Landmark Victory against the “Oak Ridge Torturers” — Do We Cheer or Cry?

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On June 1st, a landmark decision was handed down by Justice Paul Perell of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice against the defendants, the government of Ontario and two former Oak Ridge psychiatrists: Dr. Elliott Barker, who is hailed as the mastermind behind Oak Ridge’s therapy program, and Dr. Gary Maier, Barker’s successor. This suit for damages was launched by 31 of the men who had been “patients” (read: inmates) at Oak Ridge during the years 1966-1983. According to the ruling of the judge, three of the programs to which the “patients” were subjected constituted torture, and as such, there was a violation of fiduciary responsibility.

As one of the many activists who fought to get the horrors at Oak Ridge stopped over the years and indeed kept finding remnants of the horror persisting long after the 1983 date (see Burstow, 19861), I am relieved that at least a few of the victims have lived to see a modicum of justice—nonetheless, given the extent of what transpired (in addition to the possibility of appeal), I am caught between cheering and crying.

So what is Oak Ridge? What is this judgment all about? And what are the lessons to be gleaned here?

Starting in 1933, for 81 years Oak Ridge was the maximum security forensic unit of Penetanguishene Mental Health Centre (Ontario)—a place where Ontario men who were found “criminally insane” or “unfit to stand trial” were incarcerated. What was wrong with this place was more than just the bad treatment and human rights violations typical in institutions of the ilk—not that the “usual” is remotely acceptable. Beginning in the early 1960s, largely at the direction of Barker, Oak Ridge introduced and developed what it called the STP (Social Therapy Program). And it is precisely the ingredients of this “therapy” that have been deemed torture—three central aspects of it specifically named so.

Touted by its creators as the height of enlightenment and dubbed “Buber Behind Bars,” in a 1968 article of that same name published in The Canadian Psychiatric Association Journal, two of the program’s initial architects described and defended it as follows: “Psychopathology” is a disturbance in communication, and accordingly, forcing the “patient” into non-stop encounter with others (also called dialogue)—a central feature of STP—would force them to examine themselves, thereby curing them. Despite the Buberian overlay, seemingly recognizing some resemblance to Third Reich doctoring here, Barker and Mason went on to state:

“If the process were one of eradicating a set of disapproved ideas . . . then we would be committing offences as grievous as those involved in The Third Reich . . . On the other hand, if our patients did not choose to deviate from society’s norms but rather were driven to such deviations by internal unresolved conflicts, then we should have them resolve such conflicts by every means at our disposal, including force, humiliation, and deprivation . . . And this force will not be lifted until he changes his behaviour.”

A gut-wrenching bit of reasoning, to say the least, and yet the world welcomed this development with open arms!

So what were the primary components of “Social Therapy”? Besides solitary and sleep deprivation, which were pervasive and which the judge deemed tortuous, there were three subprograms, all of which the justice ruled to be torture. While a detailed overview of the programs is beyond the scope of this article (for such detail, see my 1986 article “Oak Ridge before and after the Hucker Report”), but in short, the subprograms in question were: 1) Defence Disruptive Therapy (DDT), 2) Motivation, Attitude, Participation (MAPP), and 3) the capsule.

DDT consisted of forcing hallucinatory drugs on “patients” to break down their defences and hypothetically force them to confront their unacceptable behaviour. Patients subjected to this “treatment” walked around delirious, for obvious reasons.

Far more extensive and arguably even more torturous was the Motivation Attitude and Participation Program, in which “patients” were kept on the floor and not allowed to move a muscle for hours at a time, one day after another and generally for fourteen days on end, often chained to one another while being overseen by “patient teachers” who had authority over them and would punish them for the slightest movement, even forcing them to take drugs—all of this transpiring in a confine described as “three square feet.” This hyper-surveillance and disciplining by “patient-teachers,” I would add, continued on for some time after MAPP was officially cancelled.

Finally, nothing compares with the horror of the capsule, the part of “social treatment” that ironically seems to have inspired Barker to call STP “Buber Behind Bars.” In a tiny room, patients were kept chained to one another, naked, forced to “encounter” each other for hours on end, day after day—and with the only food which they imbibed during the “treatment” being liquid, which was fed to them via straws emerging through tiny holes in the walls. Herein we appear to be witnessing Barker’s understanding of “healing dialogue” and “total encounter,” though clearly what was happening was torture.

Is it any wonder that those subjected to this “treatment” were severely traumatized?

Now eventually, after decades of scandal, the most gruesome features of STP were discontinued. And recently, the Oak Ridge site itself was closed. Would that such torture had never been allowed in the first place! And would that at least some semblance of justice for the victims (the 31 litigants represent but a fraction of the victims) had been meted out decades ago! All of which brings me to ponder what has materialized here—and I invite readers to do the same.

There are legions of questions that cry out to be answered: With reports of the horrid abuse at Oak Ridge surfacing frequently over the years, and with Barker’s own articles conveying a sense of profound violation, how could this travesty have continued unabated for so long? What is wrong with the world and with the “therapeutic” community in particular that what happened here was hailed as a major advance? If STP was called “punishment” instead of “help,” could anything remotely this invasive have been practiced? And while what happened is an extreme, given that extremes “write large” the typical, and in so doing illuminate it, what does this tell us about the relationship between “mental health” practices and social control generally?

A few more questions, to bring the focus squarely into the here-and-now: Why is the current and laudable protest against the use of solitary confinement in prisons not being coupled by an equally voracious protest against its use in “mental health facilities”? Can anyone really believe that solitary is “torture” for one population and “necessary treatment” for another? Correspondingly, in light of the flagrant abuse that went on in Oak Ridge for decades, how is it that the University of Toronto and Waypoint have recently mounted a digital commemorative archive of Oak Ridge, which is up for all to see on the internet now, and which is more laudatory than not? Indeed, the impression created is that what Barker introduced was good and the problems leading to the Ridge’s closure were simply created by his successor Maier, who, being hippy-like, overdid the use of psychedelic drugs! Contrast this with the tenor of the various archives dedicated to Third Reich atrocities—the reference point that Barker himself introduced—and the problem with our response to our own human rights violations becomes crystal clear.

That noted, there is indeed something to celebrate today—not only the Perell verdict, which is decidedly enlightened, but the wording accompanying it. Note in this regard, after stating that “torture is torture” irrespective of either intent or how it is seen at the time, Justice Perell went on to say, “It is a breach of a physician’s ethical duty to physically and mentally torture his patients even if the physician’s decisions are based on what the medical profession at the time counts for treatment for the mentally ill.” [my emphasis]

What this means, in essence, is that the fact that something is accepted “medical practice” does not legally absolve practitioners of wrongdoing. Herein we have a ruling by a judge that can be cited as precedence. Moreover, one that willy-nilly invites society to reexamine current practice.

Is not all seclusion torture, whether it happens in a prison or something called a “hospital”? What about involuntary treatment itself? Moreover, given that no less reputable an organization than the United Nations has declared that forced psychiatric treatment could be considered torture (see Minkowitz, 20142), and given that every state in the world is blithely ignoring such pronouncements, should these states not be held accountable, beginning with our own?

Correspondingly, if hallucinatory drugs can be ruled torture and a breach of fiduciary responsibility even though it was accepted at the time, how about the current use of “electroconvulsive therapy” or ECT, what with the grand mal seizures produced, the eradication of memory, the terror instilled, the profound interference with ability to navigate life? (For details on these ECT realities, examine survivor testimony; also see Burstow, 20063).

More generally still, are not both biological and institutional psychiatry (to a degree, at any rate) inherently torturous?

Be that as it may, the bottom line is that not only is torture still happening, it remains rampant in the “mental health area”—and it has to stop. The good news is that we now have a verdict that can serve us. Let’s start utilizing this ruling, this precedence to penalize and in the process begin putting an end to current abuse—tortuous practices, that is, that pass as acceptable largely because they constitute “standard” practice. Lawyers, survivors, advocates, let’s put our heads together on this.

Meanwhile, psychiatrists, be forewarned. And if for no other reason than self-protection, give some thought to what you yourself may be complicit in.

Show 3 footnotes

  1. Burstow, B. (1986). Oak Ridge: Before and after the Hucker Report. Phoenix Rising, Fall, 1986: pp. 25-29.
  2. Minkowitz, T. (2014). Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and liberation from psychiatric oppression. In Bonnie Burstow, Brenda LeFrançois, and Shaindl Diamond, Psychiatry disrupted (pp. 129-144). Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.
  3. Burstow, B. (2006). Electroshock as a form of violence against women, Violence Against Women, Vol. 12, No. 4: pp. 372-392.

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59 COMMENTS

  1. Bonnie, thanks for bringing this to our attention. To me, the victory seems bittersweet because, as you say, these atrocities shouldn’t happen in the first place. I’m wondering what each of us, as educated and aware individuals, to find these sadistic psychiatrists and therapists and stop abuse before it happens (or reoccurs).

    One way, as I see it, is to report abuse. We need to get victim’s voices heard. Lauren Tenney does a great job of this in her radio shows, allowing victims to call in. She also has a call-in number where you can report abuse.

    I don’t know about Canadian laws, but in the USA there are mandatory reporting laws. I know when I was being abused on a medical floor, I let every single person know who would listen. Every doctor who came, any nurse or anyone who wore a uniform. Of these, one or two of the nurses, one of the 1:1 people, the student nutritionist, and even the phlebotomy teacher and a few of her students believed my story. I ask myself today why they thought they didn’t have to report abuse. Another person who arrived at my bedside was a patient satisfaction person. I told her everything and begged her to report this abuse to her supervisor. She gave me a blank stare and said, “It’s my last day and I’m leaving.” Aren’t these folks trained in mandatory reporting, and bound by law to tell the authorities? A state legislator said my situation was so illegal I could have phoned the police.

    Another thing we ourselves can do is to scour the studies for anything coming out in “their” literature about great new therapies. Dishonest people expose themselves all the time since lying isn’t as easy as telling the truth. We need to spot the use of euphemisms, vague language, overblown recovery rates, and misuse of statistics. If we hear anecdotal evidence (stories) about harm coming from such great therapies, these need to be taken seriously.

    We need to make it easier for victims to come forward and protect them if they do. Victims who are particularly vocal (writers, journalists) are a threat to “them” and retaliation for the purpose of silencing or discrediting will go wall beyond what is legal. Many of us have been killed, subject to anonymous (hired?) bullying, tortured to the point of suicide, drugged, repsychiatrized, or incarcerated. Spouses and kids are not spared.

    I encourage MIA (editors, please note) to publish more patient stories, and fewer statistical babble from so-called “professionals.” I am so sick of hearing story after story about the “great new therapy” because if it’s more duplication of psych, or psych by another name, it’s bullshit.

    I don’t think anyone really knows unless they’ve been through the horrors. So-called “professionals,” if they really want to dismantle the system…I challenge you: Why are you still practicing (“therapy” included)? If you are truly anti-psych, don’t practice what you know is torture! Please report abuse, listen to survivors (because we should be the ones talking here!) and encourage other so-called professionals to report also.

    These torture operations need to end. We victims need to get our voices out there.

    If you see something, SAY SOMETHING!

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    • Absolutely, Julie, we must report. At the same time, reporting what is not known about is just the tip of the iceberg–these practices were not just known about, the were world famous and lauded, just like ECT today is world famous and lauded! We now have a verdict we can use. Part of the attrition model of psychiatry abolition to focus on what will erode the system and surely successful law suits against “standard practice” are optimal. I think we have just be handed a weapon. We should be suing the asses off professional who engage in standard practice that court might judge to be torture–and have been given the go-ahead to do so. Please note here the justice explicitly ruled that torture is torture irrespective of whether or not it is accepted “mental health practices”

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  2. When it comes to tortures inflicted on those people caught up in both systems, the criminal justice and the mental health systems, I’d say this kind of ruling, only scratching the surface, has got to be the tip of the iceberg. Just a year or two ago, in this country, there was this matter of women in the California prison system being sterilized. In an ocean of silence, here we have one small victory, but landmark describes it as far as I’m concerned. I’m sure more atrocities are on their way to being exposed, and let’s hope, as in this case, that people are honest enough to call torture torture, even if those tortures are inflicted by the state on its own citizens.

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  3. “Far more extensive and arguably even more torturous was the Motivation Attitude and Participation Program, in which “patients” were kept on the floor and not allowed to move a muscle for hours at a time”

    But first of course these monsters gave them drugs known to cause akathisia and involuntary muscle movements.

    A landmark victory would be the perpetrators going to prison. Justice would be inflicting the same torture on them they inflicted on others. So whats going to happen will they punish all the taxpayers by making them pay restitution for what these people did ?

    I pay taxes all the time.

    Edit:

    I guess it is a landmark victory when a judge can’t deny involuntary psychiatry is torture. Epic victory would be what I already wrote.

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    • I understand your sentiment. Rather than comment on it, let me just say, that wasn’t the nature of the suit they lodged. The survivors who launched the suit did not launch a criminal suit. They launched a civil suit.

      As for punishing the tax payers, legally speaking, tax payers are not held responsible for the actions of officials, though governments are–hence one of the defendants in this suit was the government of Ontario, which likewise was found guilty.

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  4. Great work Bonnie. Thank you. Sadly, much of the legal system, like political institutions, medical institutions, and academic institutions, are corrupt. But it never hurts to inject a little truth where falsehood and corruption prevail. I recommend the following blog post to anyone who would like to better understand the truth about psychiatry: https://psychiatricsurvivors.wordpress.com/2016/05/10/the-truth-about-psychiatry/

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    • thanks, Slaying_ the _Dragon_of_Psychiatry. Let me just suggest here that the fact that all these area are problem and while indeed, law intrinsically underpins psychiatry, does not mean that these other systems cannot be also leveraged to get at psychiatry–something that we need to do a whole lot better at.

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      • Bonnie I really think we need to address incarceration, period. How on earth did prison did get reworded as “hospital” and why did the public blindly accept this? It’s easy for me, having been incarcerated over 50 times, to understand how even the most intelligent and insightful of patients can be brainwashed to believe it all. Most are totally convinced but a few are not, and those are the lucky ones! Anyway, the public, too, is totally duped. The elephant in the room is so big, it cannot be seen. We, with all knowledge, theories, and arguments, tend to make this all too complicated and analyze it to death. But it’s so simple. NO ONE SHOULD BE LOCKED UP. And that’s it.

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  5. Nice formulation Bonnie, in this manufacturing of assent for like-minded others in our need to create a politics of experience. I note your e-motive use of the ideo-affective words; Third Reich doctoring here. Yet I am concerned that the usual Princess & Prince Academous, so to speak, simply demonstrate, upon this would-be psychiatric survivor educating web-zine, how self-refexive they really are.

    Let illuminate my meaning with wise words from a more existential, Doctor Reich:
    (THE INTELLECT AS DEFENSE FUNCTION

    It is commonly assumed that the human intellect has a solely objective function and that it is directed toward the world; ethics and philosophy in particular conceive of reason and intellect exclusively in the sense of an absolute non-emotional activity capable of comprehending reality “incorruptibly.” Two things are overlooked here: (1) the intellectual function itself is a vegetative activity; and (2) the intellectual function may have an affect charge whose intensity is no less than any purely affective impulse.

    Over and above this, character-analytic work reveals another function of the intellect which ties in very well with the inversion and opposition of drives discussed earlier. Intellectual activity can be structured and directed in such a way that it looks like a most cunningly operating apparatus whose purpose is precisely to avoid cognition, i.e., it looks like an activity directing one away from reality. In short, the intellect can operate in the two fundamental directions of the psychic apparatus: toward the world and away from the world. It can function correctly in unison with the most lively affect and it can also take a critical stand toward the affect. There is no mechanical, absolutely antithetical relationship between intellect and affect but, rather, a functional one.) An extract from, Reich, Wilhelm, Chatacter Analysis (pp. 305-306)

    While from beyond the world of Academous where the Dark Lord Ignoramous, doth lash thy Subject still:
    (Schizophrenia– the Inward Journey (1970)

    In the spring of 1968 I was invited to deliver a series of talks on schizophrenia at the Esalen Institute at Big Sur, California. I had lectured there the year before on mythology; and apparently Mr. Michael Murphy, the imaginative young director of that highly interesting enterprise, thought there should be a connection of some kind. However, since I knew next to nothing of schizophrenia, on receipt of his letter I telephoned.

    “Mike, I don’t know a thing about schizophrenia,” I said. “How would it be if I lectured on Joyce?” “Why, fine!” he answered. “But I’d like to hear you on schizophrenia, just the same.

    Let’s set up a dual talk in San Francisco: you and John Perry, on mythology and schizophrenia. How’s that?” Well, I didn’t then know Dr. Perry; but in my youth I had had the very great experience of kissing the Blarney Stone – which, I can tell you, is worth a dozen Ph.D. degrees; so I thought, “Okay! Why not?” And besides, I had such confidence in Mike Murphy that I was pretty sure he had something interesting in mind.) An excerpt from, Myths to Live By, Joseph Campbell.

    And feasting our eyes upon such lived wisdom, should we not consider the usual business of manufacturing assent, with a false-self sense that rhetoric is reality, will simply lead us onto the same old merry go round, that R.D. Laing so aptly described decades ago?

    Some do say, that acting-out the same behavior over and over again, with a Gestalt (temporal now) expectation of a different outcome, is most assuredly, a sign-symptom of madness.

    As I have commented on Michael Cornwall’s blog about our ubiquitous stupidity, Einstein said when asked about the human traits we name, personality; “the only trait I’m reasonably sure of is stupidity, it seems to be as endless as time.” Although for the well memorized sense of self journalist, he did add; “but what material substance of mine is contained within my name.”

    May I, with all due respect, for your authentic desire to see a revolutionary change in the vocation of psychiatry, suggest that a real-time Gestalt revolution would be in turning the tables, by using Comparative Mythology as a means of destroying the delusion of simply seeing the ‘mirror-function’ of the mind, as we all do?

    Within the halls of academia, one could ask the Mind Doctor, “Is there any such thing as a non-affective diagnosis?”

    And what, pray tell, is the existential difference between the word ‘effect’ and the word/name (are they really the same) ‘affect?’

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    • Your thoughts are interesting, but I cannot really respond as for the most part, I do not see any special relevance to what I am writing. Nor do I in any way believe that “gestalt” can undo psychiatry. I am far more a materialist than that. That said, good luck with your work.

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      • Ah! The material girls who do adore the material world, even unto this day.

        In the brilliant movie The Fisher King, Bonnie, starring the comic genius Robin Williams and based on the Grail Legend. Two wise women have a conversation late in the movie plot, and one of them, some might say is a representative of Sophia, the Goddess of Wisdom herself. This woman says: If God really is a man in psychologically ‘projected’ guise, then the Devil must be a woman, in said projected disguise, and perhaps we should simply put the two them in a room together and let then duke it out between them.

        Ah! Says the other Sophia in Wise guise.

        We’ve been doing that for millennia, my Dear!

        While in the north east of England some men say; Huh Bonnie Lass, don’t you know.
        “Thou shall have a fishy, on little dishy, when thy boat comes in!”
        “Sing for your Mommy, dance for your Daddy. When thy Boat comes in.”

        Boat being Symbolic of Thy Conscious Awareness for said millennia, Bonnie Lass.

        And Dante, all clever-wise, did float back down the river of forgetfulness, on his travels back to Paradise.

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  6. I am cheering: congratulations on bringing some tiny bit of justice to those abused at Oak Ridge and others similarly treated; their “‘treatments” have now been “officially” explained as “torture!”

    I am also cheering because all legal briefs used to support a legal challenge to solitary confinement as torture in prisons should be stronger legal support for a challenge to its use as coerced “therapy!”

    Does the public have access to archive photos of the torture?

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    • thanks, Steve. That said, it is the courage of the 31 men who brought a law suit who deserve the credit for this victory. Yes, I absolutely agree with you this verdict can surely be used to support the challenge to solitary confinement in prison–and I look forward to that happening. So yes, I am cheering also.

      Re the archived photos, yes, the public has access but the authorities made their selection carefully so as to make it look like very different, in fact good and caring work was happening with the men additionslly duly empowered.. Try this link to get an idea what I mean: https://historyexhibit.waypointcentre.ca/exhibits/show/treatment/or-program

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      • I am reminded hear, Steve, that the oldest active psych survivor in CAPA (Don Weitz) has written to me saying that he was to put on the agenda of the September meeting of CAPA holding a demonstration against the of solitary in both the psych system and the prison system

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        • I’ve participated in protests here in solidarity with prison strikers. An event of solidarity against solitary in both the psychiatric prison system and the criminal justice prison system strikes me as a great idea, and more of the kind action that we should be taking.

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          • Frank I am trying something similar. My approach is as follows: People coming out of prison can’t get hired. People coming out of nuthouses can’t get hired. Neither are welcome in society most anywhere, we can’t get housing either. My idea is to bust this down, to break down barriers and to empower, and end that we’re somehow inferior or “marked” for life. I also want to end the sex criminal list, which is totally illogical, helps no one, and really ruins their lives, promotes fear, and only a tiny fraction of violators get tried and nailed. They can’t get hired, either. So that’s what I want to start. I wrote to a local organization telling them to take down the sign up front saying “no weapons” since if you expect violence that is what you’ll get. No barriers. No walls. No more locks. No security. No cops. Take the hand off the panic button because we can see you. So that is the kind of thing I am aiming for.

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          • The parallels are definitely there, Julie. I was at a forum once where this ex-penitentiary inmate was complaining about how he couldn’t even get work as a custodian, and he would have settled for that. All he really wanted was a job. I’d say it’s worse in some states for ex-penitentiary inmates because, given recent “law and order” measures, the right to vote has been taken away from them. One thing is for sure, both groups are suffering from prejudice and discrimination something awful, and both groups have a lot in common in terms of how they have been treated (or, rather, mistreated). When a convict has served his or her term, that should make of him or her an ex-con, and with that status, his or her citizenship rights should be restored. As is, just as with ex-inmates of psychiatric institutions, for those returning from correctional institutions, a fierce civil rights struggle lies ahead of them.

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          • In the 80s, I was chair of a group in Canada called Resistance Against Psychiatry. Don Weitz was in the group also. Among other things, we declared allegiance with all prisoners and on Prisoner Justice Day, we demonstrated at both psychiatric prisons and “regular prisons”. Ontario Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault also took this stand. One difficulty we ran into, however, was prejudice from both constituencies against the other. Some psychiatric inmates were uneasy about being identified with “regular” prisoners, for they were worried that these were “bad people” and association with them would hurt the reputations of psychiatric survivors. Correspondingly, some prisoners in the justice system were worried about what would happen to their reputation being allied with people they saw as “crazy”. Herein, as I see it, is part of the struggle and the education that we need to do. That said, I do think it is time to again seek unity between the two movements– prison abolition and psychiatry abolition, the human rights re prisons and the human rights for re psych institutions (which when you come down to it, are prisons themselves)

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  7. Julie, a box does not come up when I go to answer your last question (its a complication of their web system). That said, to answer your question, no, making imprisonment fake medicine cannot be traced to any one person. Nor does this description itself exactly square with the history. Moving a certain segment of the prison population from prisons to hospital was the work of many centuries, with eventually the mad doctors (originally called “alienists” ) in charge. A reminder in this respect that in the western scene, doctors were since the middle ages were one the groups in competition over what might be called “the madness turf”.

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    • Thanks, Bonnie. This is very helpful for my own research. May I point out the Castlewood eating disorders center? This apparently was run by “therapists” who were accused of putting false memories in patients heads, ritualistic abuse. I’m not sure how this all panned out. I know there were lawsuits and the “therapists” were minimally punished.

      I was also subject to this, in a much subtler way. So I know they tend to strongly suggest IT MUST BE YOUR PARENTS and assume assume assume! My poor parents! The assumptions were so rude! Like assuming my mom was “enmeshed” cuz that’s what the textbook said! Then they said my mom was “distant.” Then they said my parents were “demanding.” Jeepers does it ever end!!!! Shove it in my face, won’t you? Over the years I heard horrific stories of abuse from other patients, even from therapists who had boundary problems, and I saw it and heard it with my own eyes and ears, so I know what real abuse is. My parents did not fit into that category AT ALL. For whatever reason, therapists assume you had bad parents, and they can’t seem to accept that maybe you didn’t.

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        • Bonnie I am not alone and that is what “therapy” is. Guesswork. Easy moneymaker, if you want to do it. Charge a fee to look legit, keep the patient sick, needy and dependent for as long as possible by adding diseases. If you’ve damaged the patient, change the diagnosis and blame the patient for the damages, and then, incarcerate to keep the patient silent to avoid a malpractice suit. Wow what a perfect formula to hide that this is a scam.

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          • There is a presumptuousness in therapy that is for sure highly problematic.And many have been hurt by people who call themselves therapists–just as you say, not just you but all sorts of others. That said, Julie, how do you account for the radical therapists who operate enormously differently than what you suggest? What is important to take in is that while psychiatry is baseless in the first place, and while individual school of therapy may have questionable claims, therapy over all is making no claims beyond the significance of engagement with another and self-reflection.

            As for the bit about money, what this leave out are the four or five decades of feminist therapists who, beyond the fact that they located problems in the social, not the individual, consistently used a sliding scale, in many cases agreeing to see people for just over minimum wage

            That said, I surely do get why people who have been harmed by presumptuous, unaware, and self-entitled therapists–and indeed, that is very common indeed, and across the whole spectrum of therapy –think of therapy as a scam.

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          • Bonnie, I usually ask therapists, “How sliding is your scale?” and they tell me sixty dollars!!!! Sixty! This is well over what a person on so-called “disability” can afford. Or anyone earning minimum wage. I remember ages ago (1981) I paid five dollars. Sixty is insane for something that isn’t a life necessity such as food or a roof over one’s head. And they charge sixty for group therapy, too. That’s the sliding rate. i don’t care how feminist they are, that is just a marketing ploy, I will not pay that. You want advice, ask your friends. Do an online search. Don’t pay for it, because paid friends is prostitution.

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        • As I said Steve, they had their textbook ideas, and I suppose what mattered was which textbook stereotype they were using. They had no clue what my upbringing was like. I would love to write about antisemitism in psych because I heard “typical Jewish upbringing” a lot, or “Jewish mother,” or even telling me I was a “spoiled Jewish girl.” Because they were authority figures (and through schooling, I’d been taught not to doubt them), I would just nod my head and say nothing. Even the Jewish therapists would make remarks like that.

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  8. I’m wondering if this all has any connection to the somewhat notorious “New York Institute for Social Therapy and Research” (I think that was the name), run by someone named Fred Newman (I think). (Probably not, but the term “social therapy” rang a bell.)

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    • Yes because we suddenly have a tiered society. Patients and staff. Us and Them. That was never there before. This is a fallacy that is actually hard to get out of one’s head once it’s there.

      I know patients, and even ex ones, insist that “professionals” are experts. I have worked with them and I try so hard to break down this myth. No you don’t have to consult a doctor to make life decisions. No you don’t have to ask a therapist. No they aren’t experts. No you don’t have to see one to straighten yourself out. They aren’t the experts on this thing called life. However, the myth is so pervasive that it’s nearly impossible to stop it. “The hospital will save me, they are the only ones….I have to call a doc, I feel anxious…..I have withdrawal, I need an doc for the brain zaps…..” They aren’t gods nor saviors but that’s hard to get out of people’s heads once it’s in there.

      Maybe the question to ask is the following: What field exactly are the experts in? Probably corruption, lying, deception, and coverup, but anyway……

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      • It is truly a religious system. The doctors are the holy priests, and people go to them for magical cures. They even have holy vestments. Nurses could be considered “vestal virgins” of a sort. The Holy Scriptures, in psychiatrists’ case, are the pages of the DSM, which ironically enough is often called the “psychiatrists’ Bible.” Doctors are the priests of Scientism, the belief that Science will provide us with Ultimate Truth. Hence, doctors are believed regardless of the sense of anything they say, and those who speak ill of them are considered apostate or heathen. Real science often inconveniently undercuts many Scientist dogma, but that doesn’t seem to bother the True Believers. Hence, we have electronic fetal monitoring as a standard of care (increases Caesarian rates massively with actual reduction in outcomes), cholesterol drugs massively prescribed with little to no improvement in outcomes, and of course, the entire field of psychiatry, whose clients are sicker and die younger than those who manage to escape their notice.

        It is very hard to undercut basic mythology in any society.

        — Steve

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        • Hi Steve, they say that right answers to difficult problems are always prefaced by right questions, pointing to the paradox of lived experience, which the famous Zen Koan’s try to ‘orient’ subjective experience towards. Yet, ‘how’ to frame the right question if one is existentially unaware of a problem in the first instance of an ever temporal, subjective experience?

          It’s interesting, how, without noticing the habituated nature of our subconsciously directed behavior, we tend to posture the pretense, using our innate gift of imagination, the illusion that the word, consciousness, is the lived experience of. . . consciousness. While in regards to your sense ‘of a truly religious system,’ Steve.

          Joseph Campbell said the religious priests suffer from the problem that they have the words of holy scripture (some say it was always about being a whole-self, not a holier than thou self), but lack the experience the words ‘allude’ to. And we of the holy survivor community know only to well, the distaste and disregard, professing professionals have for our lived experience.

          Michael Cornwall, in an essay that some say was his finest hour to date, mentions the phenomena of psychological-blindness, as a necessary experience of doctrinal faith. While towards the end of the book ‘A Dangerous Method,’ the author asks readers to consider whether people like Freud, Jung and others, were consciously aware that they were creating new doctrine, that can only be adhered to by the existential phenomena of faith.

          While we play the politics of experience game with some say is dog whistle politics, and they say that this phenomenal experience is a lower form of wit that sarcasm. Conservative politicians accused Obama of being a hope merchant, a peddler of false expectation. While wise people say that when playing this subliminal dog-whistle game, should one really be surprised when it gives birth to a dog-whistle response?

          “You the bad guy!”
          “No I am Not!–You the bad the bad guy!
          “Na…nana…nana.”
          But, where is Narnia, pray tell? Ask the confused masses, who just want to know what the hell is going on, in this ‘rhetoric-is-reality,’ illusion? While a truly wise man once said:

          “I teach them in parables of the human condition, because it is true, as the prophets have said: they see yet do not see, they hear yet do not hear and neither do they know themselves.” -The Nazarene

          And what does the ‘word’ parable mean: (A parable is a succinct, didactic story, in prose or verse, which illustrates one or more instructive lessons or principles. It differs from a fable in that fables employ animals, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature as characters, whereas parables have human characters. A parable is a type of analogy.) Copied from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable

          I am sure that intelligent people place great store in the capacity of words to describe the image of material objects, but I do worry that PhD initiated ceremonies of experience are a form of Anti-Experience. A well practiced form of dissociation.

          And if I may paraphrase the great R. D. Laing: the range of what we think and do is limited by the way we fail to notice that we habitually fail to notice, ‘how’ we do being human.

          Sorry if is too long comment disregards blog etiquette here. I can only beg forgiveness, being a survivor of a system that made me…Mental. In the Crazy-Wise sense of the term/word, mental.

          (Do you get it, Crazy-Wise, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more, in a full monty-python, kinda way.)

          And I should have listened well to my Mom, when she said (Sophia-Wise) stray not close to the wise ones dear, least they unsheathe their swords of insight and render thy veil asunder.

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          • Myth of Mental Illness. Myth of a chemical imbalance. Myth of a Chenical Cure. Myth that we really know ourselves through the memory of numbers, letters, and words.

            And is Normality a Cult like Religion, Julie Greene?

            Comparative Mythology, may be a new way, beyond the yarda, yarda, yarda of our attachment need? Yet we must keep on keeping on, and not let on that we perceive the web we weave, in our need to make a living.

            I am human. I walk and talk. How I do that, I have no clue, but hey, I’m Normal.

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  9. Thank you Bonnie and All
    We who can are privileged to be able to join this battle against oppression . ” The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.”__ George Orwell
    Sadly society has drifted so deep into pseudo science in so many area’s even wearing a hazmat suit , full time is little protection from the effects of the mythology . You got to bop and weave side step and moonwalk sometimes even look like a compliant and quickly slip away. Most likely got to BS your own family or they’ll put you in harm’s way.When victims lived experience is painted as doubtful and lies for profit are the science of the day. And the more drug toxins , electricity , smart technology pollution ,” modern medicine”, or simply payoffs , the less the attention span . Skepticism without any inclination or energy or time or even ability anymore to investigate is all too common. Many even partial solutions are even too expensive for most .
    The best answers i’ve seen include get away from psychiatry by weening off or stay away if not yet caught . MIA a great place to search . The website suggested above by Slaying_the_Dragon_of_Psychiatry is
    a remarkable resource easily useful , when you start exploring it for understanding the truth about psychiatry and even a springboard for figuring out creative ways to Slay it as best as possibly we can . There is even permission to accurately reprint from the site if credit is given .
    https://psychiatricsurvivors.wordpress.com/2016/05/10/the-truth-about-psychiatry/

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  10. Thank you for your report, Bonnie Burstow. I languished in a psyche ward myself and only years later did the thought occur to me that I could take legal action against the psychiatrist or hospital. I called several attorneys and they all told me that the state I live in has a statute of limitations; you have to bring the suit within two years of the incident. Drug induced insomnia is a form of torture as stated by the US Army. Believe it or not, this went on for two years. I could not consider suing the perpetrators because I was too mentally ill from their treatment. By the time I got well, it was too late to sue. Are there no exceptions to this rule ??

    Frances Dale – author – Little Porcupine Goes to the Psyche Ward

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    • Frances I didn’t even know drug-induced insomnia was lawsuit material. I had it too. Five years of no sleep. I didn’t go to a sleep clinic but I used sleep trackers that indicated I was only getting into a hypnotic state and was not getting any REM nor deep sleep. Naturally I was exhausted beyond belief, a total bitch, and feared my organs would collapse. Finally, without seeing any doctor at all, due to my fear of getting labeled again, I managed to get substances to help me sleep, very small quantity, which is key. I tapered off, very slowly, and now do okay on aryuvedic herbs. It was hell on earth. Constant exhaustion. I look back and realize people commit suicide due to exhaustion like that. I didn’t. I lived. And equally hell was that my psychiatrist who had caused it claimed it was due to mania. Her claim was so illogical. Then she claimed I was “mixed.” Anything but taking the blame. Actually, I want an apology more than I want to sue.

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      • And Frances look up Zyprexa/insomnia in the forums, there are a lot of us now who went through it. I wasn’t on Zyprexa but I was on a cocktail that caused it. This is so common that really we need to band together and get the FDA onto this.

        Cocktail leads to torture.

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        • Hi Julie. I’m sorry to hear what you went through. I was wide awake and manic for two years. I was given a steroid and the steroid made me insomniac. They kept giving it to me in the psyche ward because I had drug induced lupus from prozac. I guess I’m going to do a personal story on this site because they asked me to. I’ve been working on it. It starts with the plot of Little Porcupine Goes to the Psyche Ward, my graphic novel. Then I manage to get into the first person and tell some more about my two years of insomnia which constitutes torture because I told the doctors I couldn’t sleep and they decided I was so stupid I didn’t KNOW if I slept or not. I eventually was switched off the steroid and onto an antimalarial for the lupus.

          The establishment doesn’t care about these many mistakes that are made. The doctor who gave me the prozac never apologized when I saw her again in the hospital. She ignored me. This is normal, standard behavior for them. I actually toy with the idea of taking my book on the Dr. Phil Show and having him apologize to me for being tortured. He apologizes to people all the time.

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  11. Dr Burstow
    My name is Steve Smith. I was in Oak Ridge when this torture was taking place. I think we may have met 15 or more years ago. It may have been through Randy Prichard ?
    Thanks for doing this… it’s important it is not forgotten.
    I wrote a book about my experience.
    The good news is a movie based on my book is in the works.
    http://www.thepsychopathmachine.com/
    Fortunately my life has turned out fine. I am here today to talk about things I’m sure they never expected to come to light.
    I’m happy to talk about my first hand witness of this outrage…
    I’m not shy or fragile… only determined to reveal everything.

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