Friday, December 2, 2022

Comments by Mella

Showing 20 of 20 comments.

  • Thanks, Kate, so much for your comment and your perspective. Yes, the therapists who DON’T really get how much harm they do with their “I have the answers” and “Come, ally with me” attitudes need to hear what you have written. Most, of course, probably won’t. Still, your perspective (same as mine, from a few years ago) very definitely needs to be heard

    I am out of the system — 8 years out — and I’m doing OK. But, of course, my family and other people (I had lost any friends I was somewhat able to make) saw me like yours apparently do you. It so really, really sucks. The “profession” really needs to recognize the harm they are doing to some people. Yes, perhaps, some people do well with strong bond with a therapist and that helps them find meaning. But for those of us for whom that was NOT true — and the fact that our experience is invalidated across the board — it is really awful.

    OK, for me, the last therapist DID retraumatize me, and that brought up the original trauma that I had dissociated from and which I had NOT been able to get in touch with despite my best efforts. Her one-sided termination triggered the rejection and abandonment feelings/experiences from my early life that my personality was built around defending. Fortunately I had a good support group who, 8 years down the road now, have NOT abandoned and rejected me and I do have, and have learned to have, a strong bond with them. Which has helped me in my relationships with other people, too, in ways that I find hard to describe. Which I could NOT have known 8-10 years ago.

    And, yes, now I am now in the midst of personality makeover. That is, my personality seems to be remaking itself. So, I think I’m very lucky. But I am already 75 and had been in and out of therapy for 50 years before that, so. . .

    Best of luck to you, Kate! Your “bad attitude” toward therapy is yourself knowing/recognizing their . . . stuff. . . for what it is. A good start toward the makeover, maybe.

  • “When psychotherapy works. . .”

    But in my case it didn’t. I thought my situation was an anomaly, until I got online and found others for whom it didn’t work, and even instead caused other, sometimes worse problems.

    I was in and out of therapy for over 50 years. I read about therapy, believed in it, even when it didn’t work with a given therapist. “Try another” was the recommendation sometimes. “Dig deeper in yourself and work it out with the therapist” was another. I tried both strategies until the last therapist terminated me after 6 years saying she didn’t “have the emotional resources” to continue.

    There may, of course, be many reasons to blame me for the failure of therapy. But the fact is that I presented myself for treatment, tried to be as honest and committed to the process as I could. And it failed.

    I BELIEVED in therapy and maybe that in itself was a problem. A believe without sufficient foundation. It was a belief that ultimately proved false, providing me with what turned out to be false hope and for which I paid large amounts in co-payments and sometimes out of pocket fees. Therapy itself promoted that belief and did not help me overcome it.

    I’ve done enough research now to know that the rates of failure and ineffectiveness of therapy are not insignificant. And I’ve seen a few studies about the types of harm that therapy can do. But none of that was given to me in order to help me make “informed” consent to “treatment”.

    Psychotherapy may be an alternative to psychiatry. But it is NOT an alternative which consistently WORKS and without a risk of additional, sometime significant, harm.

  • It’s great your education and therapists worked for you.

    Over 50 years of mostly psychodynamic therapy on and off, and some education in general psychology along the way, did NOT help me. Too many therapists who had not done their own work, or who couldn’t accept the real me with all my feelings, or too much of me people-pleasing therapists in a pattern that they did NOT help me to see. . .until finally, after the last therapist terminated me after 6 years saying that she did not have “the emotional resources” to continue, I realized that therapy was a scam, for me. Why was I gullible for such a scam? I think maybe I know a little, but it’s more than 50 years down the road and I don’t have a whole lot of my lifetime left.

    It’s too bad that therapists, psychodynamic researchers, and perhaps others, are not interested in interviewing those of us whom therapy has failed. You wrote:

    “The hardest part of self-improvement is the decision to face your struggles, to approach them even when you are scared. I cannot convince clients I never see that this healing is worth the initial fear. While I believe in the benefits of therapy wholeheartedly, I cannot help someone who is not ready to be helped.”

    My God! What insanity. Your profession took my money and hope for years, and then – do you really accept that you all could not help me because I “wasn’t ready to be helped” or some such nonsense?

    It’s so sad that people who probably mean well go into your field and get brainwashed with this absurd short-sighted, self (and/or profession) -serving excuse.

    There are lots of us out here whom therapy has failed. Fortunately, with the internet, we have found each other in chat rooms and are learning a few things about ourselves and the profession which sometimes has hurt us very badly. There is lots of information there, if people in your profession were interested.

    Writing in those rooms is our form of being links in the chain of change perhaps. As well as occasionally writing in more public forums like here in Mad in America.

    I so wish you people would wake up. I can’t make you if you aren’t ready. But then, I’m not in the business of “helping” you with that. People like me just get hurt because you can’t, though.

  • “YES!!! Why in the world subject yourself to another human and invite a power imbalance????????!!!!!!!!! ”

    She says she had a tendency to form a trauma bond.

    For me, it really sucks to realize I had this weakness and went to people for “help” who, in effect, just exploited it.

  • Thanks, Megan, for this very well-written and well-expressed article. How many have had similar experiences? Who knows, because nobody is counting.

    I was in and out of therapy for over 50 years, believing the same kinds of things as you did until eventually the last therapist, a Ph.D. with a 2-year postdoc, terminated me after 6 years saying she didn’t “have the emotional resources” to continue.

    Like you, in the 7 years since that time, I have reflected and tried to find out how I could have made such a big mistake as to trust those people. I have found other people with similar stories in forums and websites on the internet. I think “trauma bond” is a good description for what happened to me, too. It’s something that therapists, and clients, too, should be made aware of as a risk for any client with a history of family trauma. And perhaps other people as well.

  • What, if anything, can be done to help promote this point of view as an alternative approach to mental (and societal!) health at a general, grassroots, or client level.

    My very poor experience with current and traditional approaches to mental health over more than 50 years, trying to find diagnosis and/or treatment, has convinced me that examining and experiences with social and environmental causes can help both the individual and — if people other than the “mad” are willing to look at it — society in general.

    My life has been pretty much a wreck in the last 20 years, despite seeking treatment and my own best efforts. I am not wanted, I do not fit in, although I can fake it sort of OK. Because I am not wanted, I do not want to be here, to be alive, either. Because faking it still, at 74, in order to fit in, though marginally, is no life for me.

    I have two adult children and it is my understanding that for me to voluntarily end my life might not be best for them. I’m not so sure about that. I’m also not at all sure that ending my life 20 years ago, as I strongly considered except for the possibly more harmful effect on my children, might not have been the best for everybody. But I didn’t, because I could not know for sure, and still can’t. I’ve made a little progress with the help of an informal, general support group I lucked into. I’ve tried other support groups that weren’t so helpful. But for years my sense has been that the causes of my difficulties were social, and my adaptation to the social environment of my early life, and some “stuckness” there. Individual therapy did little to help with that, I now believe, despite what they have claimed. And, instead, perpetuated some stuckness or made it worse. Maybe not so much now as in the past, but there is still far too much emphasis on therapy as the thing to do, IMO, if someone is having difficulties, and too little serious research into how helpful it is. And/or when it fails, and why, and what else might be done to help people in these situations.

    Humans are social animals, like other primates. It’s time that the biological determinants of mental illness take seriously the social environments in which difficulities arise, are perpetuated, and in which people might heal.

  • “Politicians are aware, but they need to act on all the human abuse going on and being agreed to by themselves.”

    Yes. There is currently some social/political focus on this in the context of George Floyd’s death. Primarily peaceful advocates are joined in the streets of Portland by people with other agendas, wanting revolution. Those in power, on either side, seem unwilling to yield, to consider other points of view.

    What may come of all this — and how – remains to be determined.

    Nevertheless, it seems a positive thing, Robert, that you have articulated your view so well here in this public space. It may not be “ruling” yet, or ever – it may have difficulties of its own, to be determined if/when the paradigm shifts.

    The “social determinants” model of mental health care is an important contribution to ideas about overall shifts in how our society may operate – which, then, affect the social determinants of people’s distress. I wonder if relating your focus on mental health care to the more overall questions of possible paradigm shifts in our society might make it easier to talk with some of your colleagues? Especially in Portland, and maybe in Salem and other places in Oregon as well.

  • The harm, in my case, which is all I have first hand experience of, is hard to define – it requires a sense of self, which I still lack in lots of ways. That started because of me and the social environment I grew up in but therapy perpetuated it. I wasn’t aware of becoming addicted to or dependent on the pursuit of “mental health” as a way of life. I wasn’t mentally healthy, after all, so it seemed the thing to do.

    So, #1, therapy was harmful because it was addictive or dependency-inducing.

    Beyond that, my life currently sucks. I’m 73. Therapy failed or I failed or both. Unfortunately, I need to become “healthy” without therapy in order for me to have some perspective on what is the contribution of therapy and what is me. But my mental health, as I feel it now, depends on some kind of social health. That means that I need social inclusion somewhere, social inclusion in a healthy environment, whatever that is. Which depends on my ability to be an inclusive, participating member. It’s a chicken and egg sort of situation.

    This leads to a conclusion of Harm #2, that therapy encouraged (or at least did not discourage or warn about) excessive self-absorption. It did nothing to help me learn and develop a more “healthy” social network at the same time I was working on my “issues”, in order to become a person who COULD participate more fully.

    I believe there needs to be more research on the adverse effects of therapy, and that’s where a grassroots organization could be helpful. It might also be helpful in making information about the potential adverse effects of therapy become better known and discussed. Also better informed consent information given to clients.

    Lots of ideas around on different websites around the internet but no advocacy organization that I know of.

  • Is there a place in the anti-psychiatry movement for people who somehow lost the ability to realize and define themselves? That’s what happened to me, long before I got to therapy. But therapy didn’t help, as I described above.

    Where does one find that ability, once it has been lost? For me, support groups and online forums, etc. have helped. But when I suggest maybe we need to form our own grassroots organization to address the harm that therapy can cause I have yet to find any takers.

  • “Theorists such as Davidow, Hall, and Banks characterize mental illness culture in a way that might make it an example of the deficit paradigm. They contend that the behaviors and inner states that result in psychiatric diagnoses are the result of trauma and/or neurodiversity; the mental illness culture as outlined above would therefore be caused by systemic oppression that should be fought against as a matter of civil rights and within that same tradition.”

    Absolutely. I have what might also be described as a liminal relationship with mental health culture, too. I defined myself as a “mental patient” after being hospitalized as a teenager for an eating disorder – it’s the way they did things 55 years ago – and being a “mental patient” was a way out of being required to be a success in some form in the mainstream (status-focused white Southern) culture I was born in.

    Eventually, I went to college, didn’t fit in much but graduated, got a job, looked mostly normal. I met another neurodiverse but heterosexual person and we got married, had kids, again looked mostly normal and my family liked me. I thought I was doing OK. No relationships, much, outside of my family, but I felt I was mostly doing OK. I went to therapy off and on when I felt depressed or felt I had trouble parenting well. The trouble I had at work was, when I felt what was going on wasn’t right and the management would do nothing about it, or I felt unable to do the work in a way I thought was right, then I would leave, before and without having another job lined up. So, even though I had had some good jobs, I also didn’t keep them or have much of a career. I now think this is indicative of a personality disorder, most likely OCPD at the time though that was never diagnosed. I defined myself by roles and rules and tried to do the right thing.

    When my late husband died 20 years ago, I looked to, and went to, therapy because I “knew”/felt I would need “help” to adjust. Instead, I fell apart, went into a downward spiral, never psychotic but unstable, often angry and believing that in accordance with the therapy rules as I understood them, that I should “express” that anger. It didn’t work out so well on a number of important occasions, I was clueless about what was going on, clueless about how to improve things other than continuing to go to therapy, which for whatever (obsessive?) reason I continued to believe in.

    Eventually, 5 years ago, a trauma specialist I had been seeing for 6 years, terminated me because she didn’t “have the emotional resources” to continue. I was devastated. The terrifying wasteland reality of my life, enmeshed in belief and trust in the mental health system, became clear. I had fortunately lucked into a good support group and didn’t have to find another therapist to cling to although I checked several of them out, without any rapport or sense that they had a clue where I was coming from. So I’ve been free of them for 5 years, but still not much life, social skills, sense of belonging.

    What I was missing already when I went to therapy as teenager was the ability to define an identity for myself. That was a result, I believe, of trauma and the oppressive, conformity- and appearance-oriented family and culture I grew up in. And my neurodiversity as a female science and math nerd.

    Adopting the “mental patient” identity helped for awhile, compared with other alternatives available to me. All defined outside myself.

    Identity and sense of self are a joint product of the person and the environment. My growing up environment was not so healthy. The mental health culture isn’t either. It’s oppressive and devaluing, and should be fought against, as you said, as a matter of civil rights.

    To a certain extent, as with all oppressed people, it’s so hard, when you are in an un-valued place within that system, to feel that you have value, to have a sense of identity as a citizen whatever your deficits. We can validate and value each other, though – and should. That’s part of what helped those other groups overcome their marginalization and reclaim their dignity, too.

  • “. . .We need a massive and sustained public outcry. Psychiatry will continue to lie – what else can it do . . . It’s up to us to educate the general public.”

    How do we do that better? Not just psychiatry though — talk therapy and the “relationships” there can be damaging and harmful, too, in ways that people looking for “help” can never imagine and often can’t see when it is happening.

  • Thanks, Ana. I think the approach outlined in the article makes a lot of sense. Even the notion of survivor-controlled research is exciting. I’m glad it’s being done at all and taken seriously somewhere. Maybe there is hope for it to spread more widely eventually.

    The current model is not working. Many of us survivors know first-hand that it is not, but the professionals in the field apparently don’t — yet. Eventually, hopefully, they will.

  • I was hooked on the “caring”, “empathy”, and “validation” that I got from therapists, off and on, for more than 50 years. I thought that I would get “well” and then could be an OK person, that my not functioning well socially was, of course, my fault or that of my “issues”. And I certainly wanted to do better!

    My mental health problems weren’t those for which drugs were deemed necessary, although antidepressants were recommended sometimes and I used them on several different occasions, without much improvement. So I got off and didn’t have anybody insisting that I take them.

    But getting hooked on the idea that therapy would help did its own kind of damage to my life.

    So, I’m with you, Caroline. Thanks for the article. Very well stated.

  • I spent 50 + years identifying as a “mental patient” and going to therapy off and on. Not many meds, just antidepressants a few times which didn’t help.

    But that course of action. . .looking to and following the mental health “experts”, therapists, was ruinous in its own way.

    What can those of us who now know the perils and dangers of the mental health system now do about it? It is so frustrating. . .

    Ron Bassman wrote:

    “My dream: To build compassionate communities where people who look, act, or think differently are supported in ways for them to develop their innate potential. That each of us has value and that we learn from each other’s strength and weakness. . .”

    That is the core thing, I think, which need to be emphasized and developed, somehow. And not just for those of us who look, act, or think differently as usually defined – but everybody, because everybody is an individual and looks, acts, or thinks differently from others sometime.

    As Bassman also wrote: “We are all in this together. If it is truly 100% I am hoping we find new creative ways to unite and push in the same direction.”

    What kind of political movement or nonprofit organization is needed to move toward this logical alternative? How can we find each other and invite others, too?

  • I had a similar experience and agree with your comment:

    “In my case, it was the absence of people who would listen that led me to conclude that the system can’t be reformed.”

    I have tried very hard in the 5 years since I concluded, after 50 years of therapy on and off, that therapists couldn’t help with whatever my condition was, often did not know what my condition was or may have been, they may have made things worse and yet — they remain uninterested in considering that or in hearing about my experience, even when I have provided feedback.

    It’s hopeless. A grass roots movement may help eventually, but probably not in my lifetime. I see nothing on the horizon now and I’m getting toward the end of my time. I don’t know how to start anything, either.

    Mad in America is a good start, but my disastrous experiences were with the institution of psychotherapy and therapists, not so much with psychiatry as it is now.
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  • I agree with Ian Parker’s comments:

    “Therapy on its own will solve nothing. We need broader social therapy that will change the world and the conditions that give rise to so many forms of distress.”

    “. . .psychologists think they are social engineers, but they are the maintenance men who keep the sewers in place. . .”

    “. . . Some people have told me that prisoners sometimes use sewers to escape, but that only happens in films like the Shawshank redemption. Usually, people go into the sewers to escape, and they drown. I think psychology is a complete dead-end discipline that developed at the same time as capitalism. We need to get rid of them both.”

    Marxist socialism didn’t work. I think there will always be individuals in a society who are very individualistic, and their creativity and entrepreneurship, etc., benefit others in the society, even though that may have had little to do with their intent. Capitalism just puts too much focus on that. It allowed human society to develop beyond feudalism. But now there is NO community, collaborative ethic that I know of, yet, that nurtures and supports people and within which individualism can flourish, too. I think that’s what needs to happen, and probably will eventually. Is there anything that can be done now to help that process along? I wish I knew, and therefore could do something. Right now, I just feel helpless and hopeless about the whole thing. Still, having spent many years in the sewer until someone in an online forum finally clued me in, I’m putting my 2 cents in here. . .

  • “helplessness”

    “unworthy or undeserving of love”

    and together,

    “helplessness in the face of feeling unworthy or undeserving of love”

    I didn’t really have the words, but these are very close to describing what feels like the pit that is the core and source of my “madness” – chronic (sometimes major) depression, personal failure, etc.

    I had a lot of therapy on and off over the last 55 years – the last one terminated by the therapist who said she “did not have the emotional resources” to continue. I had feelings and responses from that rejection unlike anything else in my adult life. Six months later I re-cognized the feelings and responses with feelings I had had in connection with my family. Unbearable, traumatic even, and I had numbed it out? I was in-the-bed depressed for 2 days after that and then pretty depressed and withdrawn for several months, slowly crawling back out but not especially “well”.

    With regard to dependency and side effects, antidepressant drugs had very little effect on me so I hadn’t taken them much. But I had a lot of therapy, and now believe I developed a dependency on that which was unhealthy. Except that – well, eventually the numbed out pain was reactivated? Leading maybe to something better? Except that, again, how to move forward at 72, and why did it take so long to get here?

    “. . .Those who raise us create the social fabric in which we develop, making our personalities and identities in many ways inseparable from our experiences with the people who raised us. Extremes of madness or emotional overwhelm often result from a lack of or a tearing apart of this intimately woven internal and external social fabric in our early lives. Less severe emotional struggles will also be fueled by lesser but inevitable times of emotional difficulty in childhood.

    It therefore makes sense that the “solutions” to madness always involve a healing of the internal and external social fabric through developing new and better approaches to life, usually along with new and better relationships.”

    Based on my long and sometimes harmful experience with psychotherapy I believe there is an enormous need for a better understanding of how these fabrics are created, what makes healthy and resilient ones, and how to help mend them – both internal and external. That’s a focus that could radically change our approach to “mental health”.