• This was an interesting post Gary. I’m being a bit flippant with the “Nope” answer (which was my first thought); of course it’s more complicated than yes or no. First, I would not call these workers “mental health” professionals, but “emotional well-being” professionals or “personal development” professionals or “crisis support” professionals… something more human and less medicalized.

      I have read research by Paul Knekt, Falk Leichsenring, and Barry Duncan (his book The Heart and Soul of Change is especially good), whose meta-analyses of psychotherapy (mostly focusing on outpatients, if I remember correctly) suggest that most of the time people are better off with psychotherapy than without, for both shorter and longer term treatments. And that, roughly, people who do therapy longer or more intensively tend to benefit more, at least up to a point.

      With inpatient psychotherapy – perhaps the type you did Gary (?) – I think distorting factors enter the picture, primarily that mental prisons are such untherapeutic environments, with overdrugging, coercion, fear of risk on the part of hospital staff, and the use of dehumanizing labels all negatively impacting the ability to develop trusting/loving personal relationships with clients – trusting positive relationships being the alpha and omega for successful work as you said. I’m not sure about all these negative factors operating in every mental prison, but from personal experience I’m pretty confident that they, along with the extremely short-term nature of stays, make therapy in inpatient settings harder to do effectively, or meaningless because it’s simply so short term: Problems that developed over years don’t get solved in days.

      I agree with your idea that in many cases, psychologically mature people could do about as good a job as trained professionals, especially for less severe life problems. I sometimes have the thought that I myself would be a much better supporter of psychotic people than many of the mental health workers who write about their work with difficult clients. That may not be saying much, though, given the paucity of attempts to truly understand psychotic people in depth.

      I think there are a few specialist approaches to extreme states (psychosis) that are truly “special” – e.g. Open Dialogue, and also certain intensive psychoanalytic approaches to so-called “schizophrenias” and “borderline conditions”, e.g. the work of Kleinian authors like Rosenfeld, Volkan, Schulman, and the work of American object relations like Rinsley, G. Adler, Kernberg, etc. Understanding how the human infant develops in terms of differentiation, splitting, separation-individuation, and how these processes get arrested and or regressed to/reversed in psychotic states, does give a unique viewpoint allowing one to understand how a very distressed person is relating and what relational causal factors might be contributing to the way they present themselves. I am speaking from experience here in my own therapy, which is only anecdotal of course, but also from reading hundreds of cases of psychotic people in intensive therapy. But this type of treatment is rarely available, nor has enough research been done on it.

      Meanwhile, I believe that fear of legal risk permeates everything to do with psychiatric prisons (my word for mental hospitals) and that this fear often prevents any useful engagement from happening. Successful relationships do not get formed when we try to control everything that someone else is doing: We know this from experience in our own relationships. But nevertheless, that is what happens every day in the mental prisons: mental health workers are so scared of clients suiciding, or overdosing, or being accused of malpractice, etc, that this dominates what happens and leads to constant over and covert coercion such as forced drugging, unforced but pressured drugging, isolation, 24 hour watches, fear of talking about difficult topics that might get strong emotional responses, etc.

      In my own life I find I mainly get good results by taking risks and doing things that have a good chance of working but don’t work every time. That is the opposite of what mental prison workers do: They hardly ever take or allow risks – like talking openly with a suicidal person about their options, or getting a person to open up about their most difficult feelings, or really doing anything new or innovative – and thus they almost always fail at helping people. That is why I think commenters who say that the real goal of mental prisons is not to help people, but to serve as a prison for undesirables and a profit center for psychiatrists/drug companies, are essentially correct.

      Lastly, I mostly warn people I talk to to stay away from mental health professionals at all costs, with the one exception being seeing a good outpatient therapist in a private/non-institutional environment, in some cases.

      Ok that’s enough right now but interesting post.

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      • Hi BPDT –who came up with the name “mental” health anyway- who’s idea was that!- Trevor’s was it- what were they sitting there, and going, how about we call it/us-mental illness- what’d reckon bob- it lets them and everyone know who they are- and how they are- yeh great idea Trev, lets go with that, I like it. its a winner.

        Is that how it happened? or came about.

        Isn’t it an illness of the mind- not of the mental- so much———- although- its the same thing- with the same intention- its stigmatising way less than “mental” is.

        Why even have mental in the name– mental is either truly -gene borne- or too much trauma- and the person who stares at the ground all day- or talks loudly to the world on a street corner- that’s mental- illness-when the majority of people treated- are mildly effected in comparison to that “mental” illness- and are way more mind troubled or ill- in reality- and would be far better off being addressed that way- and treated “that way” than the other way too.

        All in all– good for everyone involved.-“mind”- emotional- thinking-feeling- health- anything but “mental”– its a sad bad mad thinking- in itself-take it completely out of the equation I think.- its stigmatising to everyone on the planet- I think- I think it makes everyone feel bad- insecure.

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      • BPD Transformation – Thank you for your considered response.
        There is not much that I’d argue with, and many areas of agreement. You’re right about the benefits of less medicalised language when describing these support staff, the disadvantages of trying to do psychological work in bio-medical settings (most of my therapy provision took place in Community Mental Health Team settings), the central importance of the relationships, the potential of Open Dialogue, and the stifling effect of pervasive risk aversion.

        On the other hand, I’d take some convincing about the general superiority of psychoanalytic approaches with psychosis ‘borderline’ problems (although I can’t claim expertise in these approaches). My sense is that the appropriateness/effectiveness will vary from person to person, some engaging well with the richness of abstract constructs to explain one’s inner experiences, while others lean more, for example, towards more transparent/pragmatic approaches like trauma-focus cognitive- behavioural approaches.

        Thanks again for sharing your ideas.

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      • You’re right. In hospitals, patients getting psychotherapy do worse than those just left alone. This may be due to more than the drugs and/or the ECT you’re liable to get. Hans Eysenck first reported this in 1952, before the benzos, zines and the antidepressants first came into use (he used “neurotic” patients, not candidates for ECT, which isn’t used for such patients).

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      • It means “one that takes on a profession via professing an oath of good conduct and faith in service. ”

        “Do no harm” etc….

        Other than being someone that swore a code of conduct, it is a useful way to differentiate ones self as being educated or elite.

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  1. Last time I did way to much paste selling this link. So this time just a little sample.

    Ever had the feeling that your job might be made up? That the world would keep on turning if you weren’t doing that thing you do 9-5? Anthropology professor and best selling author David Graeber explores the phenomenon of bullshit jobs. http://strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/

    I always said people were doing to much pointless work in the world so of course I really liked this. Check it out it may change your world view a little.

    And think about health care if you are not already, its 90% unnecessary paperwork no one ever looks at.

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      • Alot of this paperwork they send over to the “Dept Of Children and Families”.

        Just the name of that agency is creepy as hell if we were playing word or phrase association I guess my response would be big brother, police state and surveillance state.

        It is so effed up and most people in treatment have no idea that things they tell their therapist get entered into “Sigmund” (Sigmund Software specializes in EHR and EMR solutions for hospitals, treatment centers, small practices, and clinics working in Behavioral Health)

        It is so creepy, I don’t even know how to finish this post.But tell your therapist everything, it goes on your permanent mental file with the state.

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  2. I have an AA buddy that’s doing the homeless coach surfing thing now.

    He recently had an ‘episode’ and was hospitalized. I don’t know what the bill was but they screwed with his “meds” and he had a seizure during inpatient psych then a transport to a real hospital then back to inpatient psych.

    I do know the bill for all that would pay the rent on a nice place for 18 months.

    The system mostly serves to provide a nice lifestyle for professionals that work in it wile the “consumers” of these services only get a nasty lockup at 5 times the cost of basic room at the Waldorf Astoria New York ‎Price range: $271 – $615 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room).

    Five-year Study Re-affirms that Housing Stabilizes People http://www.madinamerica.com/2014/06/five-year-study-re-affirms-housing-stabilizes-people/

    This guy would do so much better if he wasn’t all stressed out looking for a place to crash every night, if anything this stress will lead him back to the hospital for more “treatment” at over $1000 a day.

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      • You don’t have to pay but it’s not exactly ‘free’.

        I just thinking about AA again . We could argue all day long about the effectiveness of Alcoholics Anonymous like on other internet threads that are half a mile long but it runs itself with no professionals and no insurance or government funding. You put a dollar in the basket if you want to. Meanwhile…

        Now look at this I Googled “group therapy cost”


        Some time ago I wrote an article titled “How Much Money Can a Counselor Make in Private Practice” that detailed how counselors in solo practice can earn 6 figures a year. To date its been one of my most popular articles and has received hundreds of comments from readers encouraged, and sometimes infuriated, by its contents.


        “In short, the whole business of creating psychiatric categories of ‘disease,’ formalizing them with consensus, and subsequently ascribing diagnostic codes to them, which in turn leads to their use for insurance billing, is nothing but an extended racket furnishing psychiatry a pseudo-scientific aura. The perpetrators are, of course, feeding at the public trough.”

        —Dr. Thomas Dorman, internist and member of the Royal College of Physicians of the UK, Fellow, Royal College of Physicians of Canada

        And that is my post.

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  3. The mental health system in my community has spent nearly a million dollars (U.S.) on my 26 year old daughter’s care and ‘treatment’ because she experienced extreme states while on or withdrawing from psychotropic medication and is considered to have a persistent serious mental illness. She has been involuntarily treated for over six years.
    For a fraction of that cost, I could have paid for her housing and two graduate students to share in the same apt/house as her, the training of her housemates as peer supporters, crisis intervention, etc, their wages to be my daughter’s body guard, my daughter’s college expenses, her vocational training, her vacations and retreats, yoga and mindfulness training, a private chef, nitritionnal counseling, thelist goes on.

    Everything would have been ‘evidence based’, more humane, more helpful, and more economical than paying for a constantly changing army of professionals and paid babysitters.

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      • BPD Transformation: That is an interesting question indeed. Thanks for asking. The public answer is things are a lot better in terms of our relationships (family to family, family to treatment provider, etc) and our family is experiencing some profound healing from the shared trauma of her psychiatric abuse but until the day when the world can clearly hear my daughter’s voice and she is able to have her full citizen rights restored, than no, she is not free.

        She has said that one day, she will tell me her whole story. Perhaps her story takes a long time to work through. I look forward to hearing her whole story come out. Another mom, Rossa Forbes said once and I agree: “If you look for healing, you will find it” (hope I didn’t misquote her). Its just a matter of not losing hope or faith. It’s more like a treasure hunt with tantalizing clues along the way.

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    • Madmom – So sorry to hear about your extended ordeal around the involuntary treatment of your daughter – I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult that experience must have been for you all. Clearly, in this case a non-professional/socially supportive approach would have been much more helpful and appropriate.

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  4. I do not think we need anything like mental health professionals, because there is no mental health issue. And as such I am opposed to psychotherapy, as well as psychiatry. I don’t go along with anything based on a recovery model.

    I know about Soteria from Daniel Burston’s books about R. D. Laing, and I know that it is based on a recovery model, and so I do not support it.

    But I do understand that back 50 years ago, when R. D. Laing was saying that people in mental hospitals could recover, simply by taking them off drugs and talking to them like ordinary people and giving them fresh air and sunlight, that that was a step forwards. But today Recovery means something else, and the scale is much larger. It is more of a religious term, as Rick Warren of the Saddle Back mega church says, his is a “Second Chance Grace Place”, and “Everybody needs Recovery”.

    Recovery is the new original sin. And the second chance comes by accepting fault for screwing up the first chance.

    So we have the survivors of familial childhood abuses filling the seats in 12 step groups and rehab centers, and the seats in evangelical churches, admitting their failings and asking for the second chance. This is wrong. It is just more of the same kinds of abuses the parents applied.

    So sure, if someone is acting dangerous to themselves or others, beyond a point they would get 5150ed. But I think mostly they just need to talk to a social worker until they can be released. That is more respectful than a mental health person, and certainly more respectful than a chemical assault.

    Beyond that, I follow Jeffrey Masson, who says, “The practice of psychotherapy is wrong because it is profiting off of other people’s misery.”

    That is, it offers NOTHING!

    I am looking forward to reading David Smail, now this his books seem to be republished. What I believe is that Smail shows how what psychotherapy does is convince you that your problems and their resolution lie within your own head.

    And think about it, why else would punching pillows and confessing your anger to your therapist help, unless you believed that you yourself were the problem?

    How many lawsuits has your therapist won? What kinds of revolution has your therapist made?

    The job of your therapist is to convince you to do nothing, and that that is morally superior. Rather like police keeping someone handcuffed to a table in their interrogation room, while they press them to disclose their intentions. Except that with the therapist, people actually pay for the privilege of being talked out.

    So what to offer people? Well philosophical counseling is one alternative, and that can mean most anything you want it to mean. But I still don’t think paying for time in the office of someone you found in the yellow pages is really best.

    What is better are political activism groups. Understand that your problems are not personal problems. They are political problems. You have been taught to see them as personal problems and to feel shame over them by psychotherapy, as it supports the Self-Reliance Ethic.

    So a political activism group, teaching philosophies different from psychotherapy, and taking action, defying your therapist and engaging in conflict, following Gandhi’s model of Satyagraha, applying pressure.

    As I see it, psychiatry and psychotherapy are inextricably bound up with Capitalism and the Middle-Class Family. And so anyone who does not meet up with the expectations, is deemed mentally ill, and that is just a code language for morally defective.

    So the subject of homelessness has been introduced:

    I see this as critical. You have in each of America’s large cities, thousands and thousands of the most visible homeless. Then you have tens and tens of thousands who live in very unstable situations, and then hundreds of thousands who are two paychecks away from default on housing payments.

    Keeping these people in check is the concept of Recovery, that is an innate moral defect, related to original sin and enforced by the Middle-Class Family in the Self-Reliance Ethic. And most of this does constitute psychological child abuse.

    So psychotherapy, psychiatry, 12 step groups, medications, and the evangelical churches keep people down. We are not a working class, we are those declassed, ejected from the middle-class and constituting an untouchable caste.

    I see this as a life and death situation. Underlying it is neo-liberalism, radicalized capitalism, social Darwinism, and eugenics arguments against democracy.

    To sum up the argument: I see two diametrically opposed principles: the principle of democracy which, wherever it is allowed practical effect is the principle of destruction: and the principle of the authority of personality which I would call the principle of achievement, because whatever man in the past has achieved – all human civilizations – is conceivable only if the supremacy of this principle is admitted.


    So I say that we have to organize and be prepared to defend. I’ve been prohibited from describing on this forum what I see that this could entail.

    So while I don’t think we should try to outlaw psychotherapy practiced on consenting adults, I think the gov’t should be prohibited from licensing it or otherwise being involved. And I think we need to ourselves offer better options, political consciousness raising and political activism.

    And I’ve been prohibited from saying what I think we should do with the doctors who put Foster Care kids on drugs.

    my backup, Save These Links:


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  5. “We”? I don’t need “mental health” professionals. Others can do what they will. The way I came into the treatment world was through a commitment hearing, that is, I was a prisoner, euphemistically referred to as a patient, in a prison, euphemistically referred to as a hospital. I wasn’t trying to be a prisoner, in fact, I would have done anything I could have come up with to avoid it.

    “We” would need a lot fewer “mental health” professionals if “we” weren’t treating people who didn’t want to be treated. If people had the right to refuse unwanted “mental health interventions”, the numbers of mental patients and “mental health” professionals might go down dramatically. The problem is not about treating people who need treatment, the problem is about treating people who neither need nor want treatment.

    I would change the law so that non-consensual coercive mental health treatment was treated like the crime that it is, and prosecuted by the courts. This is the point that you so carefully avoided. People are locked up against their will and wishes. People who didn’t seek treatment. People for whom somebody else sought treatment. When those people give into the professional, and say, yes, I need what you’re selling. I don’t see that as an improvement. I see that as a successful snow job.

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    • “Others can do what they will.”

      Frank I think you are missing the point here. Asking should we have mental health professionals really means, should the government be setting up mental health treatment and licensing the practitioners.

      Thomas Jefferson tried to outlaw the practice of religion, in the Virginia State constitution. Eventually he realized that this was impractical, and that it would probably have the opposite of it’s intended effect.

      So what resulted from this was the much more reasonable separation of church and state doctrine embodied in the First Amendment.

      So you or I could put up a shingle claiming ourselves as some sort of therapist, healer, life coach, anything, so long as we are not claiming ourselves to have a kind of license which we don’t.

      I don’t think this is what the OP means in his original question. I take his question to mean, should the government be licensing, providing clinics for and funding for, and sending people to any kind of mental health professionals.

      At this point I am saying no. But I also must acknowledge that it is because of my time in Mad In America and because of the discussions that I have come to see the importance of stopping government licensing and affiliation. I see this termination of government involvement as an absolute necessity.

      I don’t think anyone wants to stop adults from being able to talk to some sort or another of a councilor, sophist, witch doctor, of their choosing.

      “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will.”


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      • I’m not talking against licensing or credentials or anything like that, Nomadic. Without them you’ve got an even bigger mess. How should I put this? Oh, yeah. Malpractice happens.

        I think implicit in asking–Do we really need mental health professionals?– is the suggestion that maybe you or I need them. I’m telling, folks, that I, myself, and me, in particular, don’t need them. I don’t care whether they’re licensed or not, they’re not for me.

        All it takes is a little math. The fewer the people that feel they need mental health professionals, the less business your mental health professionals are going to do. That’s like saying, oh, darn it, everyone around here has a clean bill of health. Mental health professionals, with or without the government’s blessing, are selling diagnostic labels and either drugs or talk as treatment. If there were no buyers, they’d be out of luck.

        As for adults talking to adults selling talk, you’re the one talking about buying it, not me. We’re back to that math again. The more people who buy this rigmarole, the more “sickness” we’ve got in the world, and “sickness” in quotation marks, of course.

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        • “Oh, yeah. Malpractice happens.”

          So Frank, as you know, we have all sorts of people who sell talk, or even give it away for free, to consenting adults. And most of it has no real licensing. As I see it, it should stay this way. And I say this knowing full well that most of this adult to adult talk is of sorts that I wouldn’t agree with.

          What is important here is the same as it goes with religion. You should not try to restrict it, but you absolutely must keep the government from endorsing it.

          One of the most interesting recent developments is this idea called philosophical counseling. And there are of course many schools of philosophy.

          Franz Brentano had two most famous students. One was Sigmund Freud, and the other was Edmund Husserl, who’s most famous student would be Martin Heidegger, and who’s primary popularizer would be Jean-Paul Sartre. So psychoanalysis shares some interesting roots, ones which others took in very different direction.


          Philosophical counseling could be whatever you wanted it to be. But since there is no govn’t licensing, it lacks coercive power. And there are lots of forms of it which currently exist.

          Now, I don’t think looking someone up in the yellow pages and then going for an office session is the best way. Better would be to already be involved in community building groups, ones which can address all manner of issues.

          I don’t know how many on this forum agree with me, but I feel that we who have survived the Middle-Class Family need to learn from the anti-slavery movement, the anti-colonial movement, the racial civil rights movement, the women’s movement, and the LGBT rights movement, and act aggressively to establish our own public social legitimacy. And of course the first step in doing this is to say goodbye to the therapy and recovery model.

          Capitalism runs on the Self-Reliance Ethic, and this is enforced by the Middle-Class Family. This ethic is an over coding, that is it’s the appropriation of something from the Primitive Socius, simply the desire to be useful, the desire to do well and to be held in esteem, and the desire to be protected from material adversity. And then these appropriated desires are turned into a moralism which is predicated on the idea that people, especially children, are inherently lazy.

          So it is another version of Original Sin, a fabrication, used to coerce submission. And most who have survived the Middle-Class Family are so afraid to challenge this Self-Reliance Ethic that they instead allow themselves to be denigrated and abused in therapy and recovery, re-parented, instead of taking political action.

          If we continue to fail to act and instead remain passive and continue with therapy and recovery, then we are aiding those who advance social Darwinist and eugenics arguments in support of neo-liberalism. Our passivity is used by them to show that we do not deserve any better than the situation we have, that really we don’t even deserve to live. We are made into objects of scorn, pity, and contempt, and so we continue to allow ourselves, and the children of today, to be trampled on.

          Save These Links In An Email To Yourself


          PANTHER ( 1995 ), film by Mario Van Peebles, based on the book by Melvin Van Peebles

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          • I agree with you Nomadic. I think the grass-roots revolution starts with small acts of rebellion that challenge the paradigm, and the direction this is taking politically, policy-wise. Here is a real-life example: the other day, I went to a dental clinic to have a tooth pulled. After the dental assistant takes my vitals, she starts to ask her list of “routine questions.” First one was whether I felt safe at home. I saw no reason not to support this broad level of assessment for domestic violence, so I responded that yes, I do. However, the next “routine question” was clearly the beginning of a depression screening. This got a very different response: “You are a dental assistant, not my therapist, or my spiritual advisor, or even my hairdresser; you have no business asking about my feelings.” When she replied that she “has to ask,” my response was, “No, you don’t actually; it’s intrusive and inappropriate, and I decline to answer. If you need to fill in a blank, write: MYOB.”

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          • “‘You are a dental assistant, not my therapist, or my spiritual advisor, or even my hairdresser; you have no business asking about my feelings.’ When she replied that she “has to ask,” my response was, ‘No, you don’t actually; it’s intrusive and inappropriate, and I decline to answer. If you need to fill in a blank, write: MYOB.'”

            Damn, you’re good! 🙂

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          • we don’t even know what we’re supposed to be taking care of or what a “success” actually looks like

            Wouldn’t it make more sense to specifically outlaw the most clear &/or blatant forms of fraud/abuse but refrain from in effect endorsing one approach over another via granting or withholding licensing?

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          • When it comes to fraud, OldHead, it’s almost always a matter of ‘prove it’, The Cardinal belief of psychiatry is in the existence of “mental disorder”, and there is no proof that this “mental disorder” is anything more than a confusion of terms. The proof for soft science is always going to be weak, but that isn’t going to prevent “scientists” from extending themselves beyond the strictly “scientific”, particularly when speaking about the “social” or “human sciences”.

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        • Isn’t psychiatry basically malpractice by definition?

          I agree with nomadic’s statement about the shingle. I also think that by licensing something you are implying approval. But when self-proclaimed “psychiatrists” start giving real drugs to cure fake diseases there has to be some kind of state intervention.

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          • There are snake oil salesmen, and there are snake oil salesmen. Without licensing, you’ve just thrown out any law book involved.

            Psychiatrists, being soul healers by etymology, have more to do with religion than they do with medicine. Try finding a soul, much less a disease attached to that soul, and then effecting a miracle “cure” of sorts.

            It is ironic, Nomadic, that you keep speaking of being a “middle class family survivor”. First, poor people have families. Rich people, too. Second, you wouldn’t be around if it weren’t for your parents establishing a relationship, and pertaining to that relationship, survival doesn’t stand much of chance without conception. We are all mostly, regardless of whether we survive them or not, the result of families.

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          • And yet licensing has clearly provided a sense of legitimacy to a set of practices that are not actually supportable and effective, and in some cases are overtly destructive. Licensing can be good if there is an understanding of what “good care” is supposed to look like. But if we don’t even know what we’re supposed to be taking care of or what a “success” actually looks like, licensing becomes less about assuring quality and more about job protectionism and creating an illusory impression of relative competence that is not supported by actual fact and experience.

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          • Hi Oldhead,
            So there’s no button in the right place, but MYOB was an old Dear Abby expression, stands for Mind Your Own Business.

            And thanks, Alex! My tooth hurt, I was cranky, having a moment, feeling feisty. 🙂

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    • Frank – The topic of non-consensual ‘treatment’ opens up many other issues – misuse of power, how Mental Health legislation is a form of legalised discrimination, psychiatry’s warped approach to/ inflation of risk. I don’t think I ‘carefully avoided’ it, it is just that it is a specialist topic in its own right that could be the focus of another post. Also, in the UK (and I assume in the USA too) the large majority of people receiving core psychiatric services are not under section yet still seek the help of (or, at least, consent to receiving input from) mental health professionals.

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      • You mention “the large majority” “not under section yet” (the UK’s version of civil commitment). I think there is an element of compulsion here as well, not to mention the fact that among this “majority” are people who have been previously sectioned, and later released. I would add that “core psychiatric services” have a way of following people out into the community that is less than altruistic.

        In the USA we have the community mental health system, crisis stabilization units and such like, to deal with matters so that they don’t, if they were going there, necessarily get to the state hospital. I see this as a mixed bag. The state hospitals are a rude awakening of sorts, but the shorter more comfortable detentions leading up to it are still detentions.

        I’m just saying here that my answer to your initial question tends to be in the negative. Systemic reliance is something other than self-reliance, out of which one gets somewhat better results, if one gets anything. “Mental disorder”, in many respects, at least to my way thinking, boils down to financial, relational, and institutional dependence. Mental health workers are not always the best people to consult when it comes to wending one’s way out of this maze of unequal and non-independent relationships.

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        • Hi Frank, I think Gary may have omitted a necessary piece of punctuation. It takes on a very different meaning if you add a comma:

          “the large majority of people receiving core psychiatric services are not under section, yet still seek the help”

          Kinda like the difference between:
          “It’s dinnertime. Let’s go eat, Grandma!” (Grandma’s been invited to dinner) vs. “It’s dinnertime. Let’s go eat Grandma!” (Grandma is the dinner)
          Grammar saves lives 😀

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  6. It is so disappointing to me that we continue to lament this obvious fact — that by treating those suffering with emotional distress as if they are “ill” or “defective,” they will experience stigma, passivity, etc, as you outline, Gary.
    But there are solutions, rather than just eliminating mental healthcare providers.

    As an outpatient psychotherapist, I always view the client’s behaviors as self-protective and adaptive — rather than defective. They are struggling to manage developmental/attachment trauma, parental abuse or neglect, lack of parental attachment, lack of emotional and social skills, and other environmental insults in the best way they know how.

    To help, I directly tell them that diagnostic labels such as “obsessive-compulsive disorder” or “ADHD” are not based on science, research or common sense, and to disregard them completely. These behaviors are based on a lot of well-known, well-researched facts about human behavior.

    I initially focus on normalizing the experience of “anxiety,” or “depression.” To do this I educate on the fear/threat response (“fight-or-flight”). I teach that to the brain, internal messages trigger the fear response (“I am a terrible person.”), identically to external threats (a mugger or car accident.) This helps people realize they are the master of their own anxiety and depression and gives hope and reduces stigma. I then work to explore and deepen emotions, especially the experience of shame or low self-worth. Those with low self-worth are self-critical, which triggers the fear response. I teach mindfulness meditation and breathing exercises to improve self-awareness, attentional focus and self-calming. I work to help a person develop self-compassion, self-attachment and self-acceptance, which has been proven to reduce self-shaming and, therefore, anxiety. They are also less likely to look to others for approval and attachment, which improves relationships.

    Yes, too many therapists hold the framework that clients are diseased, incompetent and “less-than”, which only further diminishes their self-worth.

    If more therapists provided acceptance, normalization and education on the workings of the brain and emotions, fewer people would experience stigma and they would gain hope for change. None of what I teach is new — yet it is not taught in US graduate schools and largely ignored by DSM/ICD-based frameworks for diagnosis and intervention. Details on my protocols are at http://www.SelfAcceptancePsychology.com

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  7. I think you missed a key requirement. Anyone allowed to provide professional assistance to others for a fee should be required to undergo their own therapeutic process to assure their own sanity and emotional availability to those coming to him/her for help. This should involve structured interaction with “service users” or “peers” who can grill them about their ability to be open-minded and safe and to avoid condescension and arrogance. They should have to be passed by a panel of mostly service users before they’re allowed to hang out a shingle.

    It’s way too easy to go through the motions, or to even believe one ‘gets it’ about patient empowerment and trauma-informed care and the like. The challenge is that under stress, almost everyone reverts back to their own primitive coping measures to deal with the situation, and only those who can recognize 1) what their primitive coping measures are, 2) when they are happening, and 3) what they should be doing when such emotional reactions surface, are going to be able to be of assistance to anyone in distress.

    There is no “class” for emotional health and sanity. It’s something people earn by hard work and a willingness to be brutally honest with themselves. Needless to say, the majority of “mental health professionals” today have not done this work and are therefore potentially dangerous to anyone being vulnerable around them.

    —- Steve

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    • When I worked at a large old mental hospital back in the 1970s we used to say the place was full of lunatics and psychopaths, the staff. Back then, before the bio takeover was complete, we were trying an Open Dialogue type approach with follow up social intervention. We admitted it was trial and error but really hoped and believed we were on to something. It was shut down. A theatre program set up by a charge nurse who believed his `schizophrenic’ kids (16 – 24) would benefit from music and the performing arts, that he and I ran, very successfully (nobody had a psychotic episode during the 6 months it ran – everyone had one when it ended), was never repeated.
      When I fell under the psychiatric bus 30 years later, the hope had gone. Where we did away with drugs and ECT, now everyone KNEW that drugs and ECT were the real answer. Where we were encouraged to `engage’ with the `patients’, to find out how they felt, now this is considered unhelpful!? It wasn’t brilliant, there were always issues as in any institution with a power imbalance, but where once there was hope for something better, now there is a belief that they, the professionals have got it right and it is the patient’s fault if it doesn’t work. This attitude as well as the poor quality of education in ALL psychiatric workers prevents empathy, insight and most of all humility. “There but for the grace of god go I” has not permeated the psychiatric system at all. It has to reform or go.

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    • I think the best healers for the pursuit of happiness would be the ones that come from healthy families, and have good relationships where they are able to manage their own problems reasonably.

      If the mental health professional is themselves depressed, or has broken relationships, or has problems of the past that they have not sorted out yet how can they help others do the same?

      There is a shortage of care givers for mental health, and that has loosened the standard by giving out free scholarships and making it easier to have people who are in it for the money, or don’t have a passion for helping others, go to that profession and further its depreciation and criticism.

      It is not really complicated, just have good people who are mentally healthy with the right intentions to help others who are persistently sad and anxious. The system will work if it is not structurally weakened for cost savings.

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    • Very well said, Steve. I was shocked in psychology graduate school how many students had NEVER been in therapy themselves, despite a “recommendation” that they do so. Many were also on psychoactive meds! A couple even had active addictions. Some had such high anxiety that they could not give presentations in class without severe panic . Many were irresponsible and could barely be attentive to the professor. How are these individuals going to remain attentive, accepting, present, calm and centered when addressing a patient’s high anxiety, high shame, or a conflict-laden family or couple session?

      All therapists of any stripe should be screened for their own psychological issues. They need to understand their attachment issues, how they regulate (or don’t) their emotions, their trauma history, and then come to a sense of self-acceptance. Self-Compassion is essential before one can generate compassion for others.

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      • Exactly so. A person who has experienced traumatic events can very much be helpful to others, but ONLY if they’ve processed their own trauma and its ongoing impact on them THOROUGHLY. I had zero training in “mental health” when I started out in a teen mom’s home. The one thing I did have is a great therapy experience and a willingness to admit I didn’t know what was going on and needed the young ladies to help me understand their own behavior and inner process. So I asked questions and listened deeply, and discovered that that, and nothing else, is what was needed to assist 90% of the people there.

        Self-acceptance and humility are the keys to being a good therapist. Any sense of having to defend oneself against the distress of your clients just makes you dangerous!

        —- Steve

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        • I think allowing ourselves to be human and flawed is also a good quality for a healer–that is, self-acceptance even in our darkest hour where only our shadow seems to lurk, and when we err. When we see this as the gift of guidance, we have integrated our body, heart, and spirit.

          Nobody is perfect and nobody is virtuous 100% of the time. A client is always a reflection of the healer or counselor, in one aspect or another, so a client can help a healer grow and evolve. They can be guides for the healer, as much as the healer can be a guide for the client, it is not a one-way street. We grow alongside each other. That is what I consider being humble to the client, and to the process.

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    • Steve

      There’s a concept known as “only the wounded healer heals” which I think goes along with what you’re advocating for here. How can anyone deal with anyone else’s issues or difficulties when they have never dealt with their won stuff; perhaps not even knowing that they have stuff to deal with in the first place?

      I guess Buddhists would call this “doing the Work”. It never ceases to amaze me how so many psychiatrists, nurses, social workers, and peer workers have never dealt with their own “mental health” and well-being. An old social worker friend has a saying; “If you don’t do the Work, the Work will do you”, and when the Work does you I think you become dangerous to anyone else with issues and difficulties. Next to compassion and empathy I believe self-awareness is one of the most important qualities that a person can possess who has the desire and goal to walk with anyone else in their difficulty.

      As a former chaplain trained to work in “psychiatric” and medical settings I can remember back to the grueling work that my training required in becoming more self-aware. Anyone training to be a hospital chaplain who was unwilling to look within themselves at their own stuff didn’t get their license to practice as a clinically pastorally educated chaplain. The ACPE group which is responsible for such training doesn’t have the time nor the desire to fool around with people who aren’t serious about knowing their own issues. If you aren’t willing to do something about those issues so that they don’t interfere with the healing and well-being of other people you don’t get to be a hospital chaplain, period.

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      • It is very true that those who have had sheltered lives with love and happiness are greater able to show mercy to those who have had hard lives with abuse.

        I would agree only if the wounded emotionally are not still wounded, and also how did they survive those wounds?

        If they came out the other end toughened up, without the ability to feel compassion then they would do an injustice to the one that needs help.

        So we should hope that the ‘wounded healer’ has truly healed properly.

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    • Steve – I agree with the suggestion that all professionals should be interviewed/grilled by peers and service users prior to appointment. And any process that nurtures enhanced personal awareness has got to be a good thing. Also, as a therapist, I believe it is important to have experience of being on the receiving end of the very approach you offer to others.

      As to the question of whether education/training has a role, I believe it does, especially with regards to supporting/maintaining the desired culture and values. I accept that its not the only way of supporting an enabling culture, but I do think it can play a part in countering the tendency to drift to the culture of lowest energy. Also, I believe that good quality leadership has a major role here.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

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      • I like the article Gary but:

        “I believe it is important to have experience of being on the receiving end of the very approach you offer to others.”

        I’d go to prison for the rest of my natural life if I were to offer the approach which was given to me. Drugged with benzos without my knowledge to deprive of liberty and ensure the safety of all should there be a problem with the knife planted in my pocket to obtain police referral. Knife not found so we will fill out some fraudulent statutory declarations to conceal the kidnapping, conspire with the ‘spiker’ to conceal that crime, and have a chemical baseball bat delivered down at the hospital.

        Fortunately this guy has good quality leadership in the form of a Clinical Director who will provide fraudulent documents to lawyers to conceal his crimes, and any complaints to the police will be ignored as a result of the fraudulent documents provided to them, and the victim handed back for further head trauma until they stop complaining.

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        • Oh I always forget that saying I was drugged without my knowledge with benzos is a symptom of mental illness (paranoid delusions). Something the Clinical Director was aware of and so removed the documents proving this, and then sent them to my lawyers.

          How exquisitely poisonous huh?

          I’ve got the documents which prove this, despite attempts by these criminals to have them retrieved.

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        • I was, of course, referring to psychosocial approaches when I suggested that it helps to have been through the process, and I’m assuming Gary was talking about that, too. No one should have to experience drugging, though of course it might make a psychiatrist think twice about prescribing Risperdal or denying someone’s reported side effects if he’d have to spend a couple of weeks trying not to drool and trying to conjure up complete sentences while on a solid dose of that crap.

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        • Boans – I was referring to non-drug approaches when I made that comment.
          There are documented accounts, however, of how some researchers (usually those opposed to bio-medical treatments) who have ingested antipsychotic medication so as to gain first-hand experience of what it feels like.

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    • I am a Peer Specialist. There aren’t a lot of us, nor a lot of people signing up to be one. The many are called few are chosen aspect comes to mind.

      I work with the clients that clinicians have declared “code red” because the clinicians believe these clients may become violent at any second. I have been working with the clients that fail traditional treatment and short of dropping them, no one has any answers.

      The funny part is that I have helped every individual that I worked with get better to the point of recovery and functionality.

      Recovery is the point at which you bounce back to where you were prior to the lapse of sanity but it is the start rather than the end. I work with clients in this stage as well.

      If you would like to believe that harm comes from Peers, I can tell you without a doubt that I have never seen it. It takes a compassionate person that truly care to want to do this job.

      Every day though, I have to watch the clinicians badger the clients, disregard them, fail to understand the clients or most importantly, see the clients as human beings.

      I was segregated when I started this job, and to this day I am told that I am nothing but cheap labor by the senior staff. I have to maintain my compose as they refer to the clients as zoo animals.

      I worked with one client that was told constantly what he could not, or would not ever be able to do and I showed him what he could do. Do you really believe that a clinician could tell a client what they could do without the clinician ever having been there themselves?

      The clinicians see mental illness as some tendency towards depravity. I work accross the center with all different kinds of clients and many of these “depraved” clients say the most profound and beautiful things if the clinicians would just listen to them.

      A client once told me that he knew that he saw the beauty in the world that others did not because he knew the level of sacrifice that had to happen for it to exist.

      In a nut shell, without knowing and understanding the struggle, by listening to the clients, respecting them, and valuing them, how can you ask them to respect and value you?

      Tomorrow I will have my ideas for innovation stolen, the credit for any success that i’ve had taken by other people, and still ignored because the better I do in this job, the worse off I am treated. If you believe that is easy then try it yourself, volunteer at a clinic that doesn’t know you as a person with a self declared illness.

      I believe if clinicians worked along side peers as part of their training and understanding of the clients, then maybe a clinicians willingness to learn would be there salvation and education would not become the status quo of sanity and wellness.

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      • Peer X

        I also am a peer worker who is employed in the very state “hospital” where I was once held. I have to second everything that you state here. It’s almost impossible to work as a peer in a traditional setting. People here are respectful to me but they totally ignore most of what I have to share about the so-called “treatment” that’s done to people without their consent. I have had clinicians scream at me when I’ve voiced things in meetings which are contrary to what they want to believe. It’s never boring, that’s for sure.

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  8. nope.
    If you were not everywhere, including literary texts (which is disgusting), if you were not like a social religion that create wars (becos wars are based on different psychology, not Religion), if you informed people that, what you did, would be about correlation – not causation, if you did not talk about logic and ethics in your office – but ONLY about feelings, if you didn not spend years ”brushing” one’s brain with your personal opinion about thinking and ethics – then we would need you. If you were a science, you would accept a limit – like any other science – you would not practice speech therapy while you did not study linguistics or grammar, you would not talk about thinking while you did not study logic, you would not talk about psychopathology without studying biology… In a nutshell, if you did not do cheap street philosophy in your offices, humanity would be in a better place.

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  9. Yes we do, you need a framework to oversee and pay the healers.

    This isn’t a tribal society it is civilized, there are not medicine men who offer communal service at their discretion with impunity. Many people who act independently impose a great liability on the patient, in other words picking up people off the street to talk to people about their problems is vulnerable to abusive practices by that individual, no matter how ‘compassionate’ you feel the individual is.

    If you think the entire psychiatric industry is abusive as a community, think about the harm an individual with that same power can do to another individual even in counseling. The standard is visible for all to see a general view of whats going on and criticize it. Has the industry adopted abusive practices with the over prescribing of medication, and is driven by greed rather than providing an ethical service? Yes, but that is not just the medical industry, that is everywhere from banking to any other business as of late. Are there individuals within the psychiatric community who abuse their authority and even do illegal things to their vulnerable patients? Yes, but there is at least a way to police them and supervise the system the way it is set up.

    We have to see it as capitalism pragmatically, that a service of compassion is being offered and fair market compensation must be valued for it to exist. Good service will follow from the resulting competition towards a cure in their pursuit of happiness, and the standard of the psychiatric community will be proved for all to see.

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    • Jackdaniels – I think you raise an interesting point. As mentioned in my post, one of the advantages of a professional is the regulation and expected standards, and the power to stop someone practising if they deviate from the minimum level of competence/conduct. I do wonder, though, whether it is possible to get the best of both worlds (at least within core mental health provision – by which in the UK I mean inpatient and community mental health services) by having a means of weeding out the bad apples while not suffocating everyone else with pointless bureaucracy and regulation. Maybe leadership is the key here?

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      • Be the love that you want to see in the world, leadership in the mental health industry has failed to help many patients in their pursuit of happiness ethically.

        Keep the grassroots movements going for compassion, set better examples, look at the problem in the bigger picture as societal rather than just health.

        There is no perfect solution, but there will be good attempts at one using this logic.

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  10. Jack Daniels:

    Thanks for sticking up for a framework of compensation. Healers need to put food on the table too and many have student loans to pay off. As a family member, I do not have a professional’s perspective, but I think that even a flawed framework is better than no framework at all because there needs to be accountability. Just because some professionals have harmed their clients isn’t a good enough reason to dismantle a framework of care.

    There need to be licensed professional services; otherwise you would have quacks filling the void such as those Christian service providers that promise parents that they can make their gay children straight. Professionals also often a last resort safety net for individuals fleeing from abusive cults or families.

    I say this despite the fact that access to quality care is cost prohibitive for many so we have to extend services by getting involved, organizing collectives, eliminating social and economic barriers, etc.

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  11. The title question and the actual subject are two different things. The real question is “Should people who help other people with their emotional and psychological problems be paid?” Because, since “mental health” is as invalid a concept as “mental illness,” it’s a no-brainer that we don’t need “mental health professionals.”

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    • I agree with: The real question is “Should people who help other people with their emotional and psychological problems be paid?” but I see another question being raised here: “Should people who help other people with their emotional and psychological problems be under some official authority?”

      I’m reminded of the debate about midwifery. Many birthing women are mistreated in the same way as “mental patients,” subjected to drugs and other interventions despite their objections/refusals. Some women have responded to this situation by refusing to turn to traditional OB care and arrange to have their birth at home or an alternative birthing center, with a birth attendant that they are most trusting of and comfortable with. Should a pregnant woman be “allowed” to choose a homebirth? Should she be “allowed” to choose a layperson whose experience and judgement she trusts, to be her birth attendant? Or must the state protect her from that choice by prohibiting anyone without official medical training from providing that service?

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        • This is a wonderful post. The entire ‘mental health’ field needs a complete overhaul, re-thinking, up-ending. Honestly, my heart skipped a beat reading it. A real joy to read.

          But I beg to differ on the comparison with midwifery (although it’s an interesting comparison). I’m splitting hairs a little, but not a lot. I don’t know midwifery standards outside Canada, but my midwives in my Canadian region were highly trained and skilled ex-nurses with hospital privileges, and one taught midwifery at the university level. Nothing ‘informal’ about them, their practice, or their skills. They were specialists.

          But to LavenderSage’s point, their understanding of women’s health, pregnancy, and birthing was light-years beyond the conventional medical paradigm, so in THAT respect a comparison could be made with what ‘mental’ healthcare could be in an ideal world: skilled people working in tandem with a person in crisis, but not imposing anything on them. That’s the expertise my midwives provided IN a hospital setting, with nurses answering to them and NO doctors near me. If you make a ‘mental health’ analogy, it sounds a lot like the ‘Soteria’ approach, I think.

          Liz Sydney

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          • I think there are a lot of unfortunate parallels between obstetrics and psychiatry. Both involve “treating” people that have nothing wrong with them, both tend to rationalize and use physiological interventions on what is primarily a psycho/social/spiritual set of needs, both disciplines use interventions that have been proven useless or even harmful despite evidence to the contrary, both areas have had strong movements opposing their inappropriate practices, and both have reacted to these movements with a combination of ignoring, hostility, and co-optation. I’d love to see both disciplines disbanded and to start over from scratch.

            Lots of people have given birth for millions of years with little or no intervention. While it’s true that a lot of women died in childbirth as well, and it’s certainly good to have modern surgical procedures on hand in case such becomes necessary, we are now running at a 30% + Caesarian rate in the USA, and no one in the OB field seems to bat an eyelash. It’s also worth noting that the number of deaths in childbirth radically INCREASED when hospital births were instituted on a large scale, mostly because of a complete lack of hygiene techniques. When Ignatz Semmelweiss attempted to introduce hygiene techniques, with an immediate and dramatic drop in postnatal maternal deaths, he was fired and shunned by the medical community in his time. It’s grim but educational reading and the parallels with psychiatry, again, are legion.

            These are the two medical professions I know of where failure of their approach is blamed on the victims, and the bad results of “treatment” are mitigated by increasing the amount of “treatment” being used. In both cases, 90% or more of patients would be better off being cared for by someone who is less “trained” but more compassionate.

            —- Steve

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          • All the things Steve McCrea said below, I echo.

            Liz, I understand that midwifery is afforded the respect it deserves in other countries. Unfortunately, it is quite different here in the US. Each state sets its own laws and regulations. In some states, it is highly regulated; in others, less so. My midwife had no formal medical degree, but extensive training via experience (assisting more senior birth attendants), and had a longstanding transfer agreement with a local OB who would take over my care in the event of an emergency. I trusted her, based on her level of expertise, yes, but also based on my own gut instincts. We lived in a state where it was legal for her, a “lay midwife” to be my birth attendant. In other states, it would not have been, because they have laws that require all birth attendants to have a nurse-midwife degree at minimum.

            My point is: Who should choose how much training is sufficient, and what that training must include? The individual in need of service? Or the bureaucracies (government, professional societies, etc.)?

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          • Ourviolentchild – Thanks for the positive feedback.
            Although the comparison with midwifery is not ideal, I think it does illustrate some of the relative advantages/disadvantages of formal vs informal helpers.

            Interestingly, when you ask people who have worked with mental health services what was the most helpful aspect of the whole experience they will commonly highlight something that professionals would probably see as peripheral or of no significance: e.g. the psychiatric nurse who agreed to speak with me under the tree in my garden when I wouldn’t let her into my house; when the psychologist shared a personal story about his own family’s woes. It’s as if the most beneficial bits occur when the professional steps outside of his or her professional role.

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          • I can’t seem to reply to some of these sub-posts as there’s no “reply” button. A few of these “magic moments” might have been:

            The evening when a “staff” took me aside and told me about his mother’s death. He would have been fired if his boss found out. But he knew I would understand the depth, meaning, and sadness in the story. I was worth it, as far as he was concerned.

            One morning, a long-time lower paid worker, a MH counselor saw that I’d been on the “unit” for weeks. She called me aside. No one was around at that moment. She said, “Hey, Julie. What do you take in your coffee?” I thought this was a trick question and she was going to say that if I took my coffee black it meant something about my eating disorder. Still, I said I took it black, no cream and no sugar. (I have forgone the cream and sugar since my very first diet in 1980.) She said to me, “Julie, please do not tell a soul. I’m going to get you a cup of staff coffee. Please don’t. If anyone finds out, I’ll lose my job. Stay right there.” She got me a styrofoam cup filled with black coffee. And she smiled at me and winked. I said nothing. Now that was years ago and I doubt my writing these words will cause her to lose her job. Allow me to add that at that moment, I felt human. I felt loved, and trusted.

            In both instances, real people with real lives and real feelings entrusted me, a mere patient, with secrets. Me, a person who could not be trusted, was trusted to do what we were assumed we couldn’t do, we were assumed incapable. They both knew better. The broke rules to let me know that I, too, was human, had human feelings, was trustworthy, and worth more than the locked doors and inhumane “care” that I was being given.

            I am saddened that these moments were extremely rare in Mental Health. When they did happen, they were fleeting. Mostly, the positive, productive and possibly healing moments happened between patients, when staff were not around, and that was frequent. In recent years, staff efforts to keep patients from developing friendships and from any meaningful dialogue has been stronger. Censorship of “triggering” vocabulary and monitoring of patient conversations surely is an effort to squelch patient-to-patient healing, and to elevate the false healing power of “staff.”

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          • Julie, it is also very sad that in both cases, doing the actual “right thing” was not only not standard practice, but was discouraged to the point that both workers felt they were putting their jobs on the line by doing what was actually needed by their charges.

            And Gary, I 100% agree with you that being human and vulnerable is often the most important aspect of being able to help – stepping away from the power relationship and just being one human talking to another about life. I was fortunate to get into the mental health field with essentially NO training (I had an MS in Education and they somehow thought this qualified me to do therapy – go figure!) and therefore never had the misconception that I knew more than the people I was helping. In fact, it was they who taught me how to do therapy, and they were awesome teachers.

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      • “Should people who help other people with their emotional and psychological problems be under some official authority?”

        Well, I think they should be prohibited from prescribing drugs and posing as doctors treating diseases. Otherwise I don’t think the government should be involved with psychiatry period.

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  12. Lies -Abuse- Anger – are the three biggest causes of mind trouble- in my mind they are anyway- and just happen to be the very three things- psychiatry do really well- and cause- especially cause. and- That they will deny.- and lie about, to convince themselves, and others they aren’t, and don’t- more than likely.

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  13. I am not sure what my job title is these days. I am 27 and I am a Peer to both the Professionals and to the clients I serve.

    A professional is someone that processes and oath. They enter the professional field knowing the code of conduct and vowing to never break that code.

    I watch daily as many green professionals go through a mantra of techniques like a door to door salesmen. The client has heard it all before. The professional has said it all before.

    In this way therapy becomes codependent for both sides from what I have observed. More than that, many clinicians spend more time going through the motions then to truly be authentic.

    I find clinicians to be a curiosity, in all honesty, I don’t hate clinicians or professionals, I just don’t understand them because they seem to be afraid of authentic human connections.

    I see a lot of potential in the people I work with, but I also see them spending more time on the false notion of competing than on learning from their surroundings.

    The professional is the man/woman that has mastered the art of learning from all sides. Education does not make one a professional, the inspiration from education to pursue a life long growth in this field is the vow of the professional.

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    • Well said. The desire for and willingness to have human connections, even if they may be painful for you, is the center of what being able to help others is all about. The rest is window dressing. If you can’t allow yourself to feel what the client is feeling, you’re at best useless, and most likely dangerous. In fact, removing the client/helper relationship and as much as possible being just two humans communicating is what quality therapy looks like in my experience.

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      • Yes! Healing is found in genuine, open human connection. In one of my MSW internships, one of my roles was doing weekly in-home counseling sessions with seniors who had health issues that mostly kept them home-bound. One of my clients had a stretch of almost two months where every single week a new tragic and overwhelming event had happened in her immediate family: husband in ICU with a health crisis; sibling died suddenly from cancer; one of her grown children suffered a near-fatal heart attack, another a debilitating stroke. Blow after blow. And when, after she had endured all that, the next week brought her a fresh tragedy, I decided that the very best thing I could do for her was to sit with her and hold her hand and cry with her. My heart was breaking for her losses, and I did not attempt to close my heart to her so that I could maintain some sort of professional distance. She needed the opposite: my presence, steadfastly with her in the moment of her deepest grief. And because I did not close, she did not have to either. She was able to release emotions in my presence (being so present there for her), emotions that she felt the need to hide the depth of from her friends and family, to protect them. Just being present with her, remaining open to her amid the enormity of her pain, was the most emotionally healing experience I could provide.

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        • In chaplaincy work there is something we refer to as the ministry of presence or being. There is something very healing and strengthening in another human being sitting with us in our despair and grief. It doesn’t necessarily change what we go through but we know that we’re not going through it alone. Professional boundaries are many times the excuse people use to keep from entering into another’s pain because their pain stirs up our pain. You are a true gift to the people you work with and for.

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          • When I went to nursing school in 1984, they told us if we were with a family a patient was dying or had died or was in terrible pain or was going through something very bad or very sad, it was okay to cry. The instructor said not to bawl, though. Later on, we students were talking about that.

            If I am reading a work of my own writing aloud in front of a large audience, I don’t mind getting tearful. It adds so much authenticity and feeling to the reading. I know many writers who have anticipated getting tearful on stage. They say so long as you remember the tissues, you will be fine! I wouldn’t want to bawl! I’d be embarrassed! But tears are different. We are human. Why people, whether professional or not think shedding them is a huge no-no is beyond me.

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          • Thank you! Being an intern, I was expecting to have to defend that choice when I discussed the session in supervision, but she had the same feedback. It used to bother me to hear that word used: having a “gift,” being a “gifted therapist,” was something I struggled with because it felt like an obligation. It chafed, I think, because it highlighted the dilemma: how to use (and thereby be worthy of) that gift, without absorbing the toxicity of the framework of psychology? Every time I was on the receiving end of that wording (and this was by no means the first person who’d said that, nor was it the last) I felt like the fruit suspended in the jello-o: you can see through it, but you can’t escape the matrix. Have not puzzled that out yet- the MSW sits dusty on a shelf, unused for many years now, but the calling remains. And yet the need for those gifts just keeps growing… I have felt for awhile now that my path is spiraling back to a place where I find a healthy matrix wherein I can truly surrender to those gifts.
            Thank you, Stephen, for providing an opportunity for me to check-in with that word; it does not chafe anymore, it fits comfortably like a shawl around my shoulders.

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  14. What I know from my own personal experience is this; the people who gave me the best “therapy” during my months in a private and then a state “hospital” were some of my very own fellow “patients”.

    I remember my experience in the private “hospital” where I was held for seventeen days until a place opened up at the state “hospital”. I, as well as a number of my fellow “patients” were held there because we’d tried to take our own lives. During the afternoons most of us would gather together in the afternoon in the day room and discuss the reasons for why we’d tried to take our own lives. Although we didn’t intend it as such, it became a group therapy experience where we helped one another deal with our issues. A wealth of wisdom was shared at those gatherings where there was no judgment about what we’d tried to do. This gathering was a lot more helpful for me than the really inane groups that I was required to go to on a daily basis. And then one afternoon the charge nurse marched into our gathering and stated that the staff knew what we were doing and that we were forbidden to continue meeting and discussing! We asked why we were not allowed to meet and discuss our suicide attempts and there was no reason given. She just restated the command that we were to stop immediately. Needless to say, we did not stop and continued to meet despite their threats and attempts to stop us. It was some of the most useful time I ever spent in trying to sort out my own issues as I attempted to gain some balance back in my life.

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    • Never once did any of the clinical staff ever ask me at either place why I’d tried to kill myself. They just labeled me with some bogus “diagnosis” and then proceeded to try to fill me full of toxic drugs. I was lucky in that I had an intern psychiatrist (what we refer to as a baby doctor) who took on the task of doing talk therapy with me every afternoon five days a week. He allowed me to actually talk about what I needed to talk about. I am very lucky since this does not happen as part of the regular “treatment” given to the “patients”.

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        • I suspect that they were too threatened by the fact that we knew how to help one another and they were incapable of helping us because of their own stuff. We weren’t afraid to talk about what we tried to do. We were not to talk about what we’d tried to do, even in the groups they ran. No one was willing to address our decisions to kill ourselves! We were able to carry on open and frank dialogue between everyone concerned. It always seems to boil down to control issues every time. If they couldn’t control our discussions then they would forbid them.

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          • Many clinicians have an implicit based thought process about the world, Good, Evil, Well, Unwell, Sick, Sane, Educated, Uneducated.

            As soon as you step outside of these heuristics, you start to see push back from them, even hostility.

            The main thing to realize is that people get afraid of what they don’t understand. At the heart of many clinicians is the fear that something will happen to someone and that it will be the clinicians fault.

            The clinicians do care about people a great deal, but they don’t realize that they can’t control people and therefore they aren’t responsible for a persons illness.

            The authority that you took on in your treatment is what better looks like. Because the key note is that you didn’t do it alone. You were able to talk about it.

            Taking authority in your life but with the support of others like yourself, was something that got me better and for the first time feeling like my depression was gone.

            It hasn’t returned in the same way since. There are bad days, but I feel like once I felt like I could do more, I did more.

            I wish you luck on your journey stephen

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      • If anyone can be a Peer, then in theory professionals are not needed. I am have seen quite a few arguments on the debate of clients helping clients, professionals helping clients, clients being professionals, and the debates of recovery.

        Many of these arguments focus on what isn’t needed and this is the problem with the clinical mindset. It’s one of subtraction, of loss and dysfunction.

        Positive growth requires people to look forward within themselves for the solution. The protestant revival happened when people realized they could find inner peace within themselves.

        Many aspects of the clinical system has become more religion then science. At some point we lost reason in the fact that people are not sick nor are they well. People are simply people whose judgements need to be on par with their values.

        These are not people that need to be diagnosed they need to be treated with care by being empowered in seeing what they can do and them self searching to find it.

        No clinician can tell a client who they are but they can listen. But if we want people to truly get better, then we have to build communities that help people get better.

        Almost all of the therapeutic interventions used came from AA support groups but you don’t hear about that. Many of the practices and evidence based standards came from Peer non profit movements such as the therapeutic community model, the peer run respites and emergency services, such as the rose house in New York, the client centered approaches, group therapy and the idea of learning from each other as a method to empower.

        I just don’t see how all of this can be denied and that it can be declared that Peers have or will make people more sick than the clinical system already has.

        Tell me how it is that the clinical system has succeeded in many of the same ways? Because I have not met a single person that has gotten better from the traditional clinical system other than through groups and self searching.

        Therapy has been a substitute for the community and acceptance people long for.

        I hope clinicians will see that some day.

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        • PeerX, YES! Your last statement, that “therapy” is now used as a substitute for friendship. Therapy was not used that way decades ago. People had real friends! Real human closeness and real relationships. We did not hire people relieve loneliness. That was unheard of. If you had a problem, you talked to your family or your pals or maybe going to church or synagogue or praying to God. Or had pen pals like I did, and popped them in the mailbox, sending letters off to distant lands far away.

          I suppose your hairdresser might do if you happened to be going for a haircut, too, but these were community members who made people look nice and even did nails. No one paid a person in an office for friendship back then, certainly no one would do such acts of prostitution on a regular basis. Most religions forbade such activities. That would end up getting you locked up or drugged, maybe killed. If all else failed, some people went to bars and cried into their drinks. Then maybe a real prostitute would find them. I’ll bet that worked better.

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  15. I think volunteers can easily provide mental health services, especially since all what most people in distress want is someone to talk to. Many years ago, I volunteered for an organization that provided emotional support for people facing all types of issues. It was a free service and we effectively built rapport with the clients and also directed them to specialized services if/when needed. We did undergo training sessions where we were taught listening skills, how to ask open-ended questions, etc. Each volunteer worked there for a few hours every week.
    As I see it, learning various complex theories/methodologies in psychology (when obtaining a university degree) are not directly relevant or useful for talking to people in a friendly, helpful way. So, we probably do not need specialized professionals for mental health.

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  16. Can anyone recommend training for individuals who serve as ‘warm line’ volunteers? I volunteer for MindFreedom by taking/answering phones once a week and the Emotional CPR class seems ideal for this kind of volunteer work but that training is prohibitively expensive for non professionals.

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  17. I was a lot better off with the “amateurs”.

    When I came to the UK 30 years ago I still suffered from High Anxiety (drug withdrawal syndrome). So I went to MIND at (Willesden, London) and they arranged for me meet regularly with “trainees”.

    These people had real life experience and I felt like I could talk to them and they could relate to me. They reassured me that I was okay and this was helpful at the time.

    My main problem in the present is that the UK Medical System cannot cope with the Idea of Longterm Recovery, and will bend over backwards to sabotage it.

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  18. When we know our life path and purpose, it is like a calling–the universe just seems to point us in that direction, opportunities appear and doors open. It almost seems as though it is impossible to avoid. If we are in our integrity, then we become what we become, and that is part of our life path and journey of learning and evolution, very personal.

    Being a healer requires that we understand that there is always a process occurring, and that change is constant. Also, that there is a big picture, beyond what they may perceive. A good healer does not enable victimhood, either, to my mind, and intends to help a client feel their own power, and is humble to their challenges. That’s what I look for, in any event, when I work with healers.

    I’ve worked with and gone to school with tons of mental health professionals over the years, and got no satisfaction there, only drained and further in the dark, so I no longer work with them. Sorry, too many illusions and mind games in that arena, very confusing and it can be somewhat disorienting. So to my mind, no, they are not necessary.

    A good healer is transparent and crystal clear in their personal truth, to my mind, and without ambiguity. To me, the mental health world is completely ambiguous and enigmatic, which makes it toxic and unsafe. No healing found there, at least not for me, and I had been a believer enough to train as a psychotherapist.

    Having felt horribly betrayed, however, now I’m a defector and touting a whole different perspective, one that makes sense to me, and that brings me clarity rather than more confusion and chaos. That’s what I do feel is necessary for healing, clarity, and I did not find that from any mental health professional along my journey, in the slightest.

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    • Alex,

      I’m inclined to agree with you.
      If the professionals were genuine we’d presume “mental illness” was just a phase on the way to a better life. But if the rule us that no one is to get better (ever), then the whole thing has got to be a Fraud.

      My experience is that it is possible to recover, and it doesn’t have to be terribly difficult.

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      • So beautifully stated, Fiachra. I agree, it is not that complicated, and they sure do make it so. There are a lot of people to pay and making it complicated ensures that they will–and for a long, long time.

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      • The fact is that before the advent of the toxic drugs at least 60% of people experiencing emotional and psychological distress, called “mental illness” by the system, ended up getting well and moving on with their lives, some having one more episode along the way. What they like to call “mental illness” was an episodic experience with more than half of people experiencing healing and getting on with their lives. This is a fact that you can point to all over the place and it boggles my mind why people today don’t see this, it’s there for anyone to find. Why people have taken the bait hook, line, and sinker about this experience and believe that people are “ill” for life is just beyond me. The facts are there to see. I am old enough to know this for a fact and even was trained as a hospital chaplain in a large psychiatric “hospital” in the early 1970’s where we were experiencing this kind of recovery rate. “Mental illness” was an episodic experience.

        Then, along came the drugs and what was once episodic became chronic and now the recovery rate for people healing and moving on with their lives is about 16%, if that high. Anyone with any sense at all can make the deduction here and figure out where the problem is. The drugs cause the chronic experience. It’s as plain as the nose on everyone’s face but no one talks about this.

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    • Regarding payment, I always work this out with a client, we make an agreement based on their input.

      In my training as a healer, I learned that we do not do the healing, we merely know how to get into a neutral and grounded state of being in order to channel healing energies. Dialogue is one way to channel these energies, through words and intention. That would be a healing dialogue. But it is not the healer’s wisdom which heals, it is the wisdom of “the light.” (That’s what it is called in some trainings, referring to the universal energies beyond our physical focus). So, it is the light which heals, and healers work with the light.

      When working with the light, money is simply energy, one physical form of it. In healing work, there does need to be an energy exchange of some kind, or it will drain the healer if they are the only ones offering energy. Money is considered an offering, and is not a set fee. I’ve done work for trade in goods and services, when that is the offering, and also at no charge.

      When I agree to this, I know the universe will pay me, one way or another, it always does. Not necessarily with material things, but with opportunities, or some other kind of life reward.

      To me, payment is a matter of self-care and trust. The rest is simply energy, and I think it’s important to be aware of the balance of energy in any relationship, but most of all, in one intended to bring healing.

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      • One last thing about the money issue here that just occurred to me–

        Another thing I learned in my training was that we need not rely on clients for our income, as I said these are offerings as energy exchange, and ideally, made in gratitude and trust. But the most important thing I learned is that when we are spiritually healthy, we know our innate abundance. That is the energy for which we strive, as from abundance, anything we need or desire can manifest. We take care of ourselves in this regard, not rely on others to pay us. This is the new paradigm I learned and it has worked like miracles in my life. Good news at the end of the dark night of the soul tunnel.

        Lived experience and training did pay off well, they complement each other uniquely. I learned how to become independent of anything oppressive and manipulative in order to know my own truth, and how to create my best possible experience in life, without compromise. In turn, I learned all about how awareness of energy can support really good healing, multi-dimensionally.

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    • I think a good healer should enable victim-hood.

      Many victims don’t know their victims, it is only once they are aware of their victim-hood do they realize they want to continue the pursuit of happiness.

      A mental health professional is trained to enable victim-hood, is only when the mental health professional adopts the cultural philosophy of tough love do they become poor healers.

      This disease of logic pervades the systemic compassion created by a mental industry designed to show compassion and mercy first and foremost, that theories are developed to ruin the sanctity of the practice such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

      This therapy focuses more on a quick short term solution, to a lifetime’s worth of problems which manifests into severe anxiety and unhappiness.

      It provokes individuals as a shock to their system, to be less anxious and more happy intentionally, which is counter to the philosophy of ethical therapy.

      Common sense would tell us that a life time of problems can only be cured by a life time of therapy, there are no quick fixes. If the social welfare system would grant life time payouts to the patients, and the medical industry would quit being proactively developing quick fixes in the form of therapy or medication, true healing and amazing potential would be achieved in the pursuit of happiness for the most unhappiest of individuals.

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      • I believe we find happiness when we take control of our life, which is our creation as we go along. When I learned how we create our realities, as I healed from the chaos of the mental health system, etc., I went from being chronically anxious and frustrated with life, to dominantly happy and fulfilled. Took a few years to make that transition, it was step by step and layer by layer. I had to make a lot of internal shifts in order to change my reality.

        We create negative beliefs and bad self-care habits from the result of trauma, until we rewrite those neurons, which is what I consider to be a vital phase of healing. It’s how we embody what we learn, rather than having them remain abstract and academic concepts, dissociated from our physical cellular being. When we practice new beliefs consciously and repeatedly, with conviction, our neurons shift, as does our physical apparatus, energetically, and it eventually becomes second nature. That’s transformational.

        We are victims of many things in life, but once we awaken to how our energy is drained by society and perhaps, certain challenging relationships, as well as by our own negative and defeatist ruminations, then we are free to take steps to make changes. To me, that would be healing victimhood.

        When I say ‘victimhood,’ I mean attaching to the identity of ‘victim’ to the point where one is repeatedly feeling victimized (“it was someone else’s fault”), which, to me, would indicate that some sort of shift in belief would be in order, were that person to actually desire healing. Not everyone does.

        But I’m sure there’s no way anyone can be dominantly happy in chronic victim identity–maybe fleeting glimpses of it, when their victim identity is validated, but that can only be fleeting, because that identity will persist and it’s only a matter of time until something happens to make that person feel like a victim, and this would continue to repeat within that self-identity. In the meantime, that person would vacillate between rage, paranoia, and despondence.

        I really strongly feel that this is the result of underlying negative self-beliefs based on a specific perception toward life (which we absorb in our upbringing, by example), which we can shift if we want, in order to see things from a different non-victim perspective. That’s where healing, change, and the pursuit of happiness can be fruitful, to my mind. That was my experience, in any event. We’re all different, though, and we each find happiness our way.

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        • I don’t agree, Alex. When I write about a “bad guy,” a villain, I get into the mind of that villain. So, I might ask, “How does the villain, say, a thief, choose whom to steal from?” Whom will he steal from? Clearly, he wants to steal from a person who has money, or a thing he can easily pocket and then, sell. In every plot each character wants something desperately. Also, if the thief steals, this must be done seamlessly, and he must be able to cover up his crime. Who will be the best victim? Mrs. Plum? Mr. Mustard? Whether he realizes it or not, he chooses his victim based on whether he can get away with stealing and not get caught. Nursing homes are easy places to not get caught. Whom will he choose? If I were the “bad guy,” which patient would be the best victim? The deaf person, the blind person, the one in the wheelchair, the one with cancer, or the one with Parkinson’s?

          As writer of this scenario, I vote for the one with Parkinson’s. I cast my vote not because of anything to do with “victim mentality.” Not one iota. But simply because the Parkinson’s patient cannot speak anymore. With no voice, the Parkinson’s patient will not have the ability to tattle on the “bad guy.” Even though the patient may be fully aware of whodunit, the patient will have no recourse. Naturally, our “bad guy” knows this. He knows he can get away with this crime, and most likely, more than once. The patient will never tell.

          Deprived of our right to Freedom of Speech, and our right to be seen as fully human and our credibility in the courts, we can easily fall victims to crimes. You bet perps know this. They know they can get away with harming a patient who does not have the Right to Free Speech. This is not an “attitude problem” on the part of the one who is harmed. The only one who perceives victimhood is the perp, not the victim. To see it the other way around is a complete myth. It’s a matter of rights under law, and once you understand that, you can take practical steps to undo it.

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          • And furthermore, the statement that victimhood is an attitude problem, frankly, I find terribly insulting every time I read online in various places. It seems to be a statement about certain people’s character, however, this is illogical since people who are abused as children, for instance, didn’t do or think anything to cause it. Nor did people who are victims of random crimes. My dad’s wallet was stolen from his pocket in Italy in 1978. Was this, too, an “attitude problem”? “Victim mentality”? I highly doubt it. No, it was because he kept his wallet in his back pocket, and because he happened to be in a train station in Rome, and for no other reason. I doubt the thieves could read his mind, nor could any shrink (those gods on high), nor could I.

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          • I’m talking about a self-perception that permeates every situation and interaction, where someone is always thinking of themselves as a victim, and portraying themselves as that repeatedly. I’m not saying there hasn’t been a victim act committed, but I do think there are ways to perceive anything to where we get our power back. When we stay in victim mentality, we give away our power.

            I do believe it comes from the trauma of having been victimized, perhaps repeatedly at a time when a person is particularly vulnerable, which, as I said, we are all victims of a sick society, at least.

            But at some point, we have the power to shift that self-identity, which I think changes our reality and experience of life. I’m not making a judgment. I think this is an energetic reality. When we think of ourselves as a ‘victim of life,’ then that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Whereas one has the option to do some inner work and shift that belief, were that to be desired.

            I understand that you disagree with me, which is fine, I wouldn’t argue with you about it. This truth certainly applies to me and is what drove a lot of my healing work and changes in life. I find I’m a lot better off in all ways when I take full responsibility for any experience of my life, and I certainly never let abusers off the hook, I’ve called them out repeatedly.

            I’m not intending anything personal at all, but I do think our self-perception has everything to do with our health and well-being.

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        • Victim-hood is a good thing for those that want it, and I can only agree if you set a place aside for those people who want to be victims and respect their choice.

          I understand there is a tendency to assume enabling people to see themselves as victims allows them to have an excuse not to work.

          Some people want to embrace their victim-hood, and don’t want to work to get better for their own reasons.

          As you said the pursuit of happiness is different for everyone, the healer should respect however the victim chooses to live, and not try to impose their beliefs on them as to what they ought to do in order to be happy.

          The most basic function of any ethical healer would be to promote peace, sanity, and love in the troubled person and they will improve on their own.

          We all can deal with sadness on or own, the only reason why some need help from others is when they lose the safety nets of tolerance that others enjoy from the privileges of a caring and loving family who are selfless instead of selfish with love, money, affection, self sacrifice, as these promote security from a spiritual, logical, peace of mind, confidence, or any other good perspective of decent and respectable people.

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          • “The most basic function of any ethical healer would be to promote peace, sanity, and love in the troubled person and they will improve on their own.”

            I do agree with this, and that is always my goal with clients. And I also agree that we should all respect each other, regardless of how walk our paths and live our lives. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to live, there’s no manual. We make it up as we go along and discover for ourselves what works for us and what doesn’t, as far as what supports our choices and desires in life, whatever they may be. These are individual choices which we all have the right to make for ourselves. When we are not making choices for ourselves and someone else is doing that for us, we tend to eventually get pretty cranky.

            However, I do feel that these goals are not compatible with perceiving one’s self as a victim, as a general rule. When we see ourselves in the victim role, we are literally giving away our power, and when we do that, it impedes our ability to feel love and inner peace. That would be more of a fear-based perspective, to my mind. When there is fear, there is neither peace nor love because there is no trust.

            Also, I don’t consider myself to be a match for everyone. There are some people with whom I am not compatible, I’m sure I’m not alone in this. I think a responsible healer would own this.

            There are a lot of healers in my network with a variety of sensibilities and an array of specialized foci, so when I run across someone whose goals or sensibilities are not compatible with the way I work–which has happened a couple of times–then I happily refer. Hasn’t happened often, but when it has, it’s worked out fine.

            Bottom line: we’re our own people, always. As a healer, I never try to influence anyone’s desires, I help them discover what they are when they are unclear and vague about them. My goal is to help bring ease to a person’s process. There are myriad ways to do that, to simplify, allow, and just be.

            Life is fluid and ever-changing. When we ride the wave of life with presence and trust, we discover peace, and the feeling of love is soon to come to light. That’s my blueprint. Not everyone goes for it, but plenty do. Always a choice, and I’m transparent about everything.

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          • My website explains what I do. My focus is our spirit to body communication and connection. I think when we are spiritually attuned, that’s when we can really take control of our health and life because that’s how we best get our own information, inspiration, and inner guidance. No need to depend on outside sources when we are attuned to our own spirits. That can take some clearing of static from what life dishes out to us. That’s where the ‘ease’ comes in.

            This is all based on what I learned during my specific healing journey, which I applied to myself and it was quite a turnaround from what I had experienced in the ‘mental health’ field, which only tanked me after a long time trusting it.


            I’ve been working with clients for over a decade now and am retiring from private practice in order to expand into something on a more general social and community level.

            Right now, I’m working with music and the performing arts as a way to connect with our spirits in a deeply felt and affirming way. Just made a film about that, which is posted on the second page of my website, if you want to check it out. Like life, I am also fluid and ever-changing!

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          • I guess that is true although I would expect a universal standard for healers because of that fact, that not everyone responds to tough love.

            I know many people need to feel the lash of the whip to get them functioning, and not feel as victims.

            Though there others who respond to hand holding and coddling and embracing their victimization.

            If healers could be trained to handle both types, and even allow the unhappy person to choose how they would like to pursue happiness it would be easier on the ‘client’.

            We can’t have the unhappy who already are having a hard time going from healer to healer to find the right one, its not cost effective much less conducive to healing.

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  19. Thanks! This is one article I have been waiting for! I guess for rather selfish reasons….Recently, someone said something to me that came across to me as one of the most hurtful things ever said to me in recent years, after I told her, with much exuberance, of my hopes of organizing an “alternative” eating disorders conference, that is, something that offered something else besides the status quo “recovery model.” She said, “But Julie, you aren’t and EXPERT.” (emphasis mine). I put the emphasis there because it stung so bad.

    Not an expert? After 34 years of enduring an ED entirely alone since the “care” was non-care, and then, walking out of said “care” since clearly, these “experts” had no clue what the heck I was going through, having no clue how to treat it, and then, taking the initiative to cure myself, by myself, through experimenting on myself by trial and error….A lot of error, too….This I must say I did not only to help myself, but because I wanted to share what I was learning with other people. For many years I was my own laboratory, almost always completely in secret, and sometimes, very much in desperation. Because I was desperate to live, and not to suffer anymore. I wanted to know how my body ticked. I didn’t want my doctor to dictate these things to me. I wanted to explore and learn myself, and in so doing, become me again. There was no reason why I couldn’t do this, and no reason why I needed a “doctor” to do this, nor permission of any “doctor.”

    I believe it worked. I believe I know myself extremely well, and I don’t think it could have been done any other way.

    I was also told that retelling my stories offended people, that I should stop, because unpleasant, traumatic memories of being incarcerated are bad and are best off forgotten. Our stories are unique and precious. If I didn’t tell it, who would? Think of our veterans who have fought in wars decades ago, in places we have never been. Think of our grandparents who tell stories of times that will be forgotten if they are not allowed to tell stories. Old people are all about storytelling. I kept at it. I told everyone to fuck off. Eventually, writing memoir and blogging has helped me gain perspective and hindsight, eyes behind my head that look back and can look at my entire life and see the whole thing for what it is. I can see myself as if I am a character in a book I am writing. As if I am another person.

    It’s called growing up. That’s the one thing mental health care, if you stay in it, won’t let you do. If you want to stay dependent and continue to lack insight, keep seeing those professionals forever and ever. When you realize you do not need them, you never needed them, you are free.

    When I learned to teach writing I learned to find that strong writing voice that’s already there, and allow that unique voice to grow and discover who it is and all it can be. To impose upon a student is less helpful, although I might suggest, I can only guide. The rest is up to you.

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    • Being required not to talk about the truth because it might upset someone is at the very core of what makes us mentally/emotionally unwell, in my opinion. Good for you for sticking to your path and saying what needed to be said. Those being paid to help you should not be worried about being traumatized by what you say. It’s their job to be able to absorb and process that trauma, and if they can’t do so, they’re in the wrong job.

      As for professionals, I was reminded of a saying: “Always remember that the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic was built by professionals.”

      — Steve

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      • I think even with those who have sheltered lives with good families who always loved them would not ordinarily be traumatized by someone’s problems.

        In fact they would have a strong tolerance for the misery of people and the world, being removed from it all their lives they would be more likely to show compassion in its truest form as they know the standard.

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        • Yeah, you’d think, wouldn’t you? Perhaps there is something about the training our psychiatrists and mental health professionals receive that somehow trains this compassion out of them. If you go into a field where you’re dealing with emotional distress, you ought to be the kind of person who wants to and is capable of dealing with emotional distress. It’s just common sense. Although as Tim McCarver once quoted, “They should call it ‘uncommon sense,’ because if it were so common, more people would have it!”

          —- Steve

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          • “Perhaps there is something about the training our psychiatrists and mental health professionals receive that somehow trains this compassion out of them.”

            Yes, that is what I’ve often talked and written about. This is exactly what I discovered. In my graduate training, I was taught to categorize people according to certain behaviors that would be deemed either ‘socially acceptable’ or ‘not socially acceptable”–that is, based on social judgments. It was about maintaining power and control over the client. What they tried to pass for ‘compassion’ was really pity, but they were very clear: that is THEM, not ME!

            I entered the system soon after graduate school, as I was coming off the psych drugs, and discovered, as a client, exactly how this translated in the field, and it was intolerable and, indeed, ill-making. Two of the psychotherapists who facilitated the groups in the day treatment center which I attended for a brief period had graduated from the same graduate program I had (which was supposedly progressive and cutting edge psycho-spiritual), and they were nothing short of barbaric, demeaning, and oppressive–not to mention insulting. As I quote in Voices That Heal, one of them said to an older client when he grieved, “Take your meds and don’t make waves.” That became my anthem for protesting this nonsense.

            This is why I sought out heart-centered support and healing, which was nowhere to be found anywhere near anything called ‘mental health’ anything, at least not in San Francisco. And that city is exploding with homeless and seriously disabled people, and it is FILLED with therapists (and also attorneys, who think just like the therapists–cynically, suspiciously, discriminating, and filled with stigma). But heart and compassion? No way. That is a black hole.

            Good call, Steve, what you say is true, and very significant in all of this, I feel.

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          • They aren’t trained out of compassion
            completely, some therapists go out of their way not to be compassionate. In the case of psychiatrists though I would agree, since they don’t have the time to be compassionate as they are prescribing medication only.

            The training enables them to be compassionate, because they would not know how to help someone otherwise.

            The training is objective and centered around compassion, it is the therapist that interprets the training subjectively and without ‘common sense’.

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        • “The Titanic was driven by professionals too”

          That goes to my point, they need to be trained how to steer a ship. The Captain of the titanic wanted to impress others and save time.

          Similar to mental health professionals, they want to save time rather than help others compassionately.

          It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be trained on how to steer the ship, it is just that they should use their knowledge for good rather than bad.

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    • The thing is people don’t want to hear that the people they believe in- who they might just need at some time-or are abusive people-or aren’t the right people- or might not be-to fix them up -if they need them-somewhere in the future- and so they strike out at the messenger that makes them feel insecure about their understandings or beliefs- securitites- that in some ways help them feel secure or safe-and we might be trying to save them from the only sense of security they have.

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  20. What’s really needed is a government mind care facility- that offers natural healing care- by people who have overcome- and experienced the same effects- conditions-drug caused effects- similar circumstances-as those presenting- at facilities- for care.
    – not psychotropic – chemical management- the psychotropic only- potential adverse treating system- that we’ve got. I can tell you this much- if were waiting for them to wake up- and change- well be here for another decade- the people have to do it- take over the air waves and the care- something like the “Robert Whitaker” mind care facility– first episode psychosis centre- healing centre- etc etc- that’s what’s got to happen I think- and is something people really need- that they haven’t really got. We have to do it- because they’re not- haven’t- and just might never-in the meantime- people are still being adversely and forcefully drugged for a lifetime- for transient conditions- without a safe escape- or any escape- or a chance to escape what shouldn’t even be there in the first instance of care- for 9/10 drug induced psychosis effects- thinkings-imaginings- they’re effects and imaginings- not dormant mental illnesses waiting to get people- sneak up on them to stay-like some fairytale story- some highly imaginative ignoramus- psychiatric bad tripping- story.- by vested-trippers.

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  21. Hi, Gary, I’ve proposed a “mental health helper of the future” I call a human experience specialist in my latest book Rethinking Mental Health: Deconstructing the Mental Disorder Paradigm. I outline how this person ought to be trained and what difficulties she would face in the real world. I agree that a new helper is needed! If you’d like to chat more about this drop me a line to ericmaisel at hotmail.com

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    • Eric – I like the term ‘mental health helper’. Unlike a couple of the other people who have commented on this thread, I have no problem with the term ‘mental’ (I believe medical terms like ‘treatment’, ‘illness’, ‘disorder’ ‘symptoms’ are much more unhelpful). As for ‘mental’ – although, of course the term can be used pejoratively – to me it simply signifies someone’s inner experience.

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      • “Mental” means of or pertaining to the mind. It’s a neutral term. Adding the words “health” or “illness” creates a nonsensical term which implicitly pathologizes a non-medical situation. Shouldn’t this be obvious?

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        • I just know you say the word “mental” and we know what everyone thinks- gotta be real bout it-what it conjures up in a mind- I understand the words just a descriptive word- and harmless in the right place and context- to explain something- but because it has an associated imagery- and has been used derogatively- to explain mad- or say who’s mad- point at someone-for so long- throughout time- I don’t believe its helpful- yes their s mental in the mind-yes thiers mental out there- according to others views- imaginings-but why lay it on everyone in a name-by association- when it has that connotation- to many or most of us- that hurts those who have that in their minds and in their history- in the negative meaning of he word. And who some – because of that single word- feel discriminated -I mean their sick- their mad- and their mental…. great – thanks.

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        • No mate- nothing “neutral” about it- not when your calling me it- their isn’t- but what is obvious is “mental”—being the opening word or title- “that they- know of” –health or illness are the imaginary- Mental is the “real” the tag and title- and nasty name -they give to “what they think is”- ill or UN- healthy- ‘mentally’ or mental – is the the chicken before the egg mate- the main deal-. I cant believe that “three of you” would all stick together on slurring people because in my mind- its your trend- your thing- the “mental” health thing- we do “mental” health-illness- client- and whatever other word we can link “mental” to-arm in arm- that’s how im seeing your responses anyway.. and what really blows me away is that. of anyone. on the internet, I thought it was you guys. who would have been the most switched on. sensitive and aware. clued up. I thought you guys were the Gurus——- funny that.

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      • good to see you haven’t got a problem Gary- 🙂 to me it simply and clearly signifies your mental- and who matters in this equation here? the person labelled who might/ would/ clearly identify/ feel unjustly labelled— or us- me- you.

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  22. LavenderSage, thank you.


    oldhead, so maybe this is where the problem starts, letting therapists prescribe drugs. Because of this we feel that there needs to be a standardized training and licensing. We should not need to have this.

    But also, because of their professional interest, therapists want to be able to prescribe drugs because that raises their professional status, makes them something more like MD’s.

    And the many patients ( notice I did not say clients ) go there looking for drugs. Or at a minimum, they will take the doctor and their “condition” more seriously if they end up getting drugs prescribed to them. So it comes down to professional standing and money.

    So what do we do? Do we treat psych meds like heroin and cocaine?

    We have members here, most conscientious and well informed, who feel that certain drugs really do help them, but they just have a hard time getting them and don’t like the doctors.

    Should the drugs be available on a special request basis? And is there still to be some doctor screening them?

    Where people have decriminalized cocaine and heroin, how do they do it? Gabor Mate in Vancouver runs the only legal safe injection clinic in North America. But he feels that they should also be supplying their patients with their drugs, instead of expecting the patient to continue to buy them on the black market.

    But do we want people experimenting with drugs, just for kicks, or to impress their friends? Is it for existing addicts only?

    Anyway, we must stop licensing talk therapists, and the government must be 100% out of this.

    The original reason for psychiatry, according to Peter Breggin and drawing from Foucault, was at the beginning of Capitalism they needed an excuse to lock up homeless men who were breaking no law.

    As I see, it is pretty much the same thing today.

    So I say we should be passing out cards which refuse all psychotherapy and promise a law suit if the preference is not honored an invite all questioners to call a number which leads to ME.

    And I know, most therapy and most drugging is by patient consent, or the patient is even seeking it. But we need to educate people against this. The way they sell themselves out is by telling the doctor their feelings. The doctor is not their comrade.

    Save these links in an email to yourself, major post coming soon!


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  23. ……. the middle-class family is something which emerged at a specific time in human history. It is unique in the sort of isolation and increase in parental authority that it creates, and in the ways it depends upon the exploitation of children.

    And then in America, and really in all the industrialized nations, everyone is middle-class. This has nothing to do with being rich or poor. It is so because it is how people think.

    To have a working-class we would need to have class consciousness. We don’t.

    Now there are plenty who have been ejected from the middle-class, and there are plenty who operate against the interests of the middle-class. But this does not mean that any of these people are of some other class.

    And as far as the argument that without parents you would not exist, well that is just submitting to abuse, it takes us back the Sacrifice of Isaac and of the Daughter of Jephtah.

    It is also the same sort of logic used to justify slavery.

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      • The middle class may have emerged at a specific time in history, but family units predated it by a long shot.

        And then in America, and really in all the industrialized nations, everyone is middle-class. This has nothing to do with being rich or poor. It is so because it is how people think.

        Some people in industrial countries can’t afford housing. Some people in non-industrial countries would qualify as oil barons. I don’t see much logic in your position still.

        A working class is not made out of class consciousness, it arises out of industrial activity, when the owners of the means of production, require a population to do the producing. What am I saying? Working class consciousness arises from a working class, not vice versa.

        And as far as the argument that without parents you would not exist, well that is just submitting to abuse, it takes us back the Sacrifice of Isaac and of the Daughter of Jephtah.

        Not many of us, in the present day and age, were test-tube babies. Infanticide is frowned upon, generally, together with ceremonial human sacrafise. So much for seeing people as personal property to be disposed of as one wishes. If a male doesn’t mate with a female, as a rule, you don’t get a child. Families are not about the middle class so much as they are about the sexes meeting to bear and raise children. Should they kill their children, well, infanticide still follows conception. The child must exist in order to be destroyed.

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  24. Dear PeerX, God bless you. Your job sounds like a difficult but fulfilling one even though the administrators do not appreciate your work. I have applied for such positions but when I do, I have stated upfront that I believe in Human Rights and will not use coercion nor deception with patients/clients. I also state that I do not believe in force and consider the use of force to be a Human Rights violation. So this immediately causes me to be turned down from most (not all) jobs in human services as it stands in most “treatment” (i.e. non-treatment) centers.

    The other day I was looking through jobs listings and saw one listing that stated “must be adequately strong as occasional need to restrain adolescents” or some such baloney. “Dear Sirs and Madams, I will not participate in tying a kid to a bed. Should I see this happening, as soon as possible I will sneak in and untie the kid and get to know him unlike the rest of you fools.”

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  25. Peer X – You are my hero. You are the new way – except it is the old way, too. There have always been people like you, even amongst the trained professionals, but they have so often been shut down, bullied, and moved on or kicked out that, for self preservation, most have given up and joined the enemy (see Bonnie Burstow’s book ‘Psychiatry and the Business of Madness’). Somehow the principles you espouse, which I might add are those of maturity and insight, need to be packaged and taught. But it could be difficult to find enough people with the required attributes to teach such things to. First there has to be a desire to learn it, an acceptance of humility (surely in a Christian society this shouldn’t be too hard to find -LOL), and the deregulation of the power differential. Not too many will like that! I’m scrambling a but here but I think it’s always going to mean the few. I think Open Dialogue has managed to reduce the effects of hierarchy based on qualifications to a degree, and Soteria House did/does. It CAN happen as a movement but mostly, like you, it’s going to be one at a time. I was more a friend than a `therapist’ when I worked way back, and I constantly worried that someone would find out and my academic reputation would suffer. Luckily on a couple of occasions I was put to good use and we had a marvellous time, the `patients’ and me. It can be so frustrating to see the bad guys get the credit, but if even one of these arrogant, insightless sods DOES by osmosis, get it, you’ve succeeded in a huge way, because they just might pass it on. Meanwhile one by one is good enough for God…so…Please keep going, and every part of me wishes you well. Maybe someone, one of your `patients’, could recommend you for an award? The recommendations can be anonymous can’t they? Perhaps we here could do it? Imagine?

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  26. We have known for decades that peer support used to be alive and well. We’d do it all day on the “units” and staff never knew nor were included. This was what happened inside those smoking rooms. Remember the laughter, the friendship, the camaraderie? The administrations’ goal when they took out the smoking rooms was to disempower the patients and to boost up the “expertise” of those who had no experience with what we had been through. Not that this is logical! They simply took power, drugged more, used more force, more locked doors, and the whole system became more militant and all-emcompassing. Funny, while it seemed these so-called “illnesses” were affecting more, these “treatments” were curing fewer and fewer and putting more people out of work. I wonder why!

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  27. I guess the answer to the question of “do we need more mental health professionals?” is dependent on who is answering the question.

    In my State the need for mental health professionals seems to be proportional to the levels of public sector corruption, so as the levels rise the need becomes greater. Interesting that we are cutting back the police watchdog and that anyone who attends a police station with evidence of misconduct, rather than be referred to the Corruption watchdog, gets referred by police to Mental Health Services for ‘treatment’ with a cocktail of drugs. Given that this can be achieved by police with a ‘verbal’ (ie say they found a knife in your possession when they didn’t) and then baiting the victim at the hospital by getting them to say “no” (ie offer drugs you know they will refuse and then instigating a ‘code black’ restrain and inject) then the answer to the question would be as many MH professionals as we can corrupt, …. i mean get.

    Savings to the public are made in that all that investigating of corruption, and paperwork etc is done away with and police can assist mental health with some ‘gaslighting’ to make the victim appear paranoid and delusional. See one guy threatened with pack rape at the station, which became a symptom of his mental illness.

    And I guess as long as the public doesn’t recognise how their tax dollars are being used, it might appear that the community needs more mental health professionals too. Win win? I think not.

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    • Just as an example. I walk into a police station with a ‘support person’ with some documents which demonstrated a serious criminal offense. Unknown to me, but obvious to police with access to their system was that some corrupt acts had occurred, and that rather than assist the victim, they decided to assist the criminals.

      A call is then made by police to mental health to come and pick up a man in their station who is “hallucinating”. Unfortunate for police in this instance that mental health had seen the documents and knew that I had proof of the crime. Attempt to arrest me for having the documents, and then for the falsehoods which had been documented. None were effective and therefore police were forced to take a complaint.

      That complaint is returned due to “insufficient evidence” (that was the intent of the crimes, to conceal the evidence so not looking or asking questions fixes that) and then a call to the people at mental health to tell them that they never received a call from police about the “hallucinating” man in the station. Might look a little ugly if the Corruption watchdog did look so best we use a little intimidation.

      And in fact, I am of the belief that a psychologist was asked to gather information from me exploiting the trust of the therapeutic relationship to find out who had these documents which are a problem given what they demonstrate. Though he became afraid for the safety of his family and decided not to see me anymore so ….

      Increase this inter agency co operation and we have a winner

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  28. I came across this article while doing research for Grad School. I don’t have a position to stand on, I just had to tell you how much I appreciated the passage below.. all I could think was “in a perfect world”. I have seen your name come up quite a bit in my classes, I look forward to learning more about you.

    ” My own view is that the core, mainstay of an ideal service should provide people suffering distress and overwhelm with routine access to fellow humans who possess the appropriate personal skills (empathy, compassion, genuineness and open-mindedness) and who operate within a philosophical framework characterised by hope and the expectation that all service users can find their own idiosyncratic solutions to the problems that life has inflicted upon them and thereby achieve a worthwhile existence.”

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