be tested”, that’s an oxymoronic statement. The only thing that has been shown to be “testable” is the personal biases of those who write the DSM and practice psychiatry/psychology. Up until the 1970s, these fields were dominated by WASP people, as a result the DSM was misogynistic and homophobic. Now they are dominated by secular, liberal leaning males, so the DSM of today reflects those values.

      As Paula Caplan said, when there is absolutely no science (which is why psychology’s beliefs cannot be tested because they are not falsifiable), personal bias takes the place of science.

      Again, I see psychiatry and psychology as oppressive fields. This is possibly the main difference between those like me who are Szaszian and those who see themselves as “consumers”. The quacks put all of us in the same bag, but I think that we are seeing our differences here.

      In any case, I think that the important thing is to focus on the things that unite us, like the abolition of coercive psychiatry and forced drugging. However, do not expect me to back proposals to ban “conversion therapy” for adults. In fact, expect me to criticize that people spend energies doing so because I sincerely believe that those proposals undermine the cause of the psychiatric survivor movement.

      • “psychology’s beliefs cannot be tested because they are not falsifiable”
        That is largely true. There are valuable observations of human behaviour and it’s causes made in social and psychological studies but all the mind theories are usually mumbo jumbo bullshit which can’t be proven this way or another.

        However, I disagree on banning certain practices. I mean – you’re allowed to enter into consensual contracts however, there are certain restrictions on these – like they can’t be based on the dependence of one person or they can’t be fraudulent. Restorative therapy is fraudulent because it offers something that was proven to be false. It’s like I’, claiming to sell chicken nuggets and in fact I make them of dead rats – it’s fraud and it’s criminal.

    • Ron – This is such a disconnect in your position, for you to say that government’s role doesn’t result in psychiatric legal authority, that I don’t understand how you reconcile your beliefs about alternative treatment and patient rights. Now as for the rest of your evasions of cannotsay’s strident but patently comprehensible rejoinders to you:

      “In any case, the psychologist rigorously guards against considering the men about him as his fellow-creatures. This notion of similitude, on the basis of which one might be able to build an anthropology, seems to him ridiculous and dangerous.”

      Well, what paranoid conspiracy theorist said that this was the going trend in psychology? Sartre, Ron. In Outline of a Theory of the Emotions.

      If you refuse to acknowledge the privilege and power of the mental health professions, both to act in concert as penalizers on the basis of ideological standards in defense and unmitigatedly in favor of promoting their authority to act based on government sanctions (all of this happens daily), I don’t see how you can escape promoting conformity to whatever is the status quo description of right conduct.

      The libertarian conception is ethical in principle and is valuable in and of itself for keeping the principles that survivors need to stay aware of in clear view. But if you don’t believe the problem exists that way, I suppose you don’t need Tina Minkowski’s inputs any more than mine or cannotsay’s. And if you don’t think there are backlashes that hit the clientele from lobbying for government backing, you won’t like the points that Joanna Moncrieff and Phil Hickey make about the lack of objectivity in support of labels and forced treatment.

      But it’s obvious that denying people their responsibility to choose treatments through which they become wards of their therapists matches up rather perfectly with the push to spare lawbreakers responsibility for their actions through the insanity defense and doesn’t stop matching up there, but leads right into involuntary treatment and its million and one repercussions on the public image of mental health and mental disorder.

      I don’t understand how you could think of this huge assymetry in legal power in favor of behavioral healthcare over and against its clients’ rights is benign. You stopped making sense–in a way that yu shouldn’t have.

      • Hi travailler-vous,

        I certainly never said there was no problem with all the sorts of various abuses practiced by government sponsored mental health systems that is so well documented by all the people writing in here on Mad in America.

        But while many bad things come from such government excesses, I don’t think we can make everything better just by taking all the power away from the government. That’s kind of like noticing police brutality and abuse, and thinking one can correct everything by taking all the power away from the police – ignoring the way brutality can happen without governments, and the way governments and police departments, if run correctly, can actually act against brutality.

        I think some have a sort of religious belief in government being the source of everything bad, and a dogma that says stopping the government will make everything better. From that point of view, when a traumatized and confused adult goes to see a professional who promises to be helpful, but then manipulates them into sex, or into hating themselves, no wrong has been done, because it wasn’t done by the government. I don’t subscribe to that religion, and attempts to convert me are unlikely to succeed.

        • Not a dogma, really, rather a recognition that government is in the business of social control since it has the monopoly on “legal force” or “police powers” as some would call it https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopoly_on_violence .

          This recognition that government is in the business of social control makes those of my persuasion push for putting limits to government power in order to restrict it to the strict minimum required to have civil society. In my view, there is no role for government regulating so called “mental health” since it is axiomatic that said regulation immediately introduces “good mental health” vs “bad mental health”, which is precisely the line defended by psychiatry, only the APA also defends that said delineation be made by them through the DSM.

          Allen Frances, defends that government should be in charge of writing the DSM -or its equivalent-, not the APA. At the end of the day, it’s the same concept. If you think that a DSM produced by the lobbies that traditionally back big government -such as unions- would be better than the current DSM, I think that it means that it has probably been a long time since your last visit to the DMV or any other service/agency operated by government.

          When two people voluntarily engage in a trade, there is a balance of power. When government is a part in that trade, even if that part is merely an enforcement part, then there is coercion for everybody else involved. To give a clear example: marriage. When government gets involved beyond the role that most people would consider legitimate (like policing that there is no physical/sexual violence), government poisons what should otherwise be a relationship between consenting adults. Imagine government imposing its definition of a “happy marriage” to all married couples. One only needs to look at the legal fictions that people needed to resort to -like the so called “collusive adultery” that was popular in New York state- before the no fault divorce laws were adopted to understand the evilness of giving government power to regulate freedom of association. More recently, the state of Massachusetts kidnapped Justina Pelletier during 16 moths to impose its definition of “mental health” to Justina and her family causing nothing but pain and misery to those at the receiving end of its actions.

          From my point of view, one of the legitimate criticisms of DJ Jaffe to some of those who oppose the now likely defunct Murphy bill is that part of the opposition to said bill came from what he calls the “mental health industry”, in which he includes largely those who see themselves as consumers. I think that the term “mental health industry” is a misnomer, since it is not really an industry -ie, it is not people paying for “mental health” out of their own pockets- but rather people who get money from government (ie, my taxes) for so called “mental health”. He has a point.

          As I have said numerous times, if it were up to me, government would spend exactly zero of my tax dollars on so called “mental health”. The reason I am supporting the alternative to the Murphy bill is not that I think it is a good bill but rather because at least it maintains the status quo with respect to coercive psychiatry (unlike the Murphy bill that would have taken coercion to a completely new level). My dream though is to drive “mental health” public spending to zero.

          • “When two people voluntarily engage in a trade, there is a balance of power.”
            That is a false statement. There can be obvious differences in power – say a trade between a poor person and a very rich owner of a monopoly industry. The non-existence of a state doesn’t prevent the imbalance of power, in fact it exacerbates it.
            Moreover the public funding of mental health and coercion are not the same. You can have public funding of medicine without coercion (that happens for every branch of it except of psychiatry in most of the developed world) and you can have coercion without public funding (then on top of being locked up and drugged your property can be used to cover the cost – this happens for instance when you have to pay for the hospital stay during involuntary hospitalisation – happened to em and it was really “insult to injury”).

        • Ron – We are thrusting past each other, in significant measure, but can abide the result of clarification.

          When you stated that government or its involvement weren’t the sources of abusiveness for mental health interventions, that pretty much connotes to me that you think that the various psych industries’ having extra-judicial authority backed by various lobbying activities doesn’t mean much to the imbalance of power that leads to abuses. But you explain further that that isn’t the implication you had in mind. We arrive at a definite terminus in the issue.

          Additionally: Not a religious problem in sight. That there are these special extra-judicial powers enabling forced treatment and detention and types of defamation and obstruction of real justice is as much a fact as that abuses do happen.

          These two social facts are hardly isolated from each other, however. You could have many different and arguably more happening opportunities to reduce abuses of power and authority in therapeutic situations if there wasn’t the sanction of government in place for punitive restraint that there is.

          I think it’s “arguably more” to the good if we lop off psychiatry’s extra-judicial authority, tons better in regards to effectiveness of reconstructing the mental health paradigm, and believe that that is probably right to think. If you claim that the present legal sanctions afforded the current professional racket for providing mental health services contribute nothing to systemic abuses, we disagree profoundly–since that just is not a reliable description of things in reality.

          On politics, meanwhile, I just am more “with” freedom and rights than with censorship and control.

          On Peter’s great written expose’, and on how appalling his story is, there is no question. I believe that saying there should be a law against what he got himself into and how he got misled isn’t the right first or final step in keeping the thing from happening to someone’s dislike and loss of wellbeing. And it should be a public and ongoing contention that this form of terapy is the more malignant option in most, if not all, respects.

          If there were two psychiatries, one that allows much intervention and one that allows no such thing as detention, ECT, forced interrogations called therapy, then we could proceed to inform everyone to love themselves as they are and possibly make great strides at it. Another fairly instructive Thomas Szasz idea.

          I was originally likwise misled into thinking it was safe and relatively needed to consult mainstream psychiatry. I disagree with how easy it remains to promote this notion when the industries won’t take on the damage and error they are to blame for or unequivocally denounce the intentional steps that led to the abuse and harm or to covering it up.

          I think that it probably was the case that being too hard on myself allowed abuses of authority, neglect and withholding of therapy (worthwhile talking cures) in my own case. The label and getting a show of gratitude from me for the removal of my freedom. I could find nothing out from consulting professionals that satisfactorily did me any good.

          To me it looks like the behavioral healthcare professions both warn you not to be too hard on yourself and change up the approach if that is something characteristic of you to get you on their side for making a buck or having extraordinary say in social matters. They do it as religiously as can be done.

  9. Peter – this looks like what you signed up for and didn’t get and/or get wind of, all you got were drugs. The rest was push, shove, shove, push, wait, hammer. Also it looks like what you and me and almost all bio-moderns never got and few got encouraged to imagine. It’s a little peachy good, keen-and-fun give of niceness, reminiscency of nicety not seen and done. I think the inroad is for how you understand your predicaments and few breaks and many opportunites to re-establish your viewpoint on what you explain. I skipped around to see, for myself, at random.

    http://www.aipro.info/drive/File/The%20Polarity%20Therapy%20paradigm%20regarding%20preconception,%20prenatal%20and%20birth%20imprinting.%20R.%20Castellino%2030%2012%2013.pdf

    My own history on given reflections bites it till greed seems the basic problem, then, in America–because of the Left, there’s nothing to do except shed light. But little matters about on who or what, since it’s free here. Like for what you can see. I’m unimpressed with the struggle the Left puts up to maintain its front, its hierarchy, and its uni-voice.

    What crossed my mind in reading the several passages and paragraphs that was enough acquaintance for me, I considered your wink-lady, judge in review of the loser, and see how the Left with its dance-dancey games gives her little to warn you with but that, which implies that you were OK and a bad shopper. That is also all the good anyone gets inside. People on this site who mean to ramp up their game, survivors who go work on the still damaged goods population of patients, both messed up, wanting help, and largely in the dark by design, miss what you can see about that. Only human goodness makes the benefit stick. It’s games, like you know of and worse types that people count on for psychological wellbeing, and the persons doing the least about it, in the Academy here, in the helping professions here, play to an information track that inhibits the rights before law that stand often to get hardly better results for you or anyone free and ready to take interest in good living places and peeps.

    Forgive nothing and worry all. Ciao.

  10. “Enacting laws to make it illegal to practice reparative therapy on minors is only a start.”
    It should be banned altogether. no one is allowed to sell snake oil and claim it cures cancer so no one should be allowed to practice such nonsense as “reparative therapy”.

  11. Since Ron Unger, a MIA author, has stated in his comments that:

    “I really don’t agree that people should be able to sell stuff that is unambiguously poisonous as therapy (whether it is a chemical or a psychological method) and the data on reparative therapy is so bad it is clear it has no benefit but incredible ability to damage.”

    MIA should have the integrity to invite genuine practitioners of reparative therapy (of which Peter’s terrible experience is not a representative sample) to give a response, as well as ask Ron to post the data he is referring to.

    In the meantime people might want to hear the other side of the story, so to speak, and check the following links to form a more balanced opinion on the subject:

    http://www.narth.com/

    http://www.voices-of-change.org/

    http://www.blackstonefilms.org/films/the-third-way/index.html

    Sadly, people do not seem to realize that “gay” is the ultimate psychiatric label and “born that way” the mantra of biological psychiatry at its worst. “Homosexuals”, or rather, people who experience same-sex attraction, did not break free from the prison of psychiatry, they were allowed out. And they were allowed out in order to become the enforcers and bodyguards of biological psychiatry. Who stifles any serious challenge to biological psychiatry and its “born that way” mantra more than any group? Think about it.

    • I certainly don’t think I need to get into documenting the harm done by reparative therapy, as information about that is pretty widely available. It should suffice to say that any therapy that widely relies on telling lies to vulnerable people as a core part of its practice is not worthy of the name “therapy.” Wikipedia by the way has an entry for reparative therapy that covers the “pros” for the therapy as well as the cons – it’s clear that the “pros” are pretty pathetic in my opinion.

      Yes, some people who are strongly motivated by religion can learn to give up their primary attraction for the same sex, and can even learn to enjoy, to some extent, opposite sex interaction, at least for awhile, and probably only if they are somewhat bisexual to start out with. That shouldn’t surprise us – after all, some people can give up sex entirely for their whole life if it is important to their religion. This isn’t at all evidence of a change in sexual orientation, only a change in sexual practice, based on religious belief. A therapy that only aims to help people be aware they have such choices is not problematic. Reparative therapy is problematic because it starts with lies about being able to change orientation, then follows up with more lies aimed to make people feel worse about their orientation, and other forms of pressure aimed at taking away choices rather than helping people be aware of their choices.

      I think johndoe is quite wrong when he blames gay people for being “enforcers and bodyguards” of biological psychiatry, just because many say they were “born that way.” The problem with biological psychiatry is that it takes differences between people and then describes them as illnesses and attempts to eradicate the difference, instead of noticing how people might learn to live well with the differences. That’s why many in the hearing voices network take the gay liberation movement as a model for what they want to do for voice hearers – not insist that voice hearers are the same as everyone else, but rather insist that voice hearing is not an illness, and people can learn to live successfully while still hearing voices. Our movement doesn’t depend on insisting that people don’t have differences, only that these differences should not be labeled by outsiders as pathology based on being different, instead we need to work to understand what different sorts of people need in order to be healthy and then relate to them based on that.

  12. “The problem with biological psychiatry is that it takes differences between people and then describes them as illnesses and attempts to eradicate the difference, instead of noticing how people might learn to live well with the differences. ”
    “Our movement doesn’t depend on insisting that people don’t have differences, only that these differences should not be labeled by outsiders as pathology based on being different, instead we need to work to understand what different sorts of people need in order to be healthy and then relate to them based on that.”
    Spot on. I agree 100%.

  13. Ron, I certainly think you need to look at the (scarce) data there is on reparative therapy rather than repeat misinformation about it. I would ask you to honestly make an effort to look it up (not in Wikipedia) if you have any interest in the truth rather than just confirming your prejudices.
    You may want to start with the APA taskforce report, written up by people who absolutely loath reparative therapy, and yet even they could not come up with significant evidence of harm:

    http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/therapeutic-response.pdf

    And if you want to be fair, you may want to continue by visiting the NARTH website (link in previous comment) – I think you need to ask yourself seriously: how much of what I know about this is factual, how much unsupported rumor and hearsay?
    You dismiss evidence of change of sexual orientation, but do you dare apply the same criteria of evidence to the concept of sexual orientation itself? Is there any evidence of it other than self-reporting? The same self-reporting you dismiss in the cases of change of orientation? Any biomarkers?

    I will just say one more thing before posting a link to a documentary I think people will find interesting. I absolutely don’t “blame” gay people for having been put in the position of being the enforcers of biological psychiatry; I do blame psychiatry and the psychiatrists who manipulate people who experience same-sex attraction.

    The following film has just today come to my attention, I invite people to watch it; no labels in it, just people telling their story. Please give them the courtesy of listening to their stories with the same respect you would like other people to listen to yours. By the way, one of the three people interviewed describes in passing and incident of voice-hearing that I think is very interesting in its own right (it starts at around minute 35)

    http://everlastinghills.org/movie/

  14. I think it was pretty clear when homosexuality was added to the DSM that it had less to do with treating a patient and more to do with keeping people who were gay from coming out openly. I wish I remember who had said it, but a psychiatrist was quoted in saying that Homosexuality would never be accepted until it was removed from the DSM. That label as a mental illness allowed certain groups to feel validated in their blatant prejudices. I truly hope you have come out stronger because of this.

  15. It is still done on some level. I have always been bisexual and every time I see my psych files it says, “sexually insecure”… it just irks me because my relationships have been long term and I am sexually attracted to those I loved. Heck I had some “manic episodes” I could sell stories to pornographers about. I think I know what I am now