And that was the language, the language of war — conquering, vanquishing – that constituted our discourse. This discourse and the expectations that lay behind it entered the world of psychiatry with the notion that it was just a matter of time before we would find the genes that cause all of the problems our patients face, which in turn would lead to identification of the molecules – the drugs – that would erase their suffering.
My career began in the aura of this hope and optimism.
But there was a counter narrative, one that has deep roots in Vermont and was embedded in the growth of Howard Center during the 1980s and 1990s. It was the narrative of recovery. It was the narrative of social inclusion. It was the narrative of rights for people who had been marginalized and whose lives had been discounted. This narrative also told us that most people can recover.
We have since learned that there are things we, as health care and social support providers, families and communities, can do to dampen the hope upon which that narrative is founded and things we can do to foster it. We know that offering hope, helping people find a path of meaning in their lives, and improving social connections, and community acceptance will help people to recover.
The dominant medical structures in our world are predicated on the first narrative, the narrative of the victory of medical science and the defeat of human misery. Howard Center, while not ignoring the achievements of modern technology, is deeply imbued with the values of the second narrative, the narrative of recovery.