Showing 90 of 90 comments.
What a beautiful story. It made my day!
Absolutely. Magnesium is one of my many supplements.
Michelle – what a great story! Congratulations for not getting hijacked to the medication-for-life route. Getting the body in shape can work wonders. My Bredesen-trained dr sent me for lab tests and then prescribed vitamins, supplements and lifestyle changes for Alzheimer’s treatment/prevention. At 86, I’m thrilled with the results!
Thanks for injecting a little common sense into this academia that departs to the far end of reality. It’s a sad display of the shoddy intellectualism graduate students are required to display before they get their job tickets. No wonder the field is in such sad shape.
Certainly there are other paths that have worked in the past and that still work. To change metaphors a bit, the real experts often kick away the ladders when they have climbed high enough, and when they look around they recognize one another. This can even happen with the ladder called psychiatry, in spite of most of its practitioners doing all in their power to prevent it. A great pity, because so many people innocently expect them to be able to give useful advice on assimilation and recovery.
Might be true for the devil but not for me.
Julie – If MGH wasn’t testing for diabetes, why in the world did they restrict your water?? Mary Newton
Thanks so much for this report on the Israeli Soteria houses; it’s good to know they can operate successfully in such a conservative country. It gives me hope that our politicians and insurance company executives in the US will start using their common sense and look at the lifetime recovery rates in the Soteria/Open Dialogue models vs. recovery rates under the current drug-pushing medical model that produces life-long disability payments for increasing numbers of people – who also get free medical care and pay no taxes.
I don’t have the know-how and resources (or years left) to do this myself, but I sure wish you or one of your equally knowledgeable peers would would get these figures together and publicize them. Seems to me it’s going to take hard facts like this to counteract the half-truths and lies spread by Big Pharma and its allies.
I agree. Let’s stick to “mental health” issues, where we might actually have a chance to do some good.
Write me back at marysc11 “at” yahoo.com. I may have a deal for you. I am NOT kidding. I am impressed by your remarks!
Hear Hear! and Amen!
Thanks for the thoughtful article, which I largely agree with – with one big proviso: abolish involuntary commitment. That way, the whole “therapeutic” field would have to reform itself or else be without customers.
I consulted a psychiatrist when I first began to struggle with “psychosis,” and in the course of our conversation asked him “How do you know when somebody is crazy?” To my surprise, he said “By their behavior.” I questioned him on this, thinking surely there must be some kind of test or symptoms besides just how somebody acts. He insisted (as if there was a difference) that he knew “by their behavior.”
I left the psychiatrist’s office understanding that it was up to me whether I was “crazy” or not. If I lost control of my emotions and began to “act” crazy, then I would be “psychotic.” On the other hand, if I stayed in control of myself in spite of the strange thoughts erupting in my brain, then I would be “sane.” So Joseph Campbell was right after all: the mystic and the madman enter the same waters; the mystic, having been taught by a master, swims, but the poor ignorant madman drowns.
Believe it or not, this insight saved me. I found Carl Jung’s books and followed his advice to write about my experience in a journal instead of acting it out. This kept me out of the psychiatrist’s office and, to coin a phrase, I lived happily ever after. (I’m now 85 years old.)
Just out of curiosity, what kind of treatment (if any) should we provide for a man found naked in a supermarket parking lot, loudly insisting that he’s God?
We’ve come a long way from that time years ago when we both agreed a first-person spiritual perspective was not a topic that earned one brownie points in the world of respectable psychotherapy.
How things do change! Nowadays whole conferences are devoted to the topic of spirituality and psychology, and professionals like you are invited to speak in churches. A couple of months ago I myself was invited to speak at a Unity church here in SC, where it’s said there are more Baptists than there are people. Unbelievable!
People are getting disillusioned with old school psychiatry and they want to hear what you’re saying. Keep up the good work!
Will Hall wrote:
Our movement is brimming with great ideas . . . Open Dialogue . . . medication withdrawal . . . the Hearing Voices Movement . . . peer supports, nutrition, and trauma informed care . . . . And we’re going to fail unless we completely change our strategy.
This is just my opinion, but having experienced “madness” myself and learning to interpret it as spiritual emergence, I think “our movement” is going to continue to fail until we put more emphasis on the potentially beneficial aspects of altered states of consciousness. Where would you and I be now without the madness we endured and learned from? What was the source of your courage and wisdom? If you had your life to live over, would you choose to skip the madness?
Right now we’re just playing into the hands of the bio-bio-bio medical model contingent by harping on “recovery.” We need to aim far higher than that — to “weller than well.” Something worth living and working for. Something to hope for! And if you think I’m just trying to romanticize mental illness, think again. Old Joseph Campbell said it best: the mystic and the madman enter the same waters; the difference is that the mystic has learned to swim, but the madman doesn’t know how and is drowning. The duty of the therapist is to give swimming lessons – not to extinguish the experience that can make us truly human.
Go back and read Jung, Assagiolli, Viktor Frankl, Maslow, Loren Mosher, Stan Grof, Ken Wilber, Paris Williams, and then design your new strategy. From the ground up.
Best regards and much admiration,
“Generally speaking, any ‘abolish psychiatry’ slogan is empty rhetoric.”
I think you’re entirely right. I’m old as dirt, so I remember back in the civil rights era when the foot-dragging South insisted “change attitudes,” not “pass laws,” was the only way to end segregation. It turned out it was the other way around. Attitudes began to change only after segregation was outlawed. Anything less would have been a waste of time and effort.
Old Thomas Szasz had it right from the beginning. The UN has already declared coercive treatment a form of torture. Now we need to work to change the laws, beginning with involuntary commitment.
Thanks for the good practical article on uniting critical voices. If I may, I’d like to add one more suggestion. In the past I’ve been in hospitals, hotels/motels and restaurants that solicited my comments — in writing, and anonymously if I preferred — on the service they provided for me, and on the personnel who provided it. In fact, I’ve even been to a primary care doctor who did the same thing. I understand this is standard procedure in businesses and institutions that try to improve their reputation, and also their bottom line.
Unfortunately, “mental health” “patients” are often the involuntary customers of the institutions and personnel tasked with serving them, so no one bothers to ask their opinion of what they receive. Seems to me we would immediately see a noticeable improvement in service if policies for collecting, analyzing and disseminating feedback were put in place. Why should these “patients” be treated as prisoners with no rights or opinions?
What do you think?
Fortunately it only took me about 5 minutes to realize how ignorant and naive it was for me to expect the psychiatrist to seriously listen to me and know how to give me advice. But even after all these years I’m still appalled that these frauds wear the honorable cloak of Hippocrates and do such damage to the poor innocents they “help.” But I guess the priests who burned people at the stake in the middle ages thought they were “helping” too.
“If you saw the playbook used by some psychiatrists, a practice condoned by their guild, you would be stunned by the colossal waste of spending four years at medical college for anyone who bases his/her practice on following anything as ridiculous as a prescribing algorithm authored by a drug manufacturer.”
I was similarly stunned when I went to a psychiatrist for advice, and finally (after failing to get anything useful from him) asked how he knew when people are crazy. “By their behavior,” he solemnly told me.
By how people ACT? Wow, I always thought they had some kind of secret scientific way of knowing this, not just using common sense like the rest of us! I’m like you, I wondered why he needed four years of medical school. Needless to say, I never went back.
I pay a lot of attention to anecdotal information. It has spared me quite a bit of suffering from the side effects of medication. There is an excellent source of this kind of info on the internet. Google “ask a patient” (using quotes) and go to the first website it lists. It’s a gold mine — and free!
“Anyways, if I could go back in time, I would have never told them about the voices or the delusions.”
If a good friend had tried to warn you about this, would you have been able to take the advice and keep your mouth shut?
I know you must feel your story will not make much difference in how patients are treated, but please don’t feel that way. It’s because of people like you that I was smart and brave enough to flee from a psychiatrist’s office and never go back, after realizing what I was risking by asking him for advice.
A little background: many years ago, as a 27-year-old housewife and mother of two young children, I had to deal with psychosis myself. I was college educated and loved to read and ponder all the Big Questions, and in my reading I had stumbled across Carl Jung and his theory of individuation, or psychological maturity, which is something I longed for. Individuation, he said, comes about when the limited conscious ego accesses and assimilates the contents of the vast collective unconscious, the source of spiritual experience and wisdom. I eagerly pursued this line of thought, and one day had an out-of-body experience that convinced me I was making good progress. This was followed by even more impressive — and frightening — experiences that soon convinced me I needed some expert advice, so I went to a psychiatrist to explain what was happening to me, and what I hoped it meant, and to get his advice on how to handle the experiences.
As I’m sure you know, the psychiatrist was basically horrified at what I tried to tell him. Taken aback at his reaction, I asked him if he thought I was crazy. He pulled himself together and cautiously said no, because I wasn’t trying to talk him into believing in Jung’s theories or anything like that; I wasn’t acting crazy. But he so much wished that I had come to him sooner, so he could have spared me all this.
All I heard was the part about not acting crazy. I wasn’t crazy as long as I didn’t act that way. Trying to talk to him about what was going on in my head was obviously crazy. What I needed to do was go home and keep my mouth shut, unless I wanted to end up in the looney bin.
So I went home and kept my mouth shut, though it was the most horrendously painful and terrifying experience I’ve ever endured. I couldn’t talk to my family or friends; their reaction would have been to try to get me to a psychiatrist, and I knew the end result of that: a lifetime of stigma and shame and hopelessness. Death would be better. I hung on to my frail hope that Jung was right, and that if I accepted my experience in silence and learned from it, I could not only survive but thrive.
After three long years I finally decided Jung was right. But not a day went by that I did not suffer from my self-imposed silence, and long for a sympathetic listener who could simply accept my confession without criticism or fear and let me howl in anguish without being locked up. It would have been such a relief for me, and would have made my recovery so much quicker.
So thank you, Helen, for telling staff how important it is to listen to suffering people, instead of just diagnosing and humiliating and hurting them. I’ve been waiting for years to hear that someone is doing this. Please don’t give up, and know that others see what you are doing and will take hope from it. Not only patients, but staff too.
By the way, I eventually ended up going back to school and earning a PhD in psychology; I had a career in addiction treatment and am retired now, enjoying my children and grandchildren and travel. My advice to families is to encourage your recovering psychotic children to go back to school and get the degrees that will let them help others get through the same experience, because now they know what they need.
Mary Newton, PhD (ret)
Sounds to me like your daughter is a budding Wizard, and her parents are stuck in the boring Muggles world. You might read “My Mysterious Son: A Life-Changing Passage Between Schizophrenia and Shamanism” by Dick Russell, for how a loving father successfully tackled this problem. Your daughter sounds quite intelligent, so you may not need to use measures as drastic as Dick Russell’s. But for goodness sake, find out what’s on your daughter’s mind and start listening to her!
Please listen to what Sam is telling you! I went through my own “mad” experience years ago, totally without “help” from a psychiatrist or psychologist, even though I tried to find one who would listen to me and not just write me off as schizophrenic, or whatever. One of the very few things that helped me endure the experience was my loving husband’s ability to honestly listen to me and ask meaningful questions, instead of writing off what I said as “offensive” or “taboo.” How about getting some Jung books and reading them yourself, instead of endlessly searching for an “expert” who has? Read Jung’s autobiography (Memories, Dreams, Reflections) and see how he handled his own experience of alternate reality. Read Joseph Campbell’s “Hero with a Thousand Faces.” Read Adyashanti (aka Steven Gray), especially his “The End of Your World: Uncensored Straight Talk on the Nature of Enlightenment.” Show the books to your daughter and talk about them. Ask her what she really wants to do with her life. For example, would she like to go back to school and get the kind of degree that will let her help others deal with what she is dealing with?
[M]ost American early episode psychosis programs . . . are merely disease model, drug-distribution, “illness management”, brain-washing programs which do little to enable any depth understanding of what is going on. . . . [These] programs serve the needs of drug companies and psychiatrists far more than they serve the needs of patients and families. . . I hope that this can gradually change. Having said this, I very much doubt such change will come from inside the profession of psychiatry / public mental health treatment.
Many people have pointed out the need to replace the “medical” or “disease” model of altered states of consciousness with a model that better supports understanding and (especially) recovery. I think a good replacement would be Paris Williams’ “ego strength” model of extreme states, described in his book “Rethinking Madness” (2012). Briefly, Williams says extreme states are on a continuum of human experience, ranging from psychosis at one end to spiritual or mystical experience at the other. How this underlying experience manifests in the individual depends on variations in the observing ego’s strength. If the ego is overwhelmed by the extreme state and there is literally no observing ego, then the result is psychosis. If the ego is strong enough to stay grounded and assimilate the extreme state, then the result is spiritual emergence or a mystical experience (in psychological terms, recovery). This model of extreme states helps explain why there is so much theoretical uncertainty over the difference between spiritual experience and mental illness, since an individual can experience either state from one day to the next, depending on the fluctuating strength of the observing ego.
Williams’ model also opens the door to treatment modalities designed to strengthen the observing ego faced with the task of assimilating the powerful effects of an experience of altered consciousness. (Buddhism, for example, developed ego-strengthening meditation techniques for this purpose.) This is the challenge now facing western psychology: not to put a stop to potentially life-enhancing extreme states with powerful (and dangerous) drugs, but to develop treatment that nurtures and strengthens the ego struggling to deal with novel (and at times terrifying) mental experiences. At present, we mostly know what NOT to do: for example diagnose a demoralizing mental “disease,” lock the individual in a cold impersonal environment, arrange for permanent medication and dependency on others, etc.
Unfortunately, knowing the poor results of such methods doesn’t prevent their use. What might make a difference is a new model of extreme experiences that recognizes both their dangers and their potential for enhanced functioning. Many anthropologists have pointed out that other cultures have learned to use states of altered consciousness for the benefit of their people. It’s time we did the same.
I am ashamed of MIA for printing garbage like “Opening a Dialogue about Early Psychosis Programs in the US.” Considering present treatment that relies 99% on the medical model and drugs, this is about like recommending an Early Lobotomy Program. How about reading Robert Whitaker’s books again, and opening a dialogue on better treatment methods?
It would be interesting to know what experience/s turned you against excessive pharmacology and made you so different from many of your peers. Any comments?
At any rate, keep up the good work!
I worked for several years as a psychologist in a residential treatment facility for drug and alcohol abusers. It seemed to me the tests I used on incoming patients showed a disproportionately high incidence of TBI which their histories usually substantiated. I began recommending further procedures to investigate TBIs but was severely censured by the head psychiatrist who said I was driving up costs and putting the facility at risk in accreditation inspections. But I still think it would help patients like this to know that a their TBI, and not lack of “will power,” has caused their unusual susceptibility to substance abuse. Usually their ambition is “to drink (or use) like my friends do,” and this would let them know why they can’t, just as diabetics can’t eat like their friends do.
“Psychiatry can be a monstrous system where trusting people are chewed up and spit out.”
Kudos and brownie points to you for recognizing the worst and most neglected evil of the whole psychiatric system: the abuse of vulnerable people’s trust by powerful and well educated professionals. It compares unfavorably to priests’ sexual abuse of children. Children can grow up and escape their tormentors. Victims of psychiatry too often remain stunted and dependent until their too-early deaths, crippled by their faith in the god-like suits and heels who are paid so handsomely to stigmatize and drug them for life.
So keep up the good work toward the day when we have a Pope Francis of Psychiatry who recognizes what’s going on and acts accordingly. How about going back to school and applying for the job yourself?
Your story is a heartbreaker but congratulations on coming through with flying colors. You are an amazing guy! If you don’t already know about her, you might like Monica Cassani’s website beyondmeds.com. Her experience has been a lot like yours.
One member of my extended family has died of opioid addiction, and another suffered excruciating brain zaps for weeks when detoxing from an opioid prescribed by her doctor. What keeps me from being surprised by all this is what I experienced myself when I was in the hospital a couple of years ago. My post surgical pain was not severe and I wanted to avoid the constipation caused by pain medication, so I refused to take anything beyond Tylenol. This so upset the nurse that she called my daughter and asked for her help in “getting your mother to take her pain meds.” I’m all for people getting it when they really need it, but seems to me opioids and other psychoactive drugs are being pushed far too much by naive doctors and nurses.
You are blessedly right! Take a look at this Daily Blog from the very mainstream Scientific American:
“The bit I struggle most with is the idea he has that mad people choose odd behaviours and non-mad people choose non-odd behaviours, by and large.”
I know the idea of choice in mad or non-man behaviors is a bit unconventional for most people, but I did in fact find it to be real my own case. When strange ideas first erupted in my brain, I went to a psychiatrist for advice on how to handle them. To my surprise (and shock) he seemed to consider me already mad for even having such ideas and talking about them. I asked him how he knew when somebody was crazy, and he said “By their behavior” — which again surprised me, because I always thought they had a scientific test or something. Anyway, what I took away from the interview was the knowledge that I had to behave myself and not act crazy if I wanted to stay out of a mental hospital — which I most certainly did, since I had two small children. So even when the going got very rough — which it did — I never lost sight of the fact that how I reacted to the strange ideas erupting in my brain was my choice. I could ether talk about them and get locked up, or keep my mouth shut and stay home. And since the whole point of “treatment” seemed to be to convince the “patient” to shut up, then I might as well shut up from the beginning and not be saddled with a stigmatizing “diagnosis” and “treatment.”
So I kept my mouth shut, though I certainly won’t say it was easy. Now, after 50 years, I can finally talk about the whole experience without losing my cool.
So I might change your words a little and say that people who choose odd behaviors are mad and people who choose non-odd behaviors are non-mad. And I really don’t think this is victim-blaming. On the contrary, I think this points up the responsibility of the therapist to stop telling people they are “schizophrenic” (or whatever) simply because they have odd thoughts or powerful inner experiences, and instead give them lessons on how to endure these thoughts and experiences without acting them out and perhaps even turn them into something beneficial. This is certainly what happened in my case. I ended up going back to school and becoming a psychologist.
So I might change your words a little and say that
I am full of admiration for you. I just wish I had had somebody like you to talk to many years ago when I was struggling with what most pros would have diagnosed as psychosis. instead I had to deal with an ignoramus who had no idea what I was coping with and had absolutely no listening skills. Don’t change, and keep up the good work!
Oldhead, I’m puzzled as to why you want to ignore “The real problem is to convince our psychiatrists and psychologists to be obstetricians instead of abortionists.” Would you mind telling me why?
I might add that I recognize the difficulty of convincing them; at present the psychiatric/psychological abortionists are the majority, and they are well paid for carrying out their unpleasant duties. Which may shed some light on why so many of their “patients” are now turning to internet support groups such as the Spiritual Emergency Network and Shades of Awakening and therapies such as Open Dialogue and the like. When I was going through my own “rebirth” or “self-actualization” or whatever we agree to call it, I was grateful for the help of medication for a couple of months, even though I stopped going to the psychiatrist for fear of being locked up for “anosognosia,” or the crime of disagreeing with a psychiatrist. What I desperately needed was a doctor with the wisdom to know that not all swollen bellies are physical illness, and not all suffering and fear is “mental illness.”
I would nominate the terms self-actualization or adaptive psychological development as replacements for “recovery”.
BPD, I do agree we need some new descriptive terms. Jung used the word “Individuation” to describe his own return from what Joseph Campbell called “The Hero’s Journey.” These words better convey what has to be done, but they suffer from being a bit unwieldy and flowery. I think “rebirth” describes the process too. It has the added advantage of being a sort of medical model that gives the doctor a place, provided s/he is aware that psychological birth pangs don’t necessarily signify psychological cancer. Anyway, many thanks for pointing out “self-actualization or adaptive psychological development” as the end result that Mother Nature originally intended. I think you’re absolutely correct. The real problem is to convince our psychiatrists and psychologists to be obstetricians instead of abortionists.
I feel for you in your struggle to help your daughter. I was once a daughter like that, trying to deal with things going on in my head that I didn’t understand, and terribly fearful of psychiatrists and their diagnoses and medication. I went to one, and he scared me half to death, because I could see he had only two ways of “helping” me deal with my problems: medication and/or hospitalization. Just listening to me and trying to understand what I was trying to tell him was not even on his horizon.
Here are some things it would have helped me to know. There is a famous psychiatrist named Dr. Peter Breggin who tells new patients upfront that he does not hospitalize, and if that’s what the patient wants, then please go to somebody else. He gets excellent results with talk therapy only. He’s written several books; go to Amazon.com and look him up.
An award-winning journalist, Robert Whitaker, has written a couple of eye-opening books (“Mad in America” and “Anatomy of an Epidemic”) about the poor results of psychiatric medication and “therapy” in recent decades. Books like this would have been a great comfort to me in my scary decision never to go back to a psychiatrist again. Whitaker’s books are likely available in your local library (along with Peter Breggin’s).
For help, I wish I had known about a system of therapy called “Open Dialogue” that does not require a therapist to give diagnoses or medication, but does require the therapist (or a team of therapists) to meet with the patient and family and work out solutions to their problems that all agree to. Google “Open Dialogue” and read about it.
I also wish I had known about the Spiritual Emergence Network (also Spiritual Crisis Network) that helps people who want counseling but not psychiatric treatment. Try googling these too. They’re in the US and also Europe and the UK.
Finally, I wish somebody had told me that 20th century psychiatric treatment is on its way out, and the Internet is full of therapies and philosophies that are taking its place. Keep reading “MadInAmerica.com.” There’s also a Yahoo discussion group called psychosisspirituality you might be interested in. Go to groups.yahoo.com and do a search for it.
Thanks for your story. I know it’s painful for you to retell it, but please don’t stop, especially around people who’ve never heard one like it. It was because of people like you that I managed to dodge the bullet of “treatment” years ago. Like you, I innocently thought I should be able trust educated psychiatrists to know what was best for me and give me some good advice. Fortunately it took only one consult for me to realize the guy really didn’t have any idea what my problem was, and just wanted to shut me up — which reminded me of stories I’d read like yours. So I thanked him politely and left, and my family and I toughed it out by ourselves with love, patience and a little common sense. Keep up your good work. Thanks to the Internet, the word about psychiatric “treatment” is really getting around these days, and you’re helping!
Your comments remind me of the time I went to a psychiatrist some years ago, for what I thought was a temporary problem that I wanted some advice and help for. After talking to him for 10 minutes I could see the psychiatrist thought I was a candidate for serious treatment, so I asked him “How do you know when somebody is crazy?” “By their behavior,” he answered promptly. I was surprised, because I thought psychiatrists had some kind of scientific test or something. “By the way they ACT?” I said, not sure I understood. “By their behavior,” he repeated firmly. Obviously, I thought, it wasn’t too safe for me to be pouring out my heart to this guy, because who knew what he would think of my “behavior” if I really got emotional? So I thanked him for his time and took my leave as politely as I could.
But his words stayed with me, and when my problems got worse and I really needed some help, my mind kept going around them like a rat in a trap. If I went back to the psychiatrist and asked for help, I knew I would start bawling out of fear and pain and frustration. He would see I was behaving like a crazy person and he would diagnose and treat me accordingly. I would BE crazy. But if I didn’t go back to him and didn’t ask for help, then I was sane. It all depended on my “behavior,” on how I acted. If I asked for help, I was crazy. If I kept my mouth shut and toughed it out, I was sane. Around and around, like a rat in a trap.
I had two small children and I couldn’t risk being sent to an institution, so I kept my mouth shut and endured that towering paradox, and all the others that followed it, until the monkey business in my brain calmed down after a few months. But it left me with a permanent suspicion of the entire concept of “mental illness” and the over-educated “experts” that think they can “treat” it. I think the shamans in Africa and South America probably do a better job.
Just like ol’ Max Planck said, science advances one funeral at a time. In the case of psychiatry, unusually slowly, maybe because so few of them dare to think at all.
Hi Truth in Psychiatry,
You say your son was helped by Open Dialogue — which doesn’t surprise me, by the way. What does surprise me is the apparent lack of interest in it on the part of people and agencies that you would think are in favor of more effective, and cost-effective, treatment. Or maybe they just haven’t heard of it. Anyway, I’d love to know where you found this treatment, if you don’t mind telling. I know there’s the Parachute project in NYC, and a couple of programs in California, and at least one practitioner in Michigan and — where else? If you’d rather, write me privately at marysc11 “at” yahoo.com.
Thank you for your brave and honest story that I hope you’ll keep telling and keep writing about. Years ago I had a similar experience, and because I had read accounts like yours, I was wise enough not to turn to “psychiatry” for help. If I had, I would most certainly have been treated like you were. I had nobody to talk to who would understand what I had to say, so for advice I depended completely on written accounts like yours and others who knew the same things you came to find out. They were all I had, but they were enough.
I came through my experience “untreated” and unharmed, and thanks to people like you, went on to lead a quite normal life. It’s too late for me to thank the others I turned to, so let me thank you instead, and urge you with all my heart to keep on telling your story. Psychiatry is on its way out, thanks to people like you, and those of us who have these experiences are learning to help ourselves and each other. Keep up the good work!
Sascha – I sincerely hope things are working out ok for you at school, because the field of mental health desperately needs people like you to get professional degrees and work on changing the current generally deplorable scene, instead of just sitting back and complaining about it. And I do admire you for jumping right in and advancing your ideas from the get-go.
However (and I speak from experience here) if you find yourself in danger of being expelled by the august body you have gone to for instruction and enlightenment, I hope you have the guts and intelligence to moderate your feelings and ideas enough to get to your goal of an advanced degree, otherwise known as a job ticket. If it comes down to the wire and you have to choose between integrity and lying (or at least refraining from speaking truth to power), then please for the sake of us all, lie without compunction. You MUST have the degree/degrees to be taken seriously and effect change in the future. And your success in graduate school will make you a shining example to others following you. All this before you even get started on a professional career, where I and many others expect great things of you. Don’t disappoint us!
I sincerely hope I’m exaggerating the possible problems awaiting you. If so, then professional education has come a long long way.
With much respect and affection,
Mary S Newton, PhD
I see your point, but I have to quibble about substituting “anti-war” for “anti-psychiatry.” The opposite of war is peace. What’s the opposite of psychiatry? No psychiatry?
So if there’s “no psychiatry,” what’s to take its place?
I went through this in very deliberately doing without psychiatry during my own psychosis, which was truly terrifying and suicide-making. I desperately wanted a therapist who wasn’t psychiatry-oriented, but was in no shape to conduct the kind of search that would have turned one up. Instead, I was left with no therapist at all (“no psychiatry”) which I can assure you was no fun. For a few months it was just barely better than having a psychiatrist.
So that’s why I say “anti-psychiatry” is not enough.
“Fortunately there are some “lost sheep” who want to understand psychological problems in a non-medical way. . . These are the people we need to mobilize and get involved more… if even a small proportion of them became active in challenging the current system it would make a large difference.”
I think Bpdtransformation is right on target. Seems to me we’re playing a losing game in just being “antipsychiatry” and negative all the time. If all psychiatrists departed for psychiatric heaven (or whatever) tomorrow, it would not solve the real problem of people trying to deal with strange experiences that disrupt their accustomed notions of “reality.” The younger generation rightly suspects experiences like this can be valuable if they’re properly interpreted and understood. They are more and more wanting therapists who have had the same experiences, who have been there and come back, and know how to help others do the same. But how can they find you if all you talk about is how you hate psychiatrists? How about tackling the question of how to understand “psychological problems” in a non-medical way?
There’s a new book out by Dick Russell, “My Mysterious Son.” It’s about a father who learned to do this with his “schizophrenic” son. I highly recommend it for you folks who go on and on about “antipsychiatry,” which doesn’t even recognize the real problem. See amazon.com.
Thanks so much for your very interesting report on the ISPS conference in New York. I didn’t go to it because the original line up of speakers sounded so same-old “medical model” and boring, and by the time I heard something new might be afoot, it was too late to change my plans. I was especially sorry to miss Mary Olsen’s talk on the Open Dialogue treatment from Finland that seems to be so successful. If they keep planning conferences like this, I’ll certainly hope to attend the next one.
Thanks again, and keep up the good work!
I belong to a mail group of psychotherapists. Would it be OK with you if I copy your wonderful email and send it to them? They need to see it!
Thank you so much for your wonderful story and your wise and gutsy example of how to deal with psychiatric “treatment.” I’d like you to know that it’s because of people like you that I was able to reject this route after only one visit to a psychiatrist. I could see only too clearly where the “treatment” was leading.
It was people like you who taught me how dangerous and degrading psychiatric treatment is. People like you warned me ahead of time that the drugs psychiatrists prescribe and the hospitals they send their patients to are best used only as last resorts. Because of people like you, I went home and toughed it out with the help of my family and advice in books written by people like you. In a few days I resumed normal life — which lasted many years, until I retired.
I owe people like you a tremendous debt of gratitude. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Please keep up your good work.
Lucy Johnstone wrote:
“But choice about diagnosis exposes psychiatry as something fundamentally different from legitimate branches of medicine. . . . Since ‘diagnosis is the Holy Grail of psychiatry and the key to its legitimation’, offering choice about diagnosis strikes at the foundation of the theory and practice of traditional psychiatry, and reveals its essentially unscientific nature.”
Many thanks for your observations on problems that so rarely get such clear thinking. You remind me of my one and only worried visit to a psychiatrist. I asked him how he knew whether people were crazy or not. “By their behavior,” he said. I was surprised. I thought he had some kind of medical or scientific test that ordinary people didn’t know about. “By how they ACT?” I asked. “By their behavior,” he said firmly.
I had planned to tell the psychiatrist about the strange thoughts that had erupted in my brain, and ask his advice on how to handle them, but his answer to my question really told me all I needed to know. I thanked him politely for his time, paid the bill for the consultation, and went home. The next few weeks were pretty rough, yes, because even I knew I was having psychotic thoughts. But I never acted them out or went to a psychiatrist again. It was too dangerous. Only crazy people had to go to psychiatrists. I wasn’t crazy as long as I stayed away and put on a good act. That’s what the psychiatrist told me.
Later when I went to psychology graduate school, I learned that what the psychiatrist told me is quite true: diagnosis is based on the patient’s behavior (or at least reported behavior): on how the patient acts. Thus a common outcome of institutional treatment is that patients learn that to be discharged, they must “behave” (act sane) and say what the doctor and nurses need to hear. The chief difference between me and the average properly diagnosed and treated schizophrenic is that I was a quick learner.
Mary Newton, PhD
Allen Frances wrote:
“I see the APA as a hapless, sad sack organization — not very powerful, and not at all clever.”
I’ve never yet seen a psychiatrist who has a clue of their image in the eyes of the average citizen, whose attitude ranges from reverence, fascination, distaste, and fear to helpless fury and mute withdrawal, depending on the closeness of the relationship. “Hapless” and “not very powerful” my foot. Think of Inquisitors in the middle ages.
You (and your patient) might benefit from consulting BeyondMeds.com which is a website run by Monica Cassani, a social worker in the US who was heavily medicated and damaged for several years before she managed to get herself off all meds. She has much good advice about how to do this, as well as stories from others who did it successfully.
Thank you for your beautiful courageous story. You made my day.
There are a lot of people reading this website who are going through the same thing you did, and there are a lot of therapists reading it too. For their sake, what kind of treatment do you recommend, now that you know what DOESN’T help?
Whoops, the URL for Open Dialogue didn’t come through properly. Try this:
Boans – re your comments about Open Dialogue, here’s an excellent outline of its methods by a couple of its originators. Thanks to Will Hall and Ron Unger for making it available.
THE KEY ELEMENTS OF DIALOGIC PRACTICE IN OPEN DIALOGUE: FIDELITY CRITERIA
IMHO, Open Dialogue and similar programs are the way of the future. I just don’t see how insurance companies and taxpayers can continue to waste so much money on traditional psychiatric programs and lifelong disability payments while the Open Dialogue methods get 85% recovery rates and close down mental institutions for lack of long term patients!
I too would like to know why Dr. Healy can so readily see the defects in drug “research” but grants studies showing the “beneficial” effects of ECT 100% validity. Seems to me we should be equally suspicious of both.
Congratulations on helping your son overcome a very poor start in school! Here’s a hint for the future: my daughter was a volunteer mother in her two daughters’ classrooms when they started to school. She (and the girls) were so disappointed in what they encountered that she took them out and homeschooled them (“unschooled” as they call it) all the way through 12th grade, with the help of a local homeschooling parents’ organization. I was very doubtful about what the outcome would be, but today one child is finishing her last year in law school and the other is entering med school. They are both bright, responsible, socially skilled with their peers and adults, and real self-starters who set their own goals and work to attain them. I highly recommend this route if your son’s school damages him again.
Francesca – I think you made a wise decision in changing majors. I had a granddaughter who started out majoring in psychology but changed and is now in law school. I have a secret hope that I had something to do with her decision. At any rate, I’m much relieved!
Thanks for your article opposing prescription “privileges” for psychologists. I wholeheartedly agree that this is not a good idea. It seems to be motivated primarily by the desire to cash in on the lucrative practice of acting as licensed drug dealers as psychiatrists do — in a word, by greed. But giving in to this temptation means giving up the psychologist’s status as the one who can and will listen to the patient’s narrative and provide the psychotherapy that restores quality of life and normal functioning, instead of the too-often “zombie” medicated existence of psychiatric treatment.
I’m reminded of Dr Peter Breggin’s training video where he issues his standard first words to a new patient. He begins by telling the patient that he neither writes prescriptions nor puts people in institutions; if that is what’s needed, then the patient needs to find another doctor.
Wise words that we psychologists would do well to heed.
Me too, Cannotsay!
James Schroeder wrote:
> KIPP’s motto is Work Hard. Be Nice.
I like your description of the KIPP program for young people, but it might be even more effective for children coming from deplorable and traumatic situations if it had one more piece of advice:
Work Hard. Be Nice. Stay away from psychiatrists.
I would add psychologists to this too, but fortunately they can’t prescribe and only do their worst damage when working for psychiatrists. And to our credit, not all of us agree with their disastrous practices.
I hope we can count you among our number.
Mary Newton, PhD (yes, in psychology)
I grieve for you and your son and for his unnecessary death. Now that you know how the system works, I hope you keep telling his story and yours and maybe in this way save someone else’s life.
I myself would have gone the way of your son had I not read something (before my experience of altered consciousness) that let me know I was NOT necessarily insane and in need of psychiatric treatment, in spite of the opinion of the psychiatrist I went to — one time only!
Instead I went home and toughed it out by myself. Fortunately this turned out OK, but my plan was to commit suicide if it didn’t work. I had read enough to know what awaited me behind those locked doors at the hands of well meaning fools educated out of all their common sense. They remind me of the 19th century Vienna obstetricians who snickered at the hospital labor room supervisor who tried to get them to wash their hands before examining women in labor. How could respectable educated doctors have hands that spread childbed fever and killed women? But they did.
Do you have a web site or a blog? If so, I’d be honored to be admitted to it.
With much respect and good wishes,
My Dear Dr. Schroeder,
There is another condition one runs across in the practice of physical medicine that causes discomfort and/or significant impairment of normal functioning. It is a painful, frightening, sometimes dangerous condition, especially without the skilled assistance the sufferer should have.
It is called childbirth.
Assuming that all psychological pain is pathological is like consigning the contents of every swollen female belly to the bloody bucket under the operating table. Greg and Oldhead above are trying to tell you how wrongheaded and foolish this is. MIA is one long description of the process and its maddening results. When are you psychologists and doctors going to start listening to your patients, and consider that there might be a difference between a tumor and a fetus? That all hospitals would have to lock their doors and pass commitment laws to get patients, if the first thing they wanted to do was abort all pregnancies?
I’m like Oldhead. I don’t really like losing my temper, but articles like yours exasperate me. Especially on MIA.
How can we get through to you??
Thank you Dr Hickey, for your succinct description of the current state of psychiatry — and unfortunately, a lot of psychology too. And thank you B, for pointing out the weirdness of any area of medicine that brags on having its advanced its treatment methods “politically.” I also find it weird that a professional organization of medical “experts” has its patients demonstrating in the street against its methods, as is happening now in New York at the annual APA meeting. If this happened at professional meetings of ophthalmologists or oncologists, I think they would make an effort to clean up their act. Instead, psychiatry is pushing for more and more legal assistance in rounding up its patients and subjecting them to “treatment.”
I wish we could see more on MIA about the new treatment methods and policies that are getting such good results in Finland. Are they being tried anywhere in the US?
Mary Newton, PhD
What a wonderful closure. Hi-5!
I hope the man was sufficiently impressed with your improvement since getting off all the meds to acknowledge how great you look these days. I’m so glad you sent him all the references. I hope he at least realizes from looking at your website (plus MIA) how many people are abused by over-medication these days. I wonder if he has helped many others get off it as he did you.
If Chris were my adult child and I had been through all the trials and trouble with him that you have, I think I would try talking to him about his Messiah obsession myself. (Or have you tried this already?) I know how reluctant therapists are to do this, but for heaven sake, some members of the human race have been getting in touch with the Divine in themselves for many thousands of years, and some are still doing it. Sometimes these efforts don’t have very good results, and we call it schizophrenia. But as R.D. Laing and old Joseph Campbell said, the madman drowns in the same waters the mystic swims in. The problem is to learn to swim. In your son’s case, to learn we’re all a little piece of God, and (as a Hindu mystic said) why break the pots because of that?
If ideas like this are truly unfamiliar to you, then get Ken Wilber’s book The Atman Project, and Adyashanti’s The End of Your World: Uncensored Straight Talk on the Nature of Enlightenment. (Adya is a young American turned Buddhist mystic, and he still knows how to communicate in English.) If you can catch your son at a time when he’s reasonably sane, he may even be interested in reading the books himself. If not, you could still impress the hell out of him by speaking his language. There are other books just as good as these, they are the first two that came to my mind.
If this doesn’t work, you could still try hooking him up with some people who do speak his language and accept him and yet manage to function in the world and make a living for themselves. They could be a good influence on him just for that reason. The danger here is him getting hooked by some kind of cult that’s not much improvement on unvarnished schizophrenia, but a lot of these groups are pretty harmless.
Sending good vibes your way,
Matthew – thanks for removing the irrelevant comments on Monica’s article. I too was concerned about the effect they would have on new readers who stand to benefit from what she was saying. Rerouting to the forums was a great solution.
Stephen Gilbert’s letter gives the reasons we need an advertising pro like yourself to “share online what was first written about by pioneers like Stan Grof and David Lukoff,” as you say. And before them there was Carl Jung, who is universally ignored by psychiatrists, social workers, and psychologists but a best seller worldwide.
As Stephen said, these beknighted folks are largely unaware of what’s going on out in the wider world. A hundred years ago, the makers of horse drawn buggies were pretty much in denial too, even on the verge of bankruptcy.
These days people are increasingly turning to grass roots organizations like HNV (Hearing Voices Network), ACISTE (American Center for the Integration of Spiritually Transformative Experiences), IANDS (International Association for Near Death Studies), meditation centers, and hundreds of local Meet-Up groups and the like for help in mastering their anomalous experiences. The old medical model is going the way of buggy whips and high topped shoes. Without Big Pharma propping it up, it would be gone already.
So keep stealing all the good stuff from the experts, and keep spreading the word about it. Its time has come.
I agree with you, human rights are absolutely crucial. They are also a problem to be tackled with political action and lawsuits to get laws and bureaucratic policies changed. I’ve been around the block a few times, so I can remember back in the days when my fellow citizens in the South were sure you couldn’t get rid of segregation without changing peoples’ hearts and minds first; therefore passing laws against segregation was futile until this change came about. They were however proved wrong: when the laws were passed, we began to see segregation as a crime against human rights. Changing peoples’ behavior changed their minds, not vice versa.
But securing human rights for mental patients is a little different from doing the same for citizens deemed at least minimally competent to manage their own affairs. Outlawing all involuntary treatment procedures would not solve the problem.
What we’re dealing with, I’m afraid, goes far deeper than mere prejudice toward “the mentally ill.” The great elephant in our living room is that we’ve made diseases of the anomalous experiences our ancestors once fashioned into divine revelations and mythology. The well of wisdom of our priests and shamans has been poisoned, and they turn away from it in horror.
This is why we need the new treatment methods that don’t take the medical model as their foundation. It’s almost as if the 20th century declared swollen bellies to be an infallible sign of disease and devised surgery to consign the foreign contents to a bloody bucket under the operating table. So now, in the 21st century, our task is to recognize pregnancy and devise safe methods of delivery for the new life trying to make its way into the world. This is far more than a matter of passing laws.
I was so very pleased to see you’re doing at workshop at the SAMSHA conference on your bipolarORwakingUP Project and using transpersonal psychology for validation and recovery. You’re a wonderful antidote to all the gloom-and-doomers who criticize “the system” but don’t have any practical ideas about how to make treatment better. I’m very much in agreement with you that we need to change our ideas about what a lot of “mental illness” really is — or maybe I should say, could be, if it were treated properly: not “illness,” but a process of transformation and growth. You and Jaako Seikkula in Finland with his Open Dialogue treatment are the brightest lights in the whole field right now. You’re giving me hope for the future. Keep up the good work!!
With much love and admiration,
David, it’s wonderful to see you home again! Know that we all love and you and we’re so happy for you — and proud of our main guy! Mary Newton
How about your group offering to design a short training program for personnel at the psychiatric hospital??
Another idea I’ve often thought could bring about change: psychiatric hospitals (or some overseeing body) should send send out post-discharge evaluation forms to all patients, like other hospitals do. These should solicit opinions on the quality of food, room cleaning, nursing staff, attendants, etc just as other hospitals do. And also have space for write-in comments to recognize especially outstanding (good or bad) personnel.
Mary S Newton, PhD
Charleston SC 29412
Steve, it might not even take two weeks on antipsychotics to bring some light to dark places. I once heard a psychiatrist say he took one dose of Haldol just to see what it was like, and it took him a week to get back to normal. To his credit, he was never quite the same “normal” again.
I’ve thought for a long time that the quickest way to improve the mental health industry would be to require every new-minted psychiatric attendant, tech, therapist, psychologist and psychiatrist to spend a week in a tax-supported psychiatric hospital, preferably after having been brought disheveled and handcuffed for admission by a law enforcement officer.
You might suggest to the clinicians in the “recovery training” scenario you described that they voluntarily undergo this experience as part of their training. It might increase their sensitivity to the relevant issues.
Mary S Newton, PhD
Monica – thank you so much for sharing your beautiful courageous story with us, and your pictures! I am so proud to call you a friend, knowing that your suffering has brought wisdom, help and comfort to so many thousands of people. You are a bright symbol of hope and a shining example for all of us!
Looks like you had a very ugly and shocking experience with an unusually insensitive psychiatrist. I’m glad you had the good sense and composure to walk out of his office. If I were in your shoes, I might have just fallen apart and got myself a really damaging diagnosis from the guy.
But tell me this — how is it you could work in a state hospital, especially as a chaplain, and be so surprised when you were treated like you were when you came before a psychiatrist as a patient? Had you never before seen or heard about this kind of treatment meted out to patients by psychiatrists?
Thanks for the Campbell reference. I think it’s about the best thing he ever wrote.
You might be interested to know that many years ago, I escaped the psychiatric juggernaut solely because I happened to have read Jung’s “Answer to Job” and Campbell’s “Hero With a Thousand Faces.”
When faced with a potential psychosis at the age of 27, I managed to interpret it as Jung’s prelude to individuation and as Campbell’s hero’s journey.
I found out from a psychiatrist that I really belonged in a looney bin and wasn’t supposed to do this, but I fled his office in alarm and did it anyway. And never regretted it, in spite of all the silent agony it cost me. At least my life was never thrown off course with a stigmatizing diagnosis and degrading mental hospital rituals.
So I think Laura is right – the problem isn’t “mental illness,” it’s the cult of psychiatry and the hypnotic spell it casts on its victims.
If you’d like to know more about my experience, see
You say “there are some good psychiatrists out there” and that you had one. I’d love to hear your ideas on what a “good psychiatrist” is, and what you liked about yours. Mind telling us?
Thank you for your wonderful account of waking up from the hypnotic indoctrination of psychiatry. It put me in mind of a passage in Heinrich Zimmer’s “Philosophies of India” that I read many years ago after waking up from my own hypnosis.
Zimmer tells the fable of an orphan tiger cub raised by a herd of goats. Under the care of the goats, the poor lost cub learned to subsist on grass, and imitated the bleats and meek behaviors of the goats. Finally he encountered a fierce old male tiger who, after watching the cub’s untiger-like behavior in disgust, seized him by the scruff of the neck and carried him into the jungle. He lectured the young tiger sternly on proper tiger behavior and finally forced him to eat his own bloody kill.
“The cub resisted, but the frightening meat was forced between his teeth, and the tiger sternly supervised while he tried to chew and prepared swallow. The toughness of the morsel was unfamiliar and was causing some difficulty, and he was just about to make his little noise again, when he began to get the taste of the blood. He was amazed; he reached with eagerness for the rest. He began to feel an unfamiliar gratification as the new food went down his gullet, and the meaty substance came into his stomach. A strange, glowing strength, starting from there, went out through his whole organism, and he commenced to feel elated, intoxicated. His lips smacked; he licked his jowls. He arose and opened his mouth with a mighty yawn, just as though he were waking from a night of sleep–a night that had held him longer under its spell, for years and years. Stretching his form, he arched his back, extending and spreading his paws. The tail lashed the ground, and suddenly from his throat there burst the terrifying, triumphant roar of a tiger.
“The grim teacher, meanwhile, had been watching closely and with increasing satisfaction. The transformation had actually taken pace. When the roar was finished he demanded gruffly: “Now do you know what you really are?” and to complete the initiation of his young disciple into the secret lore of his own true nature, added: “Come, we shall go now for a hunt together in the jungle.”
Congratulations on attaining your tigerhood!
I hope you’ll go back to the goat herd long enough to get the educational credentials of a psychologist or psychiatrist. There are a lot of young cubs these days trying to act like goats and they desperately need tigers like you.
Mary S Newton PhD
Zimmer tells the fable of an orphan tiger cub raised by a herd of goats. Under the care of the goats, the poor lost cub learned to subsist on grass, and imitated the bleats and meek behaviors of the goats. Finally he encountered a fierce old male tiger who, after watching the cub’s untiger-like behavior in disgust, seized him by the scruff of the neck and carried him into the jungle. He lectured the young tiger sternly on proper tiger behavior and finally forced him to eat his own bloody kill.
A few months ago I tried to find a tactful way to tell my family doctor’s NP that my blood pressure medication was causing me worrisome side effects. I mentioned side effects to her, and then said “You know, I’ve been reading on the internet that. . . ”
“Yes,” she interrupted tartly. “That’s the problem!”
Looks like the real problem is that patients are just getting too damn smart these days. Back in the good old days, this would never have happened.
> Thanks for the information. Due to your clarification here I probably won’t read the Redbook since I’ve already read “Memories, Dreams, Reflections.” It’s a ttrmendous book and as I read it felt a kindred sprit with Jung.
Thanks for your reply. I think a lot of us have that kind of reaction to Jung’s autobiography. I found it the single most helpful book I read during my own spiritual emergence, as the Grofs call it. Jung was the one who convinced me I had to come back to reality, and showed me how to do it. I didn’t find reading his Red Book very helpful, but composing my very own “red book” kept me grounded and out of the hands of the shrinks.
I think the best way to understand Jung’s “psychosis” is to understand that “psychosis” (as defined by the DSMs) is only one response to an actual experience that takes place in the psyche.
It could be said that normally, “I” (the ego) see the world through the lens of the rational left brain.
But under the proper circumstances (extreme stress, for example), the suppressed right brain (or unconscious, or whatever we choose to call it) can break through and present its contents to the hapless ego. In this case, “I” then have to somehow deal with a completely new and dangerously destabilizing world view that can overwhelm, or at least seriously threaten “me,” the individual ego.
We (the therapists) call it “psychosis” when the ego is actually overwhelmed by the powerful new contents of consciousness, and we call it “recovery” when the new contents are stifled by medication, or the individual successfully assimilates the new contents to consciousness.
Jung, obviously, was one of the individuals who successfully assimilated the new contents of his right brain/unconscious to consciousness. He met the challenge, and the Red Book is his record of the struggle. He remained in control of himself through the whole process; he did not become psychotic. He then went on to create his theories of archetypes and individuation.
He gives a fuller account of this process in his autobiography, “Memories, Dreams, Reflections,” which is far more reader-friendly than the Red Book – which Jung plainly says, was written for himself and not for future readers.
Another powerful healing concept I stumbled on was wholeness. Recovery meant accepting all of myself without having to reject any part of me as “sick” or my experience as “crazy.” Instead, I became a complete human being. I was whole.
> And with that, I re-enter retirement from commenting on this site. I admire anyone with the patience, to set foot in the world of government psychiatry, and try and rehumanize the approach somewhat.
Like others who’ve commented on your decision, I hope you’ll change it.
I wish I could convey to you what your comments would have meant to me many years ago when I was desperate for some sign that others might be having the same kind of experience I was having. You would have been a lifesaving oasis in a vast empty desert. And I think you still are, for lonely travelers who have stumbled on this Mad in America website.
Please, all of you, don’t stop reaching out to others and sharing your insights that are cool lifegiving water to parched pilgrims. “Government psychiatry” will change only if enough of us survive and thrive and change it ourselves. Robert Whitaker, Michael Cornwall, and others like them, are giving us the tools and techniques for change – this website, for example. Let’s not waste it with silence and neglect!
Well said, Anonymous!
I agree with the others who have written here. Thanks for your great email. It’s good to hear from another escapee from the medical model.
For the foreseeable future, it looks like us escapees are going to have to be our own support team. I’m happy to say there are several organizations these days for people who are not satisfied with medicating their meaningful states of altered consciousness out of existence. He’s a sample of what’s available:
1) International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS):
Endorsed by Raymond Moody, author of “Life after Life,” this was one of the first groups founded (in 1978) to study and offer support for profound spiritual experiences that do not fit the medical model. It will hold its 31st annual conference Aug 31-Sept 2, 2012 in Scottsdale, AZ. A Spiritual Retreat for Near-Death Experiencers will be held May 16-19, 2013 in St Louis, MO. Local meetings to talk about and share near-death experiences are held in several states in the US and in other countries. See:
2) American Center for the Integration of Spiritually Transformative Experiences (ACISTE):
Organized recently by IANDS members to study and offer support for experiences variously called numinous, noetic, transcendent, transpersonal, mystical, anomalous, religious, paranormal, parapsychological or ecstatic experience resulting in a permanent and complete paradigm shift in one’s views or accustomed perspective on life. ACISTE will hold its 2012 conference Oct 18-28 in San Mateo, CA. See:
For a $25 yearly fee, the private Aciste Experiencer Forum is open to members only at:
3) psychosisspirituality (Yahoo group):
A free Yahoo discussion group on the connections between psychosis and spiritual experience. following on from a conference in England in Sept 2000 (see http://www.isabelclarke.org/psychosis_spirituality/ for the approach). Of interest to mental health professionals, teachers in spirituality, and all following a path which honors their own experience. New members are asked to write a few sentences about why they are interested in this subject, which is circulated to the group as an introduction. See:
4) Beyond Meds:
Great info on how to get off meds, physical problems, alternatives, recovery stories, political and spiritual issues. Wide-ranging blog by Gianna Kali, a social worker in recovery who weaned herself from a damaging cocktail of meds. Sign up for free newsletter. See:
itual issues. Wide-ranging blog by Gianna Kali, a social worker in recovery who weaned herself from a damaging cocktail of meds. Sign up for free newsletter
This would be a great opportunity to swap advice on other helpful websites or resources that you know of. If you have any suggestions, do tell us about them!
Many thanks for your masterful statement of the difference between “drugs of sin” and “drugs of psychiatry.” This is the most succinct description I’ve ever seen of the Alice-in-Wonderland world of psychiatry.
Is it OK if I quote you in a book I’m working on? If so, how would you like to be credited?
“The DSM is important insofar as new diagnoses mean new research dollars and studies for drugs and psychological treatments. . . . In clinical practice, it is really not that important as it is quite easy to ignore. . . .
“I have been horrified to discover patients with no mental illness who have somehow been admitted to a psychiatric unit for as long as reimbursable (usually a few days) and then thrown out on the street with a prescription of antipsychotics when they have nothing wrong with them! This sort of thing is not the rule, but is not the exception either.”
I truly think professionals in the mental health industry have very little idea of the grim effects of the diagnoses they give and then so casually ignore. There is a remedy for this sad situation, but it’s a harsh one. Below is my response to Rossa Forbes’ story of her son who killed himself after diagnosis and “treatment.”
Rossa’s story both saddens and angers me. If a young man drinks and drives, he and his family know he risks a heavy fine or jail, or both. If he joins the army, he risks getting injured or killed. If he starts a business with borrowed money, he risks bankruptcy. Everybody knows this. Sometimes the payoff is worth the risk, or the temptation is too great. But nobody is astonished or feels betrayed if matters turn out badly. We knew from the beginning it was a risky thing to do.
But what if a young man is brought to a psychiatrist? We have certain expectations of wearers of the honorable cloak of Hippocrates, primarily that they will do something to restore health. We don’t ordinarily think in terms of the risk the young man is incurring at this point: a terrifying diagnosis on the basis of a few questions, the degrading rituals of involuntary commitment, powerful drugs with disabling side effects, loss of friends and self esteem, stigma, helpless anger and hopelessness. And yet these are the risks he takes the moment he enters the door, unless he has considerable presence of mind and control of his emotions.
Some years ago I walked through a psychiatrist’s door and faced the same risks. I came for help, because the things going on in my mind frightened me and made me want advice from an expert. I felt I was in serious danger of losing control of my emotions and I would make a fool of myself and destroy what little credibility I had with my family. (Yes, I was the sensitive one that carried the generational burdens.) I tried to explain my predicament to the psychiatrist, but he kept interrupting me and disagreeing with what I was saying. I knew I was soon going to lose my cool in frustration. I was beginning to realize he had no idea of what was happening in the strange world behind my eyes, and that I was on my own in dealing with it.
Finally, in desperation, I asked the psychiatrist if he thought I was crazy. No, he said soothingly, not really. You haven’t come here with any wild theories or tell me people are out to get you, stuff like that. You’re not acting crazy.
A great light dawned on me. You mean I’m not crazy if I don’t act crazy? He hesitated. Well, yes, something like that, he said
I’m sure he went on to give me advice about not getting all upset about things, but all I remember is that. I wasn’t crazy if I didn’t act crazy. It was as simple as that. No matter what happened behind my eyes, I couldn’t let it make me act crazy. No matter what. Not unless I wanted to end up in the looney bin.
I thanked the psychiatrist politely and took the prescription he offered me, but never went back again. I did what he said: I didn’t act crazy, no matter what. And yes, it got bad, so bad that I finally had to go to the ER one night for a shot. I told them I had a terrible migraine, though the agony went much deeper than that and filled the whole world. But I had read enough about psychosis by then to suspect it would soon subside enough to be bearable, and it did.
The net result? My family relaxed after a few days of worry, and life went on – better than ever for me, because I went back to school, got an advanced degree, had a successful career, and retired a few years ago to enjoy my children, grandchildren and travel.
I’m afraid my story has a depressing moral: that we should teach our young men and women the risks of going to psychiatrists who deploy their dangerous potions and powers in such blissful ignorance. Consider the need for a psychiatrist with the same prudence needed in selecting a family doctor: don’t wait for an emergency. See if you can find one with a reputation for prescribing talk therapy and family communication before powerful drugs and institutionalization. Learn from Rossa’s story, and protect your children.
I dislike speaking so harshly, but sooner or later the emperor’s nakedness has to be recognized, along with the priests’ rape of alter boys and psychiatrists’ abuse of their patients’ trust. Otherwise the lie goes on and on.