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January 11, 2018 by Sami Timimi, MD

The Scientism of Psychiatry

Psychiatry likes to portray itself as a scientific discipline, and indeed there is a lot of useful science to draw on when evaluating the evidence base connected to mental health problems, its causes and treatments. Sadly, most of the mainstream psychiatric literature of recent decades has shown a marked preference for rhetoric over scientific accuracy. Research and discourse in psychiatry are now dominated and infected by scientism — the promotion of a belief, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not, that because what you do and talk about sounds and looks like ‘science,’ it is ‘scientific’ — rather than a rational engagement with the nature and consequences of the actual scientific findings.

This scientism has sometimes scared critics from engagement with the actual science in preference of critiquing the suitability of using scientific reasoning to understand what we today define as ‘mental health.’ Opening the lid on both issues (the lack of engagement with the actual scientific findings and the suitability of using particular scientific methods for all knowledge generation) is important. We must endeavour to make transparent the grand deception that organisations such as the one I belong to (the British Royal College of Psychiatrists) are selling to the public about the nature of what we have come to call ‘mental illness,’ its causes, its treatments, and the way we should organise services to help those who become mentally unwell.

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December 8, 2017 by EXCELLENCE Editor

Redeeming the Irreconcilable

At its best, motherhood is a bittersweet agony of self-sacrifice and letting go. At its worst, her child dies and a mother enters a new world of never letting go, carrying the weight of an unrightable wrong. The miracle of beauty from ashes comes when her love grows up through the grief and continues to give life.

In 1956, Alice Bolstridge gave birth to a beautiful, joyful boy she named Alan. In 2015, she laid him to rest. In between, they walked together through the trauma of a prolonged childhood illness and a lifetime of seemingly intractable mental and emotional challenges that grew from it.

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April 14, 2017 by Eliza Galaher, QMHA

The Power of Story

#3 in the series An Affirming Flame: Veterans’ Journeys from Trauma to Healing

Because of the gravity of the war-related experiences many veterans face, one struggle for veterans living with PTSD is the willingness and/or ability to tell their own story. To tell the story means to face it again, and that can be terrifying. But from Washington, DC, to Seattle, Washington, to the Navajo Nation in the southwest United States, story-telling is proving to be a key means of healing from the very trauma the memories of which veterans have strived to keep at bay.

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April 12, 2017 by Bob Nikkel, MSW

Mad in America to Host Webinar On Oregon’s Innovative Early Psychosis Programs

On Friday, April 28th, from 1-2:30 pm Eastern time (10-11:30 am Pacific), Mad in America Continuing Education will be host a webinar on the Early Assessment and Support Alliance, a one-of-a-kind early intervention project in Oregon for youth experiencing psychosis. The EASA projects are unique in that they build on nearly 2 decades of outcome research and represent a pragmatic blend of models from Australia, Open Dialogue, and others.

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April 10, 2017 by Gina Nikkel, PhD

Hearing Voices Network USA training in Atlanta

Gina Nikkel, PhD and Gail Hornstein, PhD in Atlanta at the April 5 panel discussion “What can we learn from people who hear voices?”

As President and CEO for The Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care (FEMHC) I have to admit that I get to participate in some life changing meetings and meet extraordinary people. This past week was no exception.

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February 21, 2017 by Sandra Steingard, MD

Farewell Mickey Nardo, 1 (not very) Boring Old Man

About five years ago, as my own blogging life was beginning, I found John M. Nardo’s outstanding blog, www.1boringoldman. His focus was on the poor quality of studies that formed the evidence base of modern psychiatry. In a painstaking way, he dove into study after study and pointed out their flaws. His outrage was apparent but couched in a graceful eloquence.

There was a comment section and I eventually jumped in. I had some communication with him outside of the blog, but mostly our communication was in the comments. At the beginning, I did not know his name or much about him. Over time, he shared a bit of his story.

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February 20, 2017 by Sandra Steingard, MD

Committed: The Battle Over Involuntary Psychiatric Care

Dinah Miller and Annette Hanson are two of the three psychiatrists who blog at Shrink Rap. After I started blogging, I began to search out other blogging psychiatrists and I found them. They also have articles published in Clinical Psychiatry News. My impression is that they are decent, well-meaning, and thoughtful psychiatrists (not unlike most of the psychiatrists I know) who want to demystify our profession. Their writing is clear, straightforward, and accessible. Like me, they are all practicing psychiatrists and they deal with the pragmatic challenges we face in our daily work. They offer critical views but they overall seem proud of their profession and their careers. While I respect their work, in that area we seem to differ; they do not seem to be burdened by the professional existential angst that besets me.

On one topic we agree — the subject of involuntary care is the most vexing, contentious, and troubling topic for psychiatry. To their great credit, they have directed an enormous amount of attention and effort to this subject in their latest book, Committed: The Battle Over Involuntary Psychiatric Care.

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August 11, 2016 by William M. Tucker, MD

Recovery from Serious Mental Illness

My Own Experience Learning about Recovery
From early in 1990 until 2002 I served as Deputy Chief Medical Officer (=Deputy Medical Director) of the New York State Office of Mental Health (NYS-OMH).  From 2002 until the end of 2004 I served as Chief Medical Officer (Acting) for NYS-OMH.

During those 15 years I was invited to consult on hospitalized patients throughout our system.  That was a learning experience for me, because it taught me about the limits of what hospital treatment could accomplish.  Gradually, I came to see that those limits included the remediation or at least suppression of symptoms but not recovery itself.

As the patients told me, recovery could only flourish where they had the autonomy to pursue their own goals, that is, when living independently in their home communities.  I began to encourage my psychiatric colleagues to consider discharge earlier, even if some symptoms remained, so that recovery could begin.  When they countered that some symptoms persisted, I had little further to offer, because I did not know, myself, whether greater autonomy would lead to recovery, never having participated in settings where that process could unfold.

So, to find out, within a few months of retiring from NYS-OMH I took a position as team psychiatrist for a not-for-profit organization that provided standard apartment housing and ACT (assertive community treatment=outreach + engagement) services. 

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June 3, 2016 by Oryx Cohen, MPA

Celebrate Mad Pride Month – Host a screening of HEALING VOICES Film

MichiganMarquee2Thanks to 130 screening partners in eight different countries across the world, the HEALING VOICES One Night One Voice grassroots global release was a tremendous success.  Most importantly, this event has educated and energized folks to be the change they want to see so that healing is possible for everyone. We need to capitalize on this energy and keep up the momentum!

We are inviting you to host a screening for July as a part of Mad Pride Month.  You can help people around the world celebrate our “mad diversity” by organizing a town hall style screening in your community!

Check out the HEALING VOICES trailer and more information on screening packages.

Also, you are encouraged to either sell tickets and/or ask for donations to make this a fundraiser for your organization.  If you are interested, please contact me directly at oryxcohen@gmail.com.  We need to act fast as July is just around the corner!

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May 9, 2016 by Beatrice Birch

A Recipe for Life After Benzodiazepines

Inner Fire-Guides-Therapists-and-Seekers-4-10-16-074Vermont healing community successfully supports those tapering off of benzodiazepines and other drugs

Inner Fire, Inc. is a proactive healing community, offering striving individuals the choice to recover from debilitating and traumatic life experiences, (which often lead to addiction and mental health challenges), without the use of psychotropic medications. We opened our doors in Brookline, near Brattleboro in southern Vermont, on September 8th, 2015, welcoming six seekers to our yearlong intentional, therapeutic and farm based day program. Once the Inner Fire Home has been built, our intention is to become a therapeutic residential community.

Seven months later, all but one of the seekers who arrived on psychotropic medications have tapered safely off, having balanced the sometimes incredibly difficult withdrawal process with the empowering, proactive therapies and the practical work. A seeker, proven innocent after twenty-six years in prison, has withdrawn from a crack cocaine habit he developed while homeless during the first years after incarceration.

Another seeker will soon be off a very powerful benzodiazepine. “Hell warmed up” is the expression used describing the withdrawal process from this benzodiazepine; however, it has been everyone’s experience that by staying engaged in the program, surrounded by encouraging and loving people who believe in them as a creator and not a victim, that the withdrawal symptoms have not been as debilitating as expected.

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