Monday, December 5, 2022

Comments by Mark Sullivan

Showing 26 of 26 comments.

  • I had the good fortune to be supervised by a few of wise family therapist, Rob Marx and Claire Robitie and Dave Grove. They taught me that parents should be respected for the challenge of raising a family and they deserved to be understood in context of those challenges. The first session was about discussing the family strengths, and all of the things parents had tried to do to solve the problem. They were affirmed for their hard work. If a child needed to be redirected in the session the parent was asked to do it, with a view towards complimenting them on their attempt. Parents usually come in with the feeling they have failed in some way. That feeling is reinforced by others judgmental looks and statements. God forbid if that judgement is coming from other family members, children’s services, or the court. The deterministic philosophy of much of our psychology causes parents to feel that whatever is wrong with their kid is the sum total of every mistake they’ve ever made. Our useless DSM labels only make parents feel more helpless in the face of some mysterious chemical imbalance. As Frank Pittman said “When it comes to parenting, we are all amateurs!”

  • When I was a kid we used to say grace before each meal. Recalling this made me think that some of our problems with food come from the fact that it has become our enemy, rather than something to be grateful for and enjoy. God seems to have wired into us an amazing capacity to enjoy and feel pleasurable sensations – pleasure in food, music clothing, nature, etc. So glad you regained your ability to enjoy creation! So glad you shared your story.

  • I absolutely agree. As a clinical social worker for 35 years, and an ex-psychiatric patient from my teen years, I’ve come to think of “counseling” or “therapy” as consulting – trying to put our heads together, combining what the clients (I don’t care for the term “patient”) knows about themselves with whatever i have learned that might be helpful to them. The client ultimately needs to be the judge of whether or not I’m helpful, so in order to be helpful they need to “counsel” me about them. DSM labels are of no value in this process.

  • We have about 40-50 years of research on what the common factors in successful therapy are. Researcher/practitioners like Dave miller, Barry Duncan, and Andrew Solovey have done great research, based on client feedback, regarding common factors that predict successful therapy results. They tackle issues such as the Dodo effect and how to adapt therapy approaches to the uniqueness of the client. It is sad that the field is addicted to “selling” particular modes of therapy, rather than wrestling, as these guys have, with what works.

  • Great discussion and article. As an ex-psychiatric patient in my teens and twenties, currently working as a therapist in a Christian counseling center of a large protestant church, I find this article and discussion very uplifting. Uplifting because, it’s good to see my faith represented in the mix of religious ideas expressed in MIA. Also uplifting because, it re-energizes my desire to offer my clients (as well as graduate interns I supervise) something better than the DSM answers to struggles that are by-and-large struggles of the soul. Few things have helped me more than Robert Whitaker’s ( and his colleagues/contributors) dedicated work to bring hope and healing to those who have found psychiatry to be inadequate for healing of the soul.

  • It’s refreshing to hear of a psychiatrist who sees the spirituality of a person being relevant to treatment. Unfortunately, I seemed to detect a note of irritation (intolerance?) in your comment “without the dogma”. This seemed to be a reference to Darryl’s Judeo-Christian perspective.

    It is impossible to discuss spirituality without dogma. The shamanic concepts that Kelly spoke of are rooted in pantheistic and animistic belief systems or dogma. While there are certainly points of agreement between traditional, orthodox Christianity and all other religions, there are sharp points of division which Darryl alluded to. I understand that traditional Christian dogma may make some people wince at ideas such as the exclusive deity of Christ or his literal physical resurrection from the dead, but I hope we can all be patient with one another when theological and philosophical differences arise. We can’t simply roll them all into one generic brand of “spirituality” and pretend these differences don’t exist.

    As Christian, a recovered schizophrenic, and a therapist for 30+ years, I want to believe that more traditional religious views can be included into this very important discussion.

  • Christianity certainly embraces the ide of a transcendental reality and a kind of oneness but it rejects the idea of a oneness wherein our individuality is ultimately obliterated or absorbed as a drop of water in the ocean. Christianity asserts the paradox of unity and diversity. In other words, we will all exist eternally as individual beings and yet in total oneness with those who have put their faith Christs atoning work and literal physical resurrection – his proof that we will be resurrected, not merely absorbed into oneness.The sin that is within us, alongside the image of God, is expressed in our humanly created systems that oppress, whether those systems are political, religious etc.. This is why Christianity, rightly understood, speaks of a need for salvation from sin.

  • I went through the same thing at the age of 17; 4 point restraints, straight jacketed, and doing “the haldol shuffle” in the psych ward. Thankfully, a friend of my father’s, who’s son had been though shock therapy, advised my father to get me out of the 1st hospital, where they wanted to “light me up”. After several other multiple-week, local hospitalizations and a 5 month stay at an out of state facility, I came home, went to live on a Christian commune (this was back in the 70s during the Jesus Freak movement), where I was treated like a confused kid, instead of a Psych case. A psychiatrist who was affiliated with the church that sponsored the commune helped me get of the meds without any misgivings. Interestingly, he wa Pillipino. Apparently, he had a different cultural view of the psych med thing.
    Today, at the age of 60, I’m privileged, as a therapit, to try to help others avoid the psychiatric route to permanent “mental illness”.

  • With all due respect, only someone who had some bizarre opposition to parenting could make a sttement like, “having children is an easier way ,,, an addiction …a drug”. You have the luxury of saying this because you’ve never agonized over a critically ill child, a drug addicted child, a child who was victimized by a psychiatric system, etc. As a parent, a therapist and a non-medicated, psychiatric survivor (depression, psychosis etc) I find your “diagnosis” about being a parent judgemental, at the least, and arrogant at best.
    Was it really necessary to insult those of us who have taken on the challenge and the joy of parenting? By your line of reasoning we could say that choosing to be childless is the easier way; some kind of addiction or drug — the arguement works both ways. Some of the people I respect the most have chosen not to have children. I would never try to judge that decision. I hope you will
    rethink your judgement.
    By the way, I seem to meet all of your criterium as a therapist, less the parenting.

  • I can,t wait to hear his reply. Doubt there will be one. Any one who relies on the ad hominem attack is not being intellectually honest.

    Since I completely recovered from my so-called schizophrenia, I suppose that he would have to say that my Columbus, Ohio psychiatrist and the psychiatric staff at The Institute of the Living, one of the premier psychiatric facilities in the country, were incompetent and mis-diagnosed me. After all, I’ve successfully been off of medication for almost 40 years and have been a therapist for 30. Well, maybe I’m just in long-term remission?!

    Hope you come to Columbus soon. I enjoyed seeing you at Suzanne’s.

  • My heart broke as I read your account of loved ones who suicided. It made me think of one of my favorite songs by Bill Malonee, Earth Has No Sorrow That Heaven Can’t Heal. As a young aspiring musician, sensitive and idealistic in my yearning for a better world, I eventually succumbed to suicidal despair and the services of the psychiatric system. Depression and psychosis overwhelmed me, though ironically, it may have been my departure from reality that saved me from killing myself. Thankfully, with the help of some good people in an evangelical church, I was able to revive a sense of hope and God’s love for me. This enabled me to shed the meds, shake the demons (figurative and literal) marry, raise a family and pursue a career as a therapist.

    Suffering is a great mystery. I’ve seen friends and family die from suicide, drug overdoses and tragic events. All three of my children have seen the same things in their peers. Despite all of the psychological, philosophical and theological attempts to explain these tragedies The only thing that seems to give me comfort and hope is a bloody God/man on a cross. Forgive me if this sounds like crass proselytizing, but this Christ who claimed to overcome death, is the only adequate answer that seems to make sense. Only a God who suffered, died and resurrected, seems to have the right to ask us to trust him in the face of the horror that this world imposes on us.

    God bless you in your fight to make sense of it all.

  • Sorry to be so slow to respond to your question, “What religion are you? — busy lately.

    I’m what most people would consider an evangelical, born again, charismatic Christian. Those labels represent the beliefs in the infalibility of scripture, the necessity of faith in Christ for salvation from our failures, a belief in continued existence of the supernatural gifts of miraculous healing and God speaking to us through various means. Unfortunately, those labels also carry with them connotations of a narrow- minded, right-wing political ideology which I don’t identify with. I like to think I analyze questions of politics and morality through a biblical filter rather than a Republican or Democratic filter.

    I like your statement of God being your “undeserved love”. I believe that kind of humility before God is what enables us to achieve sanity in this mad world and bless others in a way that helps them along in their journey.

  • With all great religious doctrines there is mystery and logic. The mystery of the trinity concerns the puzzle of how 3 persons can be one God. This entails the unity/diversity concept i mentioned before. The logic of it is the correlation between God and us. God’s nature (Image) being personal and relational and our nature being personal and relational. It simply makes sense that if a God created us “in his image” we would be like Her/Him – social beings with the capacity to love and relate. Of course, with the privilege of free will we can hate and isolate.

    The healing potential with this understanding of God is that He/She would be the kind of God we could know personally, receive forgiveness and guidance from in the context of a loving relationship. An energy force cannot love you. If there is ultimately only unity, where we are absorbed into the oneness, we cease to exist and are therefore not in relationship or loved once we die.

    Thinkers, like yourself, don’t come to their faith easily, but when they do, it’s usually deep. Keep searching and ask God to show Him/Herself.

    I’d love to carry on this discussion, but I know this is not a religious site. Feel free to contact me at [email protected].

  • Dear Someone else

    I read your interesting blog and noticed your mention of Christian beliefs. I think it’s important to note that in discussions of concepts like “collective consciousness” and “spiritual energies” that there are two distinctly different paradigms to consider. The paradigm that tends to be assumed by the above terms is a pantheistic philosophy that conceives of “god” as being one-and-the-same with the universe – like the “force” in Star Wars. Judeo-Christian philosophy conceives of God as separate from and preexisting the universe, which was God’s creation.

    In Christian theology spiritual energies can come from good sources or demonic sources. Therefore, we don’t take a neutral view of these experiences, but as the apostle John said, we should “discern the spirits”. Often it is difficult to discern whether we are experiencing a seemingly good energy designed to deceive us, a Godly energy from the Holy Spirit, or a battle between the two within us (Perhaps this ambiguity is designed to keep us humble and prayerful). Your “manic” experience of memories about the good people in your life sounds like it was probably a joyful, Holy Spirit induced, experience to remind you of God’s grace. These can be fairly intense. In a psychologized western culture, that teaches us to fear or suspect strong emotions, it can be downright scary, raising the suspicion of madness.
    The experience of “collective consciousness” can probably be understood as an experience of the image of God within us that we all share. An experience of oneness with other human beings is never meant to compromise our sense of the eternal individuality and uniqueness we exist in. In other words, we are not ultimately absorbed into “the oneness”, but remain in a God-designed state of unity and diversity.
    As a previous recipient of psychiatric services in my youth, I am familiar with these manic/psychotic/spiritual experiences (I like to jokingly tell people “I’m a schizophrenic. I’ve just been in remission for 30 years”). As a therapist for the past 35 years I know that people like ourselves can recover our sense of reality and place in society with the right kind of help – preferably non-medicated help.

    I have to confess that part of my motive in writing this is to introduce a more explicitly orthodox Christian view of this whole psychiatric/recovery debate. There are at least two different spiritual paradigms – monism and pantheism – among those of us who have experienced healing of our so-called “mental illnesses”. I understand that some may feel I’m being divisive. Those of us who believe that Christ is God and and came to save us from our failings through his death and literal resurrection, share these experiences with our non-christian brothers and sisters. Therefore, we should be honest about the difference in our understanding of the “spiritual”.
    God bless us all in our fight for peace and sanity in this crazy world.

  • I completely agree with your ambivalence about evidence based practice. Dr. Scott Miller does a great job of debunking evidence based claims ( See his website at I recently heard an expert in corporate leadership studies say “There is no perfect structure. Structure is lubricated by relationship.”
    Dr. Miller likes to say “It’s the relationship stupid!” God help us if we become nothing more than technicians.

  • hi Fiachra and B

    You both make interesting points. There is the individual and social component to recovery. I was using CBT in my recovery, especially when coming off of medication, before I even knew what to call it. I repeated certain Bible verses that spoke to my overwhelming feelings of moral guilt and my desperate need for grace. At the same time I was involved in a church community that encouraged and supported me. One of the members happened to be a psychiatrist who offered to help me get off of my antidepressants and antipsychotics. Choosing to change my thinking in a loving social context largely explains my sanity today.

  • Don’t feel bad. When noteable therapist Gordon Allport visited the famous Sigmund Freud, and described to him the neurotic behavior of a young boy he observed on the train, Freud replied, “And was that little boy you Mr. Allport?”

    Maybe the psychiatrist was projecting repressed feelings of being corrected to by his father onto you?! Two can play at that game!

    The responsibility of any mental health professional is, first and foremost, to make a client (not a ‘patient”, which is another way to one-up a person) feel respected and affirmed, even if we have to disagree with them. Trying to counter what they say with psychobabble is disrespectful and childish.

  • I agree that CBT can be dry and carry a blame-the-victim connotation with it. The larger question is why does any therapy work for anyone? It seems that there are certain common denominators that are employed by effective therapists, regardless of the methods they use, that promote healing in clients. These denominators are almost certainly present in good support groups. Check out the for research information about what makes different therapeutic approaches work for different people.

  • I completely agree with Alix’s comment. I was hospitalized and medicated for depression and psychosis as a teen. I have never forgotten how condescendingly I felt spoken to by many of the mental health employees on psych wards. I observed this recently when visiting an adult friend of mine who was being treated for depression in a local psychiatric facility. The social worker was trying to convince him to watch a video on shock therapy, which he obviously did not want to watch. She spoke to him as if he was a 2 year old.

    Having now been a therapist myself for the past 25 years, I still remember a nursing student and a psychiatric intern who spoke to me when I was in a delusional state of mind.
    They treated me with dignity, honesty and genuine concern. Even in my confused state of mind I could feel their respect — it was healing and a lasting model for my own work with clients.

  • Suzanne, Thanks for sharing pain and hope of your difficult journey with Jake. As someone who experienced the confusion of drug abuse and psychosis in my youth, I can attest to the healing power of God’s mercy and good peole’s kindness. I’m 30+ years med free and fulfilled in life, as I’m sure Jake is in his new life with the Lord.