Sunday, April 30, 2017

Comments by Sandra Steingard, MD

Showing 100 of 793 comments. Show all.

  • Thank you for sharing this history of the development of IDP and its ongoing evolution. I am deeply grateful to have been the benificiary of your teaching. The richness of this experience continues to have much resonance in my life. The links to social justice are important. In a related theme, we all need to consider how we can make this approach and these values available to all, especially those most disempowered in our society.

  • Thanks. I was worried I did not have this all correct. That is so interesting that he started in 1974. I always wondered how far apart we were in training. I started in 1981. Psychoanalysis remained dominant in many areas (mostly along the coasts but I guess as far inland as Atlanta) through the late 70’s and early 80s.
    My medical school department of psychiatry had an analyst in chief as department chair until 1980 and when he was replaced by a psychoanalyst who had became a psychopharmacologist. It was the shifting of the sands.

  • Abby,
    Thank you. I am at work with tears in my eyes. Your words mean so much to me. I did not mention you by name out of respect for your privacy but I am so pleased to have your voice here. You are a part of this work.
    What I have not mentioned is that my father died 8 months ago and I feel the resonance. It does not require a psychoanalyst to wonder if there is a link between the sense of loss I feel today and the sense of loss I feel for my own father. At the same time, it in no way diminishes the genuine sadness and admiration for Mickey. It only intensifies, I think, a connection I feel to you and your family.
    With warm regards,

  • I think there are are many psychiatrists who agree and yet the answers – especially with a kid who is extremely violent – are hard. This is the issue- it takes time and resources and people who believe that it is worth it toweather the storm. All of this is in short supply. I live in a place where are fair amount of resources are put into non-pharmacologically driven care and we can’t fill positions.

  • At least where I work, the psychiatrists still have more time than the generalists so they do have an opportunity to listen. In addition, it is only the psychiatrists – some but not all – who are actually reading the literature about the medications and have a more jaundiced view. The generalists need to know so much and it is much harder to “bend the curve” in their practicing style. I recently had a PCP resume care of a mutual patient because she did not think I was being aggressive enough with medications and she did not believe my opinion regarding their lack of efficacy. She was of the opinion that she would rather “do something” than do nothing. This is for me a more fundamental issue. Doctors want to be helpfuland giving a pill feels more helpfu
    Than simple listening.

  • At least where I work, the psychiatrists still have more time than the generalists so they do have an opportunity to listen. In addition, it is only the psychiatrists – some but not all – who are actually reading the literature about the medications and have a more jaundiced view. The generalists need to know so much and it is much harder to “bend the curve” in their practicing style. I recently had a PCP resume care of a mutual patient because she did not think I was being aggressive enough with medications and she did not believe my opinion regarding their lack of efficacy. She was of the opinion that she would rather “do something” than do nothing. This is for me a more fundamental issue. Doctors want to be helpful and giving a pill feels more helpful than simple listening.

  • There is a major discussion going on in other fields about the failure to replicate studies. This has gotten much attention In psychology.
    There is now a major effort under way in cancer research.
    There seem to be many factors that contribute to this – cost, subtle bias.
    For me, it does not undermine the scientific method but demonstrates how hard it is. In the meanwhile, we all form ideas about what is true. These challenges lead some to completely denigrate science and we see the emergence of “alternative facts.” For me, it leads to some deep sense of unease about the shifting sands of knowledge along with an aspiration towards humility.

  • Thanks for the comment. I think you have rephrased the drug centered approach to prescribing. In the early 60’s in a response to thalidomide, the FDA required that drugs have specific targets. This led the shift to a disease centered paradigm. This has not served us well. The field is now tripping over itself to explain why ketamine might be helpful for depression and why so-called antipsychotics are helpful for people labeled with mood disorders who have never experienced psychosis.

  • Thanks for the comment, Randall. I am angry about this same kind of thing. I believe this is what fuels some of my passion. But I still wonder if that anger clouds my thinking in other areas. That is what some have told me. This essay is a reflection of my reflections on these wonderings.

  • Thanks for your comments. I am not sure how “use your reason” will protect one from these various biases. In your use of the term “appeal to authority” you are referencing Kahneman’s work. The problem I am posing is that we all struggle with this, we are all vulnerable. At least that is what my reason suggests to me.

  • Hi Richard,
    Thank you for your comments. I thought I was clear in this paragraph preceding this statement that I was challenging the legitimacy of that category “schizophrenia.” By “merit the diagnosi” I was just referring to people who reported the symptoms which in our current nomenclature would lead to this label. It was not intended as a endorsement of the category. I am not sure how to critique a position without describing it.

  • Professor Murray,
    Thank you for your many contributions to our field and for your respectful engagement here. It is enormously helpful to have you share your reflections on your career. None of us are immune from having blind spots. As you know, the history of science and medicine is filled with instances where one area of certain “fact” gave way to a new paradigm.
    While the limits of human cognition may make it impossible to avoid these errors, we can decide how we respond to them. Some may hunker down and maintain their world view, while others have the courage and humility to admit to mistakes. You are clearly in this latter category.
    While I have no idea what influenced you to reconsider the data, I continue to believe that our shared profession is indebted to Robert Whitaker. Your paper can read as a synopsis of the chapter he wrote in 2010 in Anatomy of an Epidemic on the antipsychotic drugs. Sometimes, it takes an outsider to see what others have missed. Rather than be discredited, as he has been in some quarters of our profession, he also deserves our admiration and respect.

  • Thank you for sharing your story. Your perseverance and survival are remarkable. I have read another account of a young person – also from Boston- who had a similar experience.
    Another commenter brought up Justin P. Her case was championed in these pages. In that instance, the outcry was in the use of Munchausen’s by proxy to invalidiate the family’s concerns.
    I worry about the use of that label since labels – as you know as much as anyone – tend to get reified just by their utterance by anyone with a voice of authority. Rather than saying, these constructs – Bipolar disorder – have no validity and the treatments – drugs – are in effective and harmful, why do we need to add MBP?
    I realize, this is not the body of your post but it is in your bio. I ask this with genuine curiosity to a thoughtful and intelligent person – not to challenge or discount your story in any way.

  • I think recovery in this context arose as a response to a conceptualization of schizophrenia that defined it in Kraepelinian terms as a chronic deteriorating condition. Courtenay Harding and others did studies suggesting otherwise. These researchers aligned with the many people with lived experience who were told they would be symptomatic for the rest of their lives but had a different experience. Meanwhile, psychiatry in the 80s and 90s moved in a direction of conceptualizing a growing group if disorders as chronic – and often requiring long-term medications.
    This debate and rift in my profession is ongoing. I would not want to lose sight of this and it will be the topic of a future post when I have the time.

  • Thanks, Oldhead. I did not take it personally, I was genuinely curious. I think this is an evolution (or I am just late to the party) in rejecting the recovery construct when it is placed within the medical framework. But having supports in place that are helpful to facilitate personal growth is important.

  • Thanks for the comment. It is always good to know I am thinking along the lines of Jim Van Os!
    I do not think it is anti-psychiatry at all. I agree with you -it IS more democratic. There can be instances where the support person may help to give voice to an individual’s questioning of the expert opinion. but that is not anti-psychiatry, that is thoughtful clinical care.

  • boans,
    I was just trying to address the issue of the link between a drug and its effect. I believe I have observed times when the effect of the drug appears to be overall beneficial for that particular individual.
    So with alcohol, it can be beneficial for some and terrible for others, This distinction has to do with a host of factors.

  • I am not being cagey about this. I am doing more than implying a link. I am being explicit about the link. That is my observation. I understand that there might be factors operating other then the drugs but for some the change appears to be dramatic. For some, the change is experienced as a relief from what their mental state was before. For some the change seems positive to outsiders but negative to the one who is taking the drug. These are after all psychoactive substances. I adhere to Joanna Moncrieff’s drug centered model so I am not implying that they are correcting some underlying defect, just that they have an effect.
    I feel pretty sure after years of experimentation that when I have a glass of wine at a cocktail party, I am more relaxed and less socially awkward than I would otherwise be. I think that is a drug effect but who can ever truly answer that question.
    I do not intend to make light of forced drugging but I am speaking to my own limitations in not finding any way to keep some people out of jails or hospitals when they decline to take one of these drugs that appears to allow them to live more peaceably in our world. I truly wish I could figure out something else and I invite all of you to step forward to help your fellows in finding some alternative path.

  • Thanks, chris12345 – and thanks to everyone for what appears to be a respectful discussion on an extremely contentious topic.
    I think our opinions are in alignment and I am glad you have chosen to speak of your experience here. This is such a complex topic and there remains much we do not fully understand. There appears to be incredible variability – in outcome, optimal treatment, etc – among people who experience this broad entity we label as schizophrenia. I am mostly frustrated at colleagues who seem to reject that very simple premise. Some deal with this by saying “Well, they didn’t really have schizophrenia.” That is a meaningless statement when the way to prove it is for someone to reject the recommendations of the profession and go on to do quite well. But it happens the other way when someone says they find benefit from the drugs and are told they have just been co-opted by the system.

  • To jump in to this valuable discussion again –
    I appreciate the reframing Rossa and Richard have put on this. I think that can apply to some people I know. But a situation I sometimes encounter is that the person at the center of concern does not agree with the frame of “relapse” or the frame of there being any difficulty at all. But there is a difficulty for those around him. So a person is choosing to roam the streets of a frigid city, poorly clad at all hours. Or a person chooses to call the police and family at all hours due to some perceived problem that others do not perceive or even understand. But the notion of understanding or making meaning – which I do not mean to reject! – is just hard to apply because this implies there is an exchange between the people involved but in these instances, the person has no interest in having any exchange. And time passes and people worry. If we do not address or at least acknowledge this kind of predicament, I think we risk talking past one another with each side thinking the other one doesn’t get it (or thinks in black and white terms as one commenter suggests).

  • Rosas,
    You make many fine points and brought up the name of an old college classmate! I will track down his TED talk. But I do want to emphasize one particular point – that some people read in “Anatomy” that the drugs are always bad. I do not think that is what the book said but it is that particular interpretation that is in part why the book has been so controversial. I tend to consider the drugs the same way you do.

  • BP-
    What I was trying to say is that if the researchers found compounds that targeted GABA or NMDA, as Jill suggests, those drugs are likely to be as profitable as the current drugs. She was suggesting that drugs with these targets are being blocked from development for profit reasons and that was what I was challenging. Any novel compound that is promoted as having an antipsychotic effect is likely to be a fairly profitable drug. The failure to develop these compounds suggests that this strategy is suspect. I think we are in agreement on that.

  • I do not think this is about money. I think that any novel agent purporting to work in a new way would have a good market. Seroquel is off patent and most of the new drugs are “me too” drugs. However, there have been no truly new agents in many years and although I have no doubt Dr. Lewis’ work is important, the notion of NMDA/GABA involvement in psychosis has been with us for a long time.
    The deeper issue for me is that there is not likely to be some molecule that is effective for what are extremely complex problems. These conditions are likely heterogeneous.
    While I do not dismiss neuroscience, I am no longer sure this is the level at which we will arrive at an understanding of these problems which is actually helpful to people.

  • Yes. I think your notion of “forced safety” is helpful. And then we want to look with Carina Hakansson’s eyes to this place where people go to insure that it is a place that fosters healing and recovery.
    At the same time, people need to buy into a different model. If the model is that these are symptoms that need to be suppressed then there is no point to doing anything other than suppressing them. This is a hard concept to change.

  • Thanks, Carina. It is always an equal pleasure to read your comments! All I can add is that you are one of the people who has helped to not only think but to actually feel that there can be such a fundamentally different way of being.

  • Thanks for the comments and no offense taken! In fact, I have considered psychosis in an illness model for most of my career and I continue to struggle with the different paradigms. I think it is the clash of these different conceptualizations that lead to various groups interpreting the data in such disparate ways.

  • chris12345-
    I wanted to say that I appreciate your comments and your perspective. I am thinking of also posting on this study and you have inspired me to do this. What you bring up is that there is no right way and the study basically said there is no conclusive evidence on either side. My own impression is that there is such heterogeneity among those who experience what we call psychosis that we will never have a one size fits all approach.
    I wish you the best in your journey.

  • One comment I would add is that one of the studies they cite as not supporting your hypothesis was the Crowe study from 1986. This was a study of people who had experienced a first episode of psychosis, were treated with neuroleptics for one month, randomized to drug vs placebo and then followed for two years. They found a higher relapse rate in the group on placebo. However, this group published a second paper in 1990 in which they looked at functional outcomes and found that the group on drug had worse functional outcomes. I would at the very least record this study as mixed. I have sent an email to the authors and will write more when I hear from them.
    Also, the group on drug continues to have relapses through the two years but the group on placebo has more relapses early on and then the rate of relapse plateaus. We now have other studies that suggest if you were to follow the groups long enough, the rate of relapses might eventually be quite similar.
    But I agree that this is an important and helpful study and the failure to find support for the benefits of long term treatment (on average) is as important as their main finding. It is also important, as you point out, that the narrative we followed limited the kinds of questions we were asking.

  • I agree with you about the way a study would need to be set up but I do not agree with your hypotheses. We do not know what it means for someone to be out there for more than 74 weeks with psychosis before encountering the mental health care system. This was not a randomized group. For some reason, this group benefitted less form the NAVIGATER intervention than those who had symptoms for less than 74 weeks.
    There are other studies that suggest early intervention helps but one always needs to be aware that the earlier one intervenes, the more likely one is to find people who would have gotten well with no intervention. I address this duration of untreated psychosis issue here:
    This study does not tell us if the elements of Navigate independent of the drugs were helpful since that was not tested.

  • Hi Jill,
    I am not sure what difference you are seeing there. People were included into the study if they met criteria fo schizophreniform disorder, schizophrenia, or schizoaffective disorder. This was not a prevention study. When they looked at outcomes among those who had symptoms for less than 74 weeks and more than 74 weeks, they found that NAVIGATE had a much greater separation from TAU in those who had symptopms for less than 74 weeks.

  • Katie and BPD,
    While you are of course entitled to your opinion, I am uncomfortable with the personal attacks in these last few comments. I think this kind of discourse hurts ourselves and hinders what we are trying to achieve. Let’s stick to the data. We do not enjoy it when others try to undermine our arguments by speculating on what type of psychopathology might be driving us.
    If you are convinced that everyone can come through psychosis with some form of support that does not include ever using drugs, please provide the data. I would like to see this done in a system that has no exclusions. In Soteria and Open Dialogue, not everyone was helped by their approach.

  • Hi Madmom,
    I am sorry you were so disappointed by this post. It was not my intention. I think there are positive aspects of RAISE both in its content and in the associated hype. If you read Joanna’s post above, you can see that there is so much room for improvement and the RAISE study has the ability to garner support.
    I did, however, want to point out my own areas of disagreement while admitting that there is much to learn. With further study, I am likely to continue to revise my own thinking.
    I will continue to write and think about how we use the drugs. While I currently believe there is a role for them (and I disagree that everyone can come safely through psychosis without them), I worry about any initiative, even those based on Open Dialogue, that ignores how the doctors are prescribing the drugs. I worry that we will not replicate the findings of Finland, even if outstanding therapeutic services are offered, if the drugs are prescribed early, at too high doses, and maintained indefinitely for everyone. This remains a contentious issue in my field. I hear from psychiatrists who generally support what I write but, on this issue, they think I have gone too far. Some think I am so wrong about this, that this is a subject not even worthy of study. For them, the issue is settled and research on this topic is considered unethical.
    As for philanthropy, I will use this opportunity to mention the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care (full disclosure- I am on their board). This is a foundation that is trying to raise money to support research and promising approaches. This includes Open Dialogue, Hearing Voices, Mad In America Continuing Education, and Rxisk. We agree that there needs to be funding from other sources so please check us out.

  • Hi Joanna,
    Thanks for your comments. That is very interesting information about Dr. Kane. How this kind of obvious COI became acceptable is beyond me.
    It is hard for me to answer your question other than to address implementation in our clinic. The kind of care you describe has no resemblance to our clinic. We do not buy drugs and resell them. We have psychiatrists in the offices meeting with people directly. Although we are busy, we have not gone in the direction of the 15 minute visit.
    We already had a robust supported employment program so that was not new for us. What we added was a case manager but some clinics had a case manager who was trained in IRT. Overall, I am proud of what we are able to do.
    Since states are all funded differently, I can’t speak to challenges in other programs. But this is where RAISE is helpful and important. We now have highly influential voices who are telling everyone that we need to provide more than what you describe above.
    But the business model for CMHC’s is tenuous even in Vermont so I am not sure what the future will hold.Where I see a major challenge in implementation is in the training of clinicians who can offer IRT or any other treatment. The turnover in our clinic is high in part because those Medicaid reimbursement rates force us to keep our salaries are low. We recruit some very fine people but many move on for this reason. Most of the people who were trained by RAISE no longer work for us. This kind of work requires experience and practice.
    I am trying to implement Open Dialogue but no insurer will reimburse for more than one clinician to be in a room. So yes, the financing of this will be an ongoing challenge.
    This may be where people backing RAISE needed to emphasize its benefits. If we can convince people that these early intervention program improve long term outcomes, then an economic argument in favor of these programs can be made.
    Thank you for all of the fine work you do!

  • Nice post, Ron.
    One thing that is interesting is that his analogy to cancer does not hold up. There is much attention right now on the continuum of cancer. Most of us do have abnormal cell growth and the transition to a lethal state probably has something to do with a failure of our internal surveillance systems. Most things occur on a continuum and there is value in many areas to attending to that continuum.
    I think there is a legitimate question about who speaks for those who do not join in this conversation. There are many people who experience psychosis who remain silent. However, I do not think psychiatrists are more privileged to represent this voice than any other group. Many psychiatrists see people in a narrow way and this distorts our views.

  • Randall,
    I should have asked more questions about this. I am not going to allege a cover up without facts. Suicide risk is not listed i the side effects listed by the European Medical Agency. You were asking how I could not know about suicide risk. I guess at this point, I might ask you (or others) if they know more about this.
    I am nto talking here about demoralization that might occur after a person takes the drug and gains weight (although I am not disputing this might happen). I am talking bout the emergence of suicide thoughts and/or behaviors that arise after a person takes the drug and subsides when the drug is stopped.
    As for my own practice, if someone starts a new drug and reports a new problem, I will assume it is the drug until proven otherwise.

  • That is what I meant and I agree it wasn’t clear. None of us have the full story on these drugs because we do not have access to the full data. I meant to ask my source how he came to know this. But if one tries to keep up with everything published but this is not published, then yes, a so-called expert will not have this information.
    This is a problem throughout medicine.

  • Thank you for your comment. I think the distinction between prescribed drugs and recreational drugs is arbitrary. As you know, there are many drugs – benzodiazepines and opiates, for example – that are widely acknowledged as being used for both.
    Joanna Moncrieff, whose ideas I discuss in detail, has written eloquently about this.
    As I suggest before, I think part of the push to medicalize problems was an attempt by psychiatry to distance itself from recreational use. In doing so, I think we lost credibility in what can be our most important function – to honestly educate people about the various pros and cons of pharmaceuticals.
    David Healy has suggested in his book Pharmageddon that medicine went down a dangerous path when we got prescription privileges. Physicians were thought to be more impervious to the lures of advertising but we now know how that all worked out. Before then, people could consult with doctors about what may or may not help and then go a pharmacy to buy what they wanted to use. A commenter here said it is still that way in Uruguay.
    It is for this reason that I am far more comfortable with decriminalizing marijuana than increasing the indications for medical marijuana. We need more research in this area but I do not want to be the arbiter of who is using it for “medical purposes” to treat some DSM disorder and who is using it to just have a pleasant evening.

  • Exactly. The RAISE psychiatrist leadership certainly advocated for low doses. At the same time, they believe that drugs should be started as soon as possible and continued indefinitely. If that is one’s belief the. Early introduction of long acting I jectables makes sense.
    Whe. You read the article – I would love to know what you think – be sure to check out the disclosures,

  • Point of clarification, Navigate was not based on Open Dialogue. While there are some shared elements, there are also important differences. The RAISE researchers would say that early intervention with neuroleptics, albeit in lower doses, is critical. The family component in Navigate is psychoeducation and the education is about teaching a more medical model understanding of the problem.
    While I celebrate the attention this is getting, these distinctions are important.

  • You raise critical questions. I agree that psychiatry has on some level taken on the mantle of social police. There is a free on line Journal dedicated to this topic that I have been reading lately and I highly recommend it. It is the Journal of Ethics in Mental Health. The issue of called “Colonizing Forces in Mental Health.”
    I think the heightened medicalization is a (failed) attempt to escape this by trying to label problems as disease states.
    But honestly, I go to work and often I am grappling with other problems – helping people to survive in this world. Even if the determinants of the distress are based in our culture or the person’s unique experience of that culture or some combination – is it wrong to try and help the person be able to get food and shelter and make some life of meaning and value? If we can try to proceed in a way that is more democratic and respectful – is this, nevertheless, doomed to be a failed endeavor?

  • Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I am familiar with object relations theory and the value you find in it. Thank you for highlighting that here.
    As for the emphasis on drugs – hopefully I was clear that I do not necessarily think drugs are the center point, in fact, I think they most often do not need to be. What I am talking about is how to think of them and how to talk about them when they are considered.

  • bpdtransformation,
    While I think I tend to be conservative across the board, there is the added problem with cannabis is that there are many active ingrediaents which vary from plant to plant.
    I have suggested that following the ideas of Joanna Moncrieff and taking a drug centered (vs. disease centered) approach to thinking about the use of all psychoactive substances is warranted and would likely lead to a generally conservative stance on thier use.
    I think this is the essence of first do no harm.

  • Monica (and Will),
    I did read the entire piece and I agree that it reflects Will’s usual thoughtful attitude. I was bothered a bit by what I saw as his criticism that more physicians and medical organizations do not suggest marijuana as a possible treatment.
    While I agree that there is a Catch 22- we do not know enough because research has been severely restricted, I do not see how one can recommend something when one is never sure not only what that something actually is or what its effects will be for any given person.
    I much prefer legalization over the expansion of indications of medical marijuana. I do not want to be the arbiter for who does and does not get access. I would much prefer to be in the position of just talking to people about how use may or may not be helpful.

  • bpdtransformation-
    I think you are doing in your comment what many people here find frustrating when those in the so-called “biological sphere” criticize the collective views here, i.e. parsing out what is wrong with a study, even casting aspersions on the author, as a way of completely discounting the results.
    Personally, I am more comfortable concluding something more like, “psychotherapy” (even when you narrow it down to psychoanalytic psychotherapy) means many different things. Not only that, what is captured in the theory probably contributes a much smaller part to outcome than what happens in the relationship.
    When I read Alanen, I was drawn in more by what he and his colleagues did than with his psychological explanations of why he did it or why it was effective.
    I have lately been spending time on this marvelous website devoted to the work of Leston Havens, MD:
    He talks about his own work as well as that of Elvin Semrad. They were legendary psychiatrists when I was training. They operated within the world of psychoanalysis when it was the dominant psychiatric paradigm but they both seemed to accept its limitations. They both just seemed to know how to connect with people.
    What I wonder is –
    Can we really define what the “treatment” is and do our theories obscure or enlighten us?
    Can we teach what it takes to do this kind of work or will there always be some people who just seem to be better at making the kinds of connections that are critical to this work?
    Are there enough variations in this thing we call psychosis so that both of these statements are true: x-type psychotherapy does not help people who are psychotic and x-type psychotherapy does help people who are psychotic?

  • Thanks, Carina. I am glad you mentioned Tom Anderson. Although I never had the privilege of meeting him, his impact on so many people who are important to me is palpable.
    I was thinking of adding the names of people who have influenced me (us) but the list got very long (of course you are on it!) and then I worried I would leave important people out. But I wonder if we could create a reading list. I have read such wonderful books in the past few years.

  • Another example of why a drug centered approach makes so much more sense than a disease centered approach. With a drug centered approach we can give up the disease mongering and perhaps try to understand more clearly what the implications of taking this drug (or any drug) are beyond the first few weeks.
    This a a four week study. The drug had some cognitive effect – as it would on most people. But what happens over time? What are the impacts, as Dr. Molchan raises in her post – on cardiovascular function? How hard is it to stop? Is there diversion? Is there improvement that goes beyond the lab,i.e., does the drug help these women to actually function better in their lives?
    As a commented posted on another blog, it is bizarre that we celebrate the use of stimulants in one setting and vilify them in others (i.e.,with methamphetamine and cocaine).

  • With all due respect,
    I was merely attempting to respond to Richard Lewis’s comments:
    “Your statement seems to deny the role of learning through INDIRECT experience and knowledge” and then “Sandra, you did not yet respond to my above comment about indirect learning.”
    I never said that I could understand exactly what an another person has experienced, I was only suggesting that I was capable of learning. Of course, you are free to disagree.

  • Hi Richard,
    Sorry I did not respond to that comment. I thought it was self-evident that one can learn from ways other than direct experience as a psychiatric patient. I would suggest that my entire blog postings put together give the summation of what I have learned over the arc of my career as a psychiatrist. We are all learning and reshaping our views of the world on a daily (or momentary) basis. I am still learning and there is much we do not know. Not every one who experiences psychiatry comes to the same conclusions as those which are generally manifest here. And even the opinions on this site are varied. Just last night, I read Sascha Altman Debrul’s most recent post:
    I then went to read some of his earlier work. Sascha has taken lithium and yet he is open to those who reject all psychiatric drugs and he is open to what Joanna Moncrieff has recently written about lithium:
    I admire Sascha because he is a vocal critic of the system and yet understands that it is also complex and there is no one approach that will be satisfactory for all. I mention him because I think he has a credibility here that I will never have. I admire Joanna Moncrieff because her drug-centered model offers us a way to think about the role of drugs without reifying poorly formed DSM diagnostic categories or getting blinded to the poor outcomes.
    I admire cognitive psychology because they offer testable hypotheses and – at least the ones I have read (Kahnemann, Tavris, Aronson) -they reject their hypotheses and revise them when they do not pan out. That is not exactly what happened with psychoanalysis, it is not exactly what happened with those in the so-called recovered memory movement and it is a risk when people develop their own hypothesis about human behavior and then run with it in books and treatment clinics. I am drawn more to open dialogue and that network of psychotherapy because they focus so much more on how to connect and talk with people than on developing theories about what is wrong with people.
    I am all for hypothesis formation -after all there is so much we do not know! – but we need to be open to disproving and revising them and we need to allow in the light – the critiques of outsiders – since we are not always the best critics of our own ideas. Honestly, that is why I blog. I am a person of strong ideas but like every other human being, I know I have my blind spots.
    In the past, when I have suggested that there may be some people who seem to derive benefit from the drugs and even some who appear to thrive over time, many of the responses have been that these were individuals who were co-opted by the system and their responses were all placebo. Maybe but – and this is important – maybe not.
    I agree with what Robert Whitaker wrote above. I am not absolving anyone of anything. As I wrote in another comment, I was in mid-career in the 1990’s when the pharma incursion into psychiatry was at its peak and this is what turned me to being a critical psychiatrist. I have not stepped away from any of that. But can I join you and the abolitionists? Not quite yet. If the Sascha’s in my world want some help in figuring out how, when, or why to take lithium, I would like to try to be of some assistance.
    Thank you for the question, Richard. It helped me to clarify my thinking on this. I always appreciate the dialogue.

  • Maybe you are correct about 2010 but the thing that led me to Whitaker’s work was the obvious problem with the pharmaceutical/academic medicine connection. I saw the roll out of the new drugs in the 90’s and if you were paying attention, it was clear that the hype did not match the studies and that was even with the published studies! People like Marcia Angel and Arnold Relman were writing about this by 2000. I think people were willfully trying to keep their eyes averted. That is something I witnessed directly and it was pretty shameful.
    But I agree that Whitaker and others (including co-author Lisa Cosgrove) have done an enormous amount of work and deserve much credit for bringing wider attention to these problems.