Jon Stewart’s Gaywatch


In his Daily Show, political satirist Jon Stewart spoke recently about various LGBT issues, including current efforts of Texas Republicans to endorse the practice of reparative therapy − or, as it’s also sometimes called, “pray away the gay” therapy. In an effort to qualify some of the techniques used by reparative therapists, Stewart quoted an Op-Ed that I wrote in 2012 for the magazine The Advocate about my own experiences undergoing a form of reparative therapy with a psychiatrist in Canada. As read by Stewart, my former psychiatrist “threatened to hook my genitals up to electrodes,” and he “ordered me to bottle my feces and to sniff it whenever I was attracted to men.”

Along with Bill Maher, Jon Stewart has long been an advocate for LGBT issues, using political satire to poke fun at serious issues by highlighting the insane–or maybe just the inane. While Stewart correctly states that every leading national psychological and psychiatric organization has denounced reparative therapy, I can add that in their May 2012 Position Statement, the World Health Organization stated that reparative therapies “lack medical justification and threaten health,” that they cause “long-term effects such as . . . feelings of guilt and shame, depression, anxiety, and even suicide.” Stewart went so far as to compare reparative therapist efforts to “bring out the heterosexuality” in a gay person to “giving a woman a C-Section who’s not pregnant. You won’t find what you’re looking for, but you will leave a scar.” As a survivor of reparative therapy I can vouch for the scar. In fact, I have long believed that reparative therapy is akin to a psychic lobotomy, where the “surgeon” probes into the psychosexuality of the individual, cutting and scarring their way toward the establishment of a “different” sexuality, while the “patient,” severely undermined by lifelong messages of heteronormativity, becomes co-conspirator in their own loss of agency.

Less than 50 years ago Mike Wallace enthusiastically anchored one of the first primetime TV documentaries about homosexuals, the disparaging “CBS Reports: The Homosexual,” in which it was stated, among other things, that

“the average homosexual . . . is not interested or capable of a lasting relationship like that of a heterosexual marriage. His sex life, his love life, consists of a series of one-chance encounters at the clubs and bars he inhabits. And even on the streets of the city–the pick-up, the one night stand, these are characteristic of the homosexual relationship.”

This was not presented as satire, but fact. While it’s always tempting to dismiss Wallace’s documentary as “dated,” even “ridiculous,” it is important to remember that people like Jon Stewart would not even be finding the satire in issues like reparative therapy had it not been for generations reared on the misinformation of documentaries like Wallace’s. The fact that Stewart, as an Emmy Award winning political commentator with significant clout and a national podium to boot, is even speaking out against the methods and madness of reparative therapy speaks to our culture’s increased understanding about what at one time not so long ago was (insanely and inanely) defined as criminal and psychologically disordered: loving a person of the same gender.


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.


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  1. This makes me think of someone who files for bankruptcy every other year advertising to give financial counsel. Your former therapist sounds unsafe, off-kilter, and highly delusional–undoubtedly a product of his culture which hold and practice these marginalizing beliefs. I’ve had similar experiences. Fortunately, THAT is what got repaired over time, and with tons of focused, deep meditation to find my center and learning to stay connected with it.

    My very best wishes on your healing and integration. You are very strong and courageous.

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  2. I am not speaking about you Peter, in particular, but about gay rights activists in general.

    I would take them more seriously if they denounced psychiatry as a whole. Instead, what I have encountered over and over again is gay rights activists endorsing,

    – The DSM as a valid decider of behavioral orthodoxy.

    – Using homosexuality’s exclusion of the DSM as a “proof” that homosexuality is “normal”.

    Instead of taking on the APA and psychiatry at large, gay rights activists are using the two APAs in the same way religious people use the Bible, to claim “hey, your “experts” say that homosexuality is fine”.

    The great Thomas Szasz replied to somebody here who asked the question “isn’t it great that homosexuality was excluded from the DSM” ? His answer was along the lines, “sure, but the bad news is that more and more patterns of behavior are now included on it!”

    I will not take the gay rights activists seriously on psychiatric matters until they rally against ALL the so called “therapies” that are still legal nationwide, particularly “forced therapies”. I am not i am not holding my breath though, since the APAs, in a smart move, are using gay rights activists to advance their role as “mind guardians” alternative to churches.

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    • And to follow up with that. Take for instance the “therapy” I was victimized with: CBT. The goal of all the sessions I attended where to “brainwash” me that my lower level of tolerance for risk of HIV transmission was “irrational” and that there was something wrong with me for not being “cool” with going to gay districts, so called “red districts” or districts with a high concentration of IV drug users. As if the statistics that say that say that 75 % of all new HIV transmissions are due to men who have sex with men, IV drug users or both are a “fantasy”. And please, I hope nobody lectures me with “get educated with the ways HIV is transmitted”. Last time that I checked, nobody sees a problem with people fearing air travel even though the probability of getting killed from a single trip is astronomically low. Different people have different tolerance for difference things and that has to be respected.

      Now, luckily my CBT therapist was the most “sane” of all those so called “mental health” workers I dealt with during my own ordeal, but still why are people fighting for the banning of “conversion therapy” but they are OK with “brainwashing people that fearing HIV transmission more than what the APA considers tolerable is bad”?

      You will not find in me an ally in the notion that the role of the two APAs is good even though from time to time they endorse but stuff (like conversion therapy). My position is that both APAs are evil organizations and there should not be a single of their so called “therapies” that should be paid for with public money.

      Many people see the role of the APAs as somehow the “wise behavioral control by medical experts” against “behavioral control by churches” but isn’t it the case that all behavioral control outside the criminal justice system is wrong, morally speaking? Why should people accept as valid the patterns of behavior that MD degree holders like and not, let’s say, the patterns of behavior accepted as valid by Hollywood stars and celebrities? Boy, that would be fun: you don’t have three extramarital affairs in as many weeks? You are “disordered” :).

      The goal has to be the abolition of the APAs as determining the government accepted patterns of behavior for society at large. We already have the criminal justice system to do social control. There is other legitimate institution, government wise, to do social control, period.

      This issue of banning conversion therapy but saying that the rest of the APA brainwashing is fine undermines the survivor movement.

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      • Possibly because CBT, unless done in a categorically inappropriate, immoral and unethical way completely opposite of his framework or guiding principles, can not an any way be likened to brainwashing.

        Sounds like you had an experience of something done to you that was unethical and reportable. For example, I am accountable to a licensing board, and I can tell you, when it comes to clinical social work, the Social Work Licensing Board doesn’t kid around.

        CBT isn’t a one size fits all thing, and its not even my preferred modality to work with. I do it when that’s what someone requesting support for me ASKS for, and work through the ideas with them for as long as they continue to believe that it is beneficial to them. If and when they tell me it isn’t, we stop. CBT is supposed to be something one tries if the person self-identifies actions in their life that they are not satisfied with or that create problems for them (as they define it.) Then, if the person feels like thinking patterns is what most gets them hooked up, you can start to evaluate thinking going on along side actions that the person doesn’t like and ask, is this thinking helpful to me, relative to my values and goals, or unhelpful to me? Not “right” or “wrong.” But rather, consistent with my values or not consistent.

        If someone starts to identify habitual patterns of thinking that THEY feel are not consistent with THEIR values as THEY define them, and if they are interested, then I might be able to be a partner in suggesting some ways to build some new thinking patterns more consistent with their values and goals. The work comes from them, the change if any comes from them, and I simply offer some feedback and some suggestions along the way. If they want it.

        CBT was not personally helpful for me. Know what my therapist did when I shared with her that I did not feel that CBT is what I needed?

        She stopped. It’s more common than you might think once you get outside capital “P” psychiatry. Social Workers, Family Therapists, Spiritual Guides, etc. don’t prescribe meds, don’t generally work with involuntary clients, don’t force any sort of “treatment” and don’t typically dictate what counseling or “therapy” should look like.

        Right work for an agency that employs about 80 people, including peed advocates. Not one of them is a psychiatrist. There is not one single service that is in anyway forced or involuntary. Not one counselor “sends” people to the hospital. The agency core values are built on a often-discussion foundation of rogerian spirit, client autonomy, voluntary services and individually directed support.

        Most importantly, we serve poor people. We offer services to people who frequently have few to no natural supports, friends, family or other connections and who have little or in many cases zero income. People who are marginalized and ignored by society at large. Sure, for people of privilege there may be no need to see someone connected to an organization who is paid to provide support services. But what I know, both from my own direct lived experience and my experience of working with the bottom 1 percent in America is a lot of people don’t have the luxury.

        So that’s just one fringe organization, you say? My agency is the exception to the rule? Well, let’s expand out to the full county level in my state: and there I can tell you that the overwhelming majority of organizations offering individual counseling or “therapy” services are exactly the same. They have no psychiatrists. They prescribe no medications. The people who request services are completely voluntary and not “forced” to do anything.

        In fact, I couldn’t tell you were to find an outpatient psychiatrist in my county. I’m sure they exist, but its not my friends in the lowest economic class that are going to them. Only when you get caught up in the hospital, in the emergency rooms where you get held involuntarily and sent to a psych hospital – only then do the people I work with most meet the Psychiatrists.

        And that friends, is a huge problem – involuntary treatment is where the medical model cronies come on the scene. It’s where everything falls apart. But we need to stop conflating every sort of mental/emotional support service provision under the name (small p) psychiatry, because they are not even remotely the same and as a social worker, it is offensive to say that they are.

        I hear people making sweeping generalizations about what “mental health professionals” are taught in school. For me graduate school was one of the many profound and positive epochs of my life. I was NOT taught a medical model of mental “illness.” I was not taught the DSM as a bible. In fact, I had only one single class covering the DSM and the only reason it was covered, according to my professor, was because anyone ever billing Medicare would have to know it. When we discussed it it was from a lens of critical scrutiny. Gender theory critiques were offered. Critical and conflict therory critiques were offered. Feminist criticisms were explored. I was taught how to think about the political nature of the book and the medical model. I was taught to think about the power struggles that are behind the “professionalization” of helping professions.

        I was taught that a core value of a social worker ought to be challenging unquestioned assumptions about “normacy” and “illness.” Beyond that, I studied public policy from the perspective of radical activism. I was spend days and nights reading Malcom X and studying Saul Alinsky and reading criticisms of Social Work that argued it was drifting away from its radical roots and toward a profession that simply reified social/system norms without asking the question of whether not they were legitimate or just. My professors and cohort pressed me to grapple with these questions. They urged me to be someone that cherished he dignity of other people and their freedom to choose. They drilled into me the belief that I am only ever a support at best – never the one with the “answer.” They urged me never to fall into the trap of believing that I could expertly diagnosis an “illness” OR “prescribe” a fix. I don’t fix people. I ask them what I might be able to do to compassionately assist them in their journey, I offer to share with them insights I have learned about human experience and human development if they wish it, and mostly I just stand along side them and listen and love.

        This wasn’t some unique experience of mine. These were the values that defined MY graduate program, my cohort of fellow students and the professors who helped me shape my values of human interaction. I’m not remotely alone in this.

        So…. while we are correctly and appropriately challenging the extreme abuse of persons with lived experiences that differ from those in positions of power, while we are correctly and appropriately listening to the horror stories of abuse victims at the hands of either capital P Psychiatry or the mental health system at large with a combination of righteous indignation and heartache….

        While we’re doing all that, we have GOT to find a way not to paint with absurd broad brushes. We have got to do a better job if trying to minimize the amount of either/or all-or-nothing binary type thinking and language from our discussions. They world does not fit neatly in a clean little box. There are both people who have experienced severe abuse AND people, like myself, who have experienced deep and life-changing healing in partnership with professional support persons. There’s room to honor both. I’ve come to believe it is a waste of time to debate what percentage of people are abused and what percentage of people are helped. That completely, totally missed the point in spectacular fashion. The point SHOULD BE THAT EVERYONE IS FREE TO CHOOSE.

        That’s what we as a community ought to be striving for in my opinion. We miss the point when we get sucked into debates over whether or all counseling is bad or good. Not the point. The point is, ripping choice away from people (either the choice TO take meds or NOT to take meds, TO see a therapist or NOT to see a therapist) is a social and moral wrong. That’s what should unite us: We should be freedom advocates.

        (end rant, lol)

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        • If you click in my comment history, my first comment explains what happened to me. I did CBT “voluntarily”, in the sense that I wasn’t under a court order when I was doing it here in the US and my former CBT therapist did not object to my decision to stop it. What I am saying is that CBT is, de facto, brainwashing, even if people voluntarily engage in it.

          I am all for the right to choose, but that is not how mental health operates now. In fact, “mental health” is promoted by government while it shouldn’t be.

          You believe in “chemical imbalances”, the role of “trained social workers in your life” and the rest of it? Fine, pay for their services out of your own pocket as people who believe in astrology or homeopathy do.

          What I object to is to the notion of government promoting “mental health services” and forcing me to pay for other people using those services (since “mental health”/”addictions” are one of the ten essential benefits included in Obamacare). This makes to me as much sense are having my healthcare premiums paying for Muslims’ mandatory trip to Mecca.

          I repeat, I do not support the principle of government sponsored “social control” outside the criminal justice system. So this discussion about “conversion therapy bad but CBT good” does nothing but to undermine the psychiatric survivor movement.

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          • So first, I need to restate your position as I understand it, to make sure you agree I am stating it correctly and not distorting anything. So I as I hear it these are the main declarative statements that I take away:

            1. CBT is brainwashing.
            2. CBT is a form of social control.
            3. Any instance in which an individual sees another person for assistance a form of social control. Did I overstate that, or is your position that universal?
            4. You do not wish to have your tax dollars go to pay for others to see a person for support, because any and all forms of support in which one person sees another person who is paid to provide support is a form of social control. Did I overstate that?

            Let’s go ahead and assume I’m pretty close to accurate, since I basically just repeated the exact sentences you wrote. I feel like 1-3 are their own issues while 4 is a separate issue. So, rather than talk about what kinds of things we should or shouldn’t pay taxes for, I’d rather ask some questions about the underlying assumptions – the question of “brainwashing” and “social control.”

            So, I start with a very simple, but extremely reasonable question: if CBT is brainwashing, tell me how that is the case? I don’t want to be involved in brainwashing anymore than I want to be an agent of social control. So tell me how CBT is brainwashing. Anyone can make hyperbolic statements. Those have no accountability. It’s far more significant and meaningful to give reasoning for the statements we make. I might learn something important. So two questions:

            1.) Define CBT as you understand it
            2.) How is CBT brainwashing?

            The second question is the one I have the most interest in. I’m not interested in bombastic rhetoric from this community any more than I would accept it from the President of the APA. The expectation needs to be that people explain their claims and give reasons to support them. That would help me and others, because then I’d be better able to understand something potentially important.

            Next I have a question about the phrase “social control.” How is talking with someone who is voluntarily choosing to talk to me, who freely chooses what kinds of support to receive, or none at all, social control? Actually, define “social control.” When I saw a counselor voluntarily because I had no natural supports and felt like I wanted to die, she saw me for free – never charged me or the taxpayer a cent. Is that still “social control?”

            So to summarize:
            1) Define social control. What does that mean to you?
            2) How is me talking to someone who asks to talk to me, who comes to talk to me voluntarily, who chooses exactly what they want to talk about, what they want back from me, and whether or not to continue or end as they see fit – how is that an example of “social control” in action?
            3) When my counselor saw me for free, without my paying or without the taxpayer or any insurance company or anyone else paying a cent, is that still a form of “social control?”

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    • Cannotsay,
      Could you clarify what you mean by “the two APAs”? You refer to this a lot in your subsequent comments and I assume other readers must be assuming you are referring to two organizations. Do you mean how the gay rights movement uses the DSM to 1) affirm that homosexuality is not a mental disorder because 2) it believe the DSM to be a valid determiner of what is considered “abnormal.” Therefore, the gay rights movement is implicitly endorsing a manual that continues to label others because it got what it wanted – end of story. If so, it’s not the two APAs, it’s the two ways the gay rights movement uses the manual to validate its normalcy. Thanks for clarifying what you mean.

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      • The two APAs:

        – The American Psychiatric Association
        – The American Psychological Association

        They are both on the same side when it comes to appropriating the role of defining “normality” as it should be accepted by government, even though they regularly fight with each other for minutiae.

        With respect to ” the gay rights movement is implicitly endorsing a manual that continues to label others because it got what it wanted”, I am being more blunt, the gay rights movement is EXPLICITLY endorsing the DSM since they got what they wanted and they have a tool to take on people who oppose homosexuality on religious grounds: the DSM.

        The gay rights movement is saying “the APAs say we are normal, and unlike your religious stuff, what the APAs say is accepted by government as a legal determination of behavioral normality”.

        I do not single out the gay rights movement as the ONLY group of people that uses “exclusion” of the DSM as proof of normality but they are arguably the most vocal using the DSM this way.

        The role of the DSM as giving certain groups of people claim to “normality” cannot be underestimated because while we hear a lot from those who blame the DSM for labeling people unscientifically, the DSM is also used with the dual purpose of “affirming normality” by many other people.

        My point is, the two APAs should not have a government approved role in the defining normality anymore than churches have. I see all public expenditures in so called “mental health” a violation of the establishment clause of the first amendment. This debate “conversion therapy is bad but CBT is good” is the type of debate that the APAs love because it affirms their role in society at large.

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  3. Andrew,

    I am replying here to your questions above. Brainwashing can be voluntary. I never said otherwise. Wikipedia defines it as,

    “a theoretical indoctrination process which results in “an impairment of autonomy, an inability to think independently, and a disruption of beliefs and affiliations. In this context, brainwashing refers to the involuntary reeducation of basic beliefs and values”[”

    “The term has been applied to any tactic, psychological or otherwise, which can be seen as subverting an individual’s sense of control over their own thinking, behavior, emotions or decision making.”

    Some people might be unhappy with their own thoughts and might be seeking help to be “brainwashed” as to make those thoughts go away. In fact, until the publication of DSM-5, ego dystonic homosexuality was still considered a valid disorder and “conversion therapy” was accepted by many as a valid therapy for those who didn’t like their homosexual thoughts. With the publication of DSM-5, the only “brainwashing” that the APA considers acceptable for people who have homosexual thoughts, regardless of whether they like them, is to make those people happy that they have them!

    To your questions,

    1) Define social control. What does that mean to you?

    A bunch of “self appointed”, unaccountable, “mind guardians” dictating behavioral orthodoxy for the rest of us. As an example you have the two APAs. A different example, which was very popular like 100 years back, is theologians defining “sin”. Theologians still do this, but they do not enjoy the power to impose their definitions of “sin” that the people who define “disorders” do.

    2) How is me talking to someone who asks to talk to me, who comes to talk to me voluntarily, who chooses exactly what they want to talk about, what they want back from me, and whether or not to continue or end as they see fit – how is that an example of “social control” in action?

    Already explained above.

    3) When my counselor saw me for free, without my paying or without the taxpayer or any insurance company or anyone else paying a cent, is that still a form of “social control?”

    I am not against people VOLUNTARILY and WITH THEIR OWN MONEY engaging in the social control of their choice, be it “conversion therapy”, CBT or astrology. My problem is with government saying, outside the criminal justice system, this form of social control is good -and we will steal money through taxes to pay for it- and that one is bad. I am as against banning “conversion therapy” as I am against banning people from consulting astrologists. People should be free to do whatever they want, even if they later regret what they do.

    Of course, I am also against my tax dollars being used to pay for “conversion therapy”, CBT or astrology.

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    • Thanks for your reply. I feel like I may not be communicating my questions well enough, because I didn’t feel like your response answered that I’m trying to ask. So bear with me, I’ll try to do better this time…

      One thing that might help, is you skipped a question of mine, which was to define CBT as you understand it. I need to figure out if we’re talking about the same thing. It does not seem like we are, because you wrote:

      “Some people might be unhappy with their own thoughts and might be seeking help to be “brainwashed” as to make those thoughts go away.”

      So I accept that it may be the case that there are people out there who might want this, but it has not connection at all to CBT as I understand it.

      Here’s a “CBT” experience of mine that happened in my own life. I had a situation in which I acted (really reacted) in ways I didn’t like. My actions weren’t consistent with the way I want to live, the way that feels right to me, most authentic if you will. I didn’t like it. As I reflected on my actions, I had to accept that this was sort of a pattern. Certainly I was getting in situations where I was acting/reacting in ways that really didn’t feel good to me.

      So I began to ask myself, what was I feeling and thinking in the moment when this happened. And it wasn’t too difficult, I was able to articulate for myself exactly what I was thinking (and feeling, as at least for me these are really inseparable things) that contributed to my action/reaction.

      Then I asked myself, now that I’m out of the heat of the moment, having had some time and distance to reflect, what do I about the same situation now? And out of the moment, with less immediate urgency and emotion, I was able to think on, what felt to me, like a slightly deeper level. At least a level of thoughts and feelings that felt more consistent with the things I really value. I found myself saying, “wow in the heat of the moment I really wish I could have thought of, remembered these larger thoughts, these thoughts that feel more in line with the kind of person I want to be.”

      I continued to have the feeling of wishing I could remember these “deeper” things in the heat of the moment, but that seemed so hard! How do I do that? In the moment, it felt like I was just acting/reacting almost before I even had a chance to connect to any more “thoughtful” place of mind. It’s like it happened before I even knew what was happening.

      I didn’t feel like I had a great answer on how to make a shift, but I knew that I really wanted to find some way to remember the thoughts and feelings I was having with some space and distance and connect with them in the moment. Notice that this wasn’t about “replacement” thoughts. I had different thoughts going on that were all really thoughts of mine — the first set were ones coming from a more emotional, reactionary place focused on short term perspective, while the latter set of thoughts were the ones that reflected a more long term perspective, ones that were connected to my own sense of values and the kinds of things that were important to me about how I live my life.

      It would only be “brainwashing” if somehow I was trying to eliminate thoughts I have or replace thoughts I have with some other set of thoughts. Instead, what I wanted to do was access the deeper, more contemplative thinking of mine IN THE MOMENT, so that I was better able to really make the kinds of choices and take the kinds of actions that feel good to me. Not to be “rid” of my other, more reactionary thoughts. But rather to make room for ALL my thoughts and feelings, so that I had the best perspective from which to make choices, rather than feel like I was impulsively reacting.

      I certainly didn’t have a perfect set of activities or actions to help me get to a place where I could remember these deeper thoughts of mine in the moment. But I decided that I wouldn’t give up on reflecting on these things, and making time to think about the kind of person I wanted to be and the sorts of things I wanted to remember in the heat of the moment.

      At first what happened was I would still find myself in situations where I was reacting implusively and felt like my actions weren’t really a product of thoughtful, careful choice making – BUT I also started to more quickly be able to access the other thoughts that I would have too, that used to only come in hindsight. With a little more time, I started to see myself heading down a path toward rash actions/reactions that really didn’t reflect the kind of person I wanted to be, and remember other thoughts and feelings that used to only come with hindsight quickly enough to change directions in my actions and choices. And then, with even more time, I started to notice myself NOT reacting in the ways I used to, and more frequently making thoughtful actions and choices that were far more consistent with the kind of person I wanted to be.

      That is, essentially an object lesson in CBT. Calling it brainwashing is a categorical error.

      But clearly you disagree. So a completely legitimate question for me to ask you is to define CBT as you understand it. Because if I don’t hear that definition, I can’t possibly understand why you would call it brainwashing. Also, its more than fair for me to assume that you can provide a substantive definition for a thing you are criticizing. And I need that definition, to understand what we are even talking about. So will you do that for me?

      Moving on from that, a little more about your dictionary definition of brainwashing you provided: any tactic that can be seen as subverting one’s control over their own thinking. Cool. CBT, by definition, doesn’t have anything to do with that. The individual identifies for themselves what their thinking is. They decide for themselves what patterns of thinking are most helpful or unhelpful to them in a given situation. They choose how to prioritize that thinking and choose to find ways to make more room for more of their thinking as THEY define it. They may decide that the have thinking errors, and if they do they may decide that they’ve come to new thinking that feels more accurate and consistent with who they want to be and what they want to be about. If they do, great. If they don’t, fine. But I’ll be pretty skeptical if you seek to claim to me that you’ve never changed your mind, discarded old ideas about things in favor of ones that feel more right and accurate to you. That’s part of the human experience of every person I’ve ever met so far. It’s a wonderful process we call growth and learning. It’s one of the best parts of being alive.

      If YOU decide what thinking is accurate for you and helpful to you, if YOU decide how to incorporate all your thoughts and prioritize them in the ways that serve the beliefs and values you’ve chosen autonomously, and if YOU make the decisions about what – if any – thinking you’ve concluded to be in error, or that you’ve chosen to replace with other ideas that feel more accurate to your values and experience, as long as YOU are the one doing that, then by your OWN dictionary definition, that’s not “brainwashing.”

      Now about social control. You define social control as “self-appointed, unaccountable, mind guardians dictating behavioral orthodoxy.” Cool. So that’s not what I do. It’s not what my peers do. It’s not why I left a lucrative job at Hewlett Packard to go back to school to make less money and work ten times as hard so that I could be a servant to other human beings. Those aren’t the values I was taught as a social worker. Those aren’t the values shared by my peers.

      On the other hand, I’ve seen those values in play. I’ve interacted with psychiatrists who represented those values. I’ve seen the same “research” and “papers” and talks by the so-called “experts” that match all those descriptions you gave to the letter. I’ve stood with more than a few survivors as they shared their harrowing stories of abuse. I’ve walked out on a job, without having any idea how I was going to eat or pay rent or where my next job would come from, because I did not agree with their treatment of people they worked with.

      I’ve also had my own experience of partnering with a wonderful counselor when I had absolutely no one else to turn to. Essentially all she really did was listen to me with compassion and empathy and, as human beings do, periodically gently offer some reflections for me to accept or reject as I saw fit. Few human encounters have been more touching or powerful. And with all due respect, its simply the height of arrogance for you to decree that that experience is somehow “invalid” – just brainwashing and social control. Neither you nor anyone else is qualified to make that judgement. I am.

      Me and my colleagues – other social workers and counselors, not Psychiatrists, make just a little bit above a living wage, or the minimum wage in some states. I don’t get any fame, or any authority or prestige. I work ten times as hard as I ever did in the corporate world making way the hell more money. It is emotionally exhausting and incredibly demanding.

      I do it because I wanted to SERVE other human beings. And not only do I have to fight institutional psychiatry and the pharamceutical industry and all of the injustices therein, I ALSO have to put up with sweeping, reductionistic, ill-informed generalizations and one-size-its all rhetoric from the very people whose core values I share.

      So as you keep delivering vague generalities I am going to continue to ask for concrete specifics. Define CBT for me. Tell me what it is. Then connect that to the dictionary definition of brainwashing you provided. Your definition of social control seems wholly unapplicable to my situation, or the situation of any of my colleagues. So, yeah I’m with you – that’s social control as I understand, and that experience is a REAL one that pervades far too much of psychiatric, pharmacueticals and even broader “mental health” industry at large…

      But still not enough for you to legitimately lump everyone into the same boat. Grabbing up the banner of “No one should see a counselor” is the wrong fight. I get that you don’t want to pay taxes for people to receive support services. That sounds super except for the fact that poor people often have less supports than rich people do, and frequently have less natural supports. So where are people without income and without friends or family they feel safe enough to talk to supposed to go? Human beings need other human beings for support. No one I have ever met does it entirely alone, or at least they don’t do it very well. So what then?

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      • Andrew,

        You’ll have to forgive me but your answers are too long. I will provide short responses to your two main pints:

        – Why I see CBT as “social control”. CBT is about altering behavior in some way that doesn’t come naturally to you. In my case, CBT was for making me “tolerate” situations that I naturally, because of who I am, do not tolerate when it comes to people who, statistically speaking, are at higher risk of HIV infection. To be more precise, my “therapy” consisted of going to gay districts and places like that to “please” my ex wife. It was a hell of an experience. Not to mention that being “involuntarily committed” in a “hospital” where viruses are in the air is probably one of the most traumatic experiences I have endured in my life. That is social control. Live and let live. No crime, no social control. What business is it of anybody if I don’t want to be anywhere near gay males, IV drug users or prostitutes?

        – With respect of the speech you gave about the “sacrifices” you made to become a social worker. I am sorry, but the issue of helping other human beings is not the prerogative of social workers. Religious workers have been doing it for centuries for much less money than the minimum wage. In fact, I guess that some missionary who works in Africa in harsh conditions could lecture you about how much of an “easy life” you have compared to him/her. Nor I am against people VOLUNTARILY helping other people and VOLUNTARILY accepting help from other people. That is not what institutional psychiatry, psychology or social work are all about. Take the Justina Pelletier case. It was social workers that received the call from Boston Children’s Hospital psychiatrists/psychologists to apply for the custody of Justina. When you have people working for government, their allegiance is with government not with the people they “allegedly” serve. If you are uncomfortable seeing these workers as owing their allegiance to government, sorry to break the news for you. As Jesus said, you cannot have two masters. When you are paid for doing something, your allegiance is first and foremost for he or she who pays you. Not very complicated, really.

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        • So, it kind of feels like, restoring to complaining about long answers is just kind of a dodgy way to avoid answering questions. Serious subjects take serious engagement, not pat answers and reductionistic (but admittedly shorter) rhetoric. Of course you don’t have to engage or reply. But if you’re going to, but don’t choose to read, that sort of leave us stuck. Because basically you are saying, “I want to respond to you, but I don’t want to listen to you.”

          “Why I see CBT as “social control”. CBT is about altering behavior in some way that doesn’t come naturally to you.”

          So, that’s categorically false. And just because you had an experience in which that happened to you means that you had someone practicing inappropriately. That can happen with anything. Any human activity can be coopted, misused, or abused by someone. But CBT has a concrete definition, and its not what you are saying it is. It’s really that simple.

          “To be more precise, my “therapy” consisted of going to gay districts and places like that to “please” my ex wife.”

          Not at all part of CBT, which has nothing to do with any sort of “exposure.” You’ll find no literature describing that as a core concept of CBT, nor will if you find any tools or resources that suggest that immersion or exposure is part of a CBT model.

          “Take the Justina Pelletier case. It was social workers that received the call from Boston Children’s Hospital psychiatrists/psychologists to apply for the custody of Justina. ”

          Except, I don’t work for the government. And you are making a part-whole logical fallacy again. Basically, I feel like you keep using words without having any idea what they actually mean. This happens a lot here, and it is unbelievably frustrating.

          All collies are dogs. Not all dogs are collies. So, some individual with a social work degree may chose to go work for the government and take someone’s kids away. That’s a choice they make to go work for the government. But that’s different that acting as though social work itself is about working for the government. That’s simply a provable factual error.

          “I am sorry, but the issue of helping other human beings is not the prerogative of social workers. ”

          I guess I might be more inclined to be persuaded by your statement if it seemed as though you had any idea what social work is. Once again you are making a part-whole error. Individuals can certainly do bad things in the name of science, psychiatry, social work, religion, and even the psychiatric survivor movement. That doesn’t make (a) individuals in any of those fields bad or (b) prove that anyone associated with any of those fields is automatically bad or part of a problem.

          I am paid by a nonprofit. Our non profit accepts payment from both private and public insurance, it also uses a sliding scale for anyone with limited ability to pay and also sees people for free in many cases. I don’t work for the government. Neither does any of my colleges. The government cannot order me to do something. And I would refuse any order that conflicted with my values.

          This entire exchange could have been better summed up by Inigo Montoya: “You keep using that word…. I do not think it means what you think it means.” But the level of dogma you are delivering is more than I can take. I don’t like it when it comes from the APA. I definitely don’t like it when it comes from here. Just saying something is true doesn’t make it so. It takes evidence, of which you have none for your “definition” of CBT which is demonstrably incorrect. Or for your “definition” of social work, also demonstrably incorrect.

          You can definitely cite examples in which CBT, social work or other things have been coopted and abused either by individuals or government. Which is totally different than saying CBT itself is brainwashing, or that social work is foundationally about values of social control – both statements which are as evidence-absent as the claim that mental “illness” is a brain disease. No evidence, just a lot of bombastic rhetoric.

          The fact that a tool can be abused and distorted (CBT) or that an individual in an institution can engage in bad behavior, or alternatively, an institution can engage in bad behavior while individuals resist that behavior – this is a problem that can happen to any individual and ANY institution or movement. It is a problem that no individual or group, including the psychiatric survivor movement, is immune to.

          I’d be pretty stupid to say that the psychiatric survivor movement is a form of social control because my dad had a bad experience in which psychiatric survivors tried to “intervene” and coerce him into doing things that felt wrong to him (stopping a medication, stopping seeing a veteran counselor through the va that dad really liked, telling him that he was part of the program for making his own choice in the matter, basically acting pretty much like the stereotype of a Psychiatrist) My dad had a bad experience with people not at all speaking for the community at large, or for other individuals within the community. He had the experience of encountering a couple of jerks, nothing more.

          But if I let me anger at that cloud all judgment, then I suppose I could have turned into a person who wrote rants about the survivor movement, and reacted negatively the first time I met anyone who claimed that label all knee-jerk and without an intelligent understanding of what principles and values actually underlie the movement. Glad I didn’t do that. Wish other people wouldn’t to the same.

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      • I want to elaborate on my second point. The way you have described the job of “social workers” and the rest of it as “helpers sent by government to help the poor” makes precisely my point.

        Religious workers were, for a long time, the “helpers” sent by the Holy Spirit to help other human beings. Their reward was eternal life. The worked in exchange of pretty much nothing material, only room and board.

        Government now negates religion and sends social workers to “help” people. Unlike what happens with religious workers -whose help you can politely refuse-, you cannot refuse the help of a “government sent” social worker who comes comes with a court order that directs him/her to “help you’. Just ask the Pelletiers when they said DCF’s social workers, thanks but now thanks, we want our daughter to be seen by her Tufts mitochondrial specialist.

        The evilness of institutional psychiatry/psychology/social work is there for everybody to see, except by those who don’t want to see it.

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        • “I want to elaborate on my second point. The way you have described the job of “social workers” and the rest of it as “helpers sent by government to help the poor” makes precisely my point.”

          You put quotation marks around something I did not say. I’m not sent by the government. I don’t work for the government. I’m not paid by the government. The agency accepts payment from people who have medicare or medicaid in addition to all other forms of payment AND zero payment in situations when someone has no ability to pay. I am paid from whatever money they take in through the process. Most years we operate at a LOSS, and members of the local community, make donations to support our community based agency which has roots in our small town going back 30 years.

          I get that we have political differences about state services for american citizens with less economic means. Great. But I’m neither sent by the government, nor working for the government, nor paid by the government. My agency will accept people’s insurance, including medicare and medicaid. Just like it accepts others, or individual payment, or no payment at all when someone can’t afford it. If the government stopped funding medicaid or medicare tomorrow, I would still be paid. Why? Because I don’t get paid by the government. Most social workers don’t. There are certainly those who work for the state. That’s not something I would personally do, it’s not what my organization does, and its not what most organizations in our county do. But some to work for the state, its true. But I’m still not ready to write off every individual that does so because I don’t know them and I’d sound like an idiot if I made such a sweeping generalization. I’d need to know what kind of values they brought to whatever work they were doing first.

          “Government now negates religion and sends social workers to “help” people. Unlike what happens with religious workers -whose help you can politely refuse-, you cannot refuse the help of a “government sent” social worker who comes comes with a court order that directs him/her to “help you’.”

          I cannot not be ordered by any court to do anything. I don’t work for the government. None of us do. I completely understand that this does happen. It’s wrong. And me and my friends are screaming loudly about the fact that it is wrong. You are overgeneralizing and being needlessly antagonistic and reductionist. The community at MIA is filled with all kinds – survivors, activist and psychiatrists (gasp!), psychologists (gasp!), social workers (wtf who let those jerks in?), medical doctors (gasp!) and the like. Then it gets even worse (for purists anyway) because a whole bunch of psychiatrists, social workers, doctors and the like are ALSO peers with their own lived experiences of mental and emotional distress and their own histories with both the negatives and positives of the mental health system. It makes it quite a nightmare for dogmatic reductionistic thinkers.

          What unites us is shared agreement on some core values. What destroys community is stupid sweeping generalizations and part-whole logical fallacies. The point is not to have some sort of cave man style reasoning “GRR. SOCIL WERK BAD. GRR.” But instead to talk about the values that unite us.

          I actually WANT there to be practicing psychiatrists who hold values I share and challenge the norms of that institution. So thank you very much, all you MIA community psychiatrists who are doing exactly that and taking lots of heat for it. Bless you. I actually want practicing social workers who share my values practicing within the system and standing for those values in the work they do. Thank you very much MIA community social workers for doing exactly that. And I want peers (I am a peer) and survivors who share my values speaking up and speaking out, both against the institutional failures of psychiatry, social work, and hopefully other organizations and movements that feel the distortion of power and move away from values we hold. I also want them inside agencies and institutions if and when they feel that they could engage in meaningful activity consistent with their values. So thank you very much MIA community peers and survivors for doing exactly that.

          Values is what unites community. Sweeping generalization and dismissive evidence-absent or factually incorrect dogma destroys it.

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          • Andrew,

            You are just arguing semantics at this point. I hope most people understand by now what I mean when I say that psychiatry/psychology/social work are secular forms of social control. I am also sure that most people by now also understand that I have no problem with people VOLUNTARILY engaging with the social control/therapy tool of their choice and why I reject the idea of banning “conversion therapy”.

            Your position would have more credibility if you were to unequivocally refuse all forms of coercive psychiatry/psychology/social work. Not “all except in my particular petty exception” but ALL. I haven’t met a single psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker that believes this -including the ones who regularly speak critically of psychiatry in MIA. Based on your previous writings, you don’t either, although it might be the case that I misread your statements, so I would appreciate if instead of another rant, you answered stating in crystal clear terms and in a few lines your position on involuntary psychiatry. A simple yes/no is what I expect as an answer.

            They all think of themselves as people who “in some circumstances” would approve a coercive intervention for people who have committed no crimes under the excuse of “helping” the victim of the intervention.

            And that is the problem. To terrorize the general population, psychiatry/psychology/social work do not need to involuntarily commit them all, all they need is a few strategic committals to make an example. That’s probably the reason why Massachusetts refused to let Justina go for more than one year. If they were to admit that what they did there was wrong, it would undermine their coercive powers in the eyes of the public. As if having more than 90 children dead under the watch of Massachusetts DCF had not been damaging enough!

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