Anti-psychiatry - Diverse Paths

Diverse Paths

Szasz has since (2008) re-emphasized his disdain for the term anti-psychiatry, arguing that its legacy has simply been a "catchall term used to delegitimize and dismiss critics of psychiatric fraud and force by labeling them 'antipsychiatrists'". He points out that the term originated in a meeting of four psychiatrists (Cooper, Laing, Berke and Redler) who never defined it yet "counter-label their discipline as anti-psychiatry", and that he considers Laing most responsible for popularizing it despite also personally distancing himself. Szasz describes the deceased (1989) Laing in vitriolic terms, accusing him of being irresponsible and equivocal on psychiatric diagnosis and use of force, and detailing his past "public behavior" as "a fit subject for moral judgment" which he gives as "a bad person and a fraud as a professional".

Daniel Burston, however, has argued that overall the published works of Szasz and Laing demonstrate far more points of convergence and intellectual kinship than Szasz admits, despite the divergence on a number of issues related to Szasz being a libertarian and Laing an existentialist; that Szasz employs a good deal of exaggeration and distortion in his criticism of Laing's personal character, and unfairly uses Laing's personal failings and family woes to discredit his work and ideas; and that Szasz's "clear-cut, crystalline ethical principles are designed to spare us the agonizing and often inconclusive reflections that many clinicians face frequently in the course of their work". Szasz has indicated that his own views came from libertarian politics held since his teens, rather than through experience in psychiatry; that in his "rare" contacts with involuntary mental patients in the past he either sought to discharge them (if they were not charged with a crime) or "assisted the prosecution in securing conviction" (if they were charged with a crime and appeared to be prima facie guilty); that he is not opposed to consensual psychiatry and "does not interfere with the practice of the conventional psychiatrist", and that he provided "listening-and-talking ("psychotherapy")" for voluntary fee-paying clients from 1948 until 1996, a practice he characterizes as non-medical and not associated with his being a psychoanalytically trained psychiatrist.

The gay rights or gay liberation movement is often thought to have been part of anti-psychiatry in its efforts to challenge oppression and stigma and, specifically, to get homosexuality removed from the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. However, a psychiatric member of APA's Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Issues Committee has recently sought to distance the two, arguing that they were separate in the early 70s protests at APA conventions and that APA's decision to remove homosexuality was scientific and happened to coincide with the political pressure. Reviewers have responded, however, that the founders and movements were closely aligned; that they shared core texts, proponents and slogans; and that others have stated that, for example, the gay liberation critique was "made possible by (and indeed often explicitly grounded in) traditions of antipsychiatry".

In the clinical setting, the two strands of anti-psychiatry — criticism of psychiatric knowledge and reform of its practices — were never entirely distinct. In addition, in a sense, anti-psychiatry was not so much a demand for the end of psychiatry, as it was an often self-directed demand for psychiatrists and allied professionals to question their own judgements, assumptions and practices. In some cases, the suspicion of non-psychiatric medical professionals towards the validity of psychiatry was described as anti-psychiatry, as well the criticism of "hard-headed" psychiatrists towards "soft-headed" psychiatrists. Most leading figures of anti-psychiatry were themselves psychiatrists, and equivocated over whether they were really "against psychiatry", or parts thereof. Outside the field of psychiatry, however — e.g. for activists and non-medical mental health professionals such as social workers and psychologists — 'anti-psychiatry' tended to mean something more radical. The ambiguous term "anti-psychiatry" came to be associated with these more radical trends, but there was debate over whether it was a new phenomenon, whom it best described, and whether it constituted a genuinely singular movement.

In the 1990s, a tendency was noted among psychiatrists to characterize and to regard the anti-psychiatric movement as part of the past, and to view its ideological history as flirtation with the polemics of radical politics at the expense of scientific thought and enquiry. It was also argued, however, that the movement contributed towards generating demand for grassroots involvement in guidelines and advocacy groups, and to the shift from large mental institutions to community services. Additionally, community centers have tended in practice to distance themselves from the psychiatric/medical model and have continued to see themselves as representing a culture of resistance or opposition to psychiatry's authority. Overall, while antipsychiatry as a movement may have become an anachronism by this period and was no longer led by eminent psychiatrists, it has been argued that it became incorporated into the mainstream practice of mental health disciplines. On the other hand, mainstream psychiatry became more biomedical, increasing the gap between professionals.

A criticism was made in the 1990s that three decades of anti-psychiatry had produced a large literature critical of psychiatry, but little discussion of the deteriorating situation of the mentally troubled in American society. Anti-psychiatry crusades have thus been charged with failing to put suffering individuals first, and therefore being similarly guilty of what they blame psychiatrists for. The rise of anti-psychiatry in Italy was described by one observer as simply "a transfer of psychiatric control from those with medical knowledge to those who possessed socio-political power".

In the meantime, members of the psychiatric consumer/survivor movement continued to campaign for reform, empowerment and alternatives, with an increasingly diverse representation of views. Groups often have been opposed and undermined, especially when they proclaim to be, or when they are labelled as being, "anti-psychiatry". However, as of the 1990s, more than 60 percent of ex-patient groups reportedly support anti-psychiatry beliefs and consider themselves to be "psychiatric survivors". Although anti-psychiatry is often attributed to a few famous figures in psychiatry or academia, it has been pointed out that consumer/survivor/ex-patient individuals and groups preceded it, drove it and carried on through it.

Read more about this topic:  Anti-psychiatry

Famous quotes containing the words paths and/or diverse:

    Why didst thou leave the trodden paths of men
    Too soon, and with weak hands though mighty heart
    Dare the unpastured dragon in his den?
    Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)

    Is it possible
    That any may find
    Within one heart so diverse mind,
    To change or turn as weather and wind?
    Is it possible?
    Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503?–1542)