People Are Not Objects

All medications prescribed for psychological distress, whether professionally prescribed or self-prescribed become unnecessary when self-regulation and self-reliance are developed in a person. One just doesn’t need them anymore, though they seem necessary right up to the second one decides to stop using them. In my experience, I have found that in addition to their toxic and often permanently damaging effects, medications interfere with the process of recovery. For me, recovery means returning from psychological distress and then going on and growing, becoming an even stronger individual than you thought possible.

I am convinced that if more members of my profession believed in the value of both engaging in their own deep work and critically evaluating their educational materials and their teachers, they could become valuable to their clients again instead of continuing to blindly prescribe drugs that prevent real recovery.

I have experienced times in my life when, if a person in authority over me holding the views currently dominating the field of mental health had seen or heard me, I could have been labeled mentally ill and possibly drugged or hospitalized. I have avoided hospitalization, shock, and all the horrible traumatic things that the mental health system still offers as treatments. I was simply lucky that I was able to keep quiet at the right time.

Those of you who have suffered these indignities know better than most that the human condition can get overwhelmingly distressing for all of us—suddenly and abruptly. At these points, the quality of the professional response to the person in distress powerfully affects the severity of the trauma and the rate of recovery. In those moments, people desperately seek an answer that will comfort them in their emotional pain. We are looking for some kind of respite from confusion and insecurity; often we do not trust our perceptions and do not want to feel what we are feeling about ourselves, our family, or our world. We grab for stability and put ourselves in the hands of trusted professionals. Unfortunately, psychological professionals who are only trained in the medical model of mental illness just do not have adequate training to handle individuals in distress. There is a world of difference in therapeutic effect between saying to a person in psychological distress, “You have an incurable disease, are broken, and need to live in a hospital or be medicated for the rest of your life” and “You are experiencing a temporary period of emotional overwhelm. We all have these periods. You can recover from this too.”

It is important for professionals to remember that anyone is capable of breaking down slowly or abruptly due to trauma and horrifying circumstances. I do not say this to scare people, but to be real: we can all break down. As professionals, how would we like to be treated in a time of distress? As an object or as a person? The sooner my profession trains itself to manage the anxiety that arises when confronting a person in distress, the sooner we will learn to provide people with the real solution: to treat people compassionately, as humans not objects, who can benefit from support and recovery.

The Medication Myth

There is absolutely no valid scientific proof that psychological distress has a genetic or biological cause. I know: I have looked for such proof. I have found only biased, inaccurate research, most of it directly funded by pharmaceutical corporations or those reaping benefits from the money created by prescriptions, insurance premiums, and continued public and professional ignorance.

Blind belief in the competence of medical professionals, a concept imbedded in social and academic education from our earliest childhoods, often prevents questioning of medical theories and practice. In my experience, this is very true of the belief in the use of medications to treat psychological distress. Prescription medications prevent access to deeper layers of emotion and prevent real healing. Those who find themselves doubting the expertise of medical professionals are often made to feel stupid or ‘non-compliant”, adding self-blame to their distress.

I am currently working on book that takes the metaphor in the well-known fable, the Emperor’s New clothes, to describe the unhealthy self-deceiving nature of psychiatry.  As a positive measure to balance the somewhat gloomy outlook, I present an alternative—and effective—approach to recovering from psychological distress: The Full Spectrum Approach. This positive approach focuses on both body and mind by integrating psychotherapy, movement, meditation, exercise, organic nutrition, and social activism. It does not rely on medications or the pathological and incorrect diagnoses contained in the DSM. It is founded on my personal and professional experience that recovery from all psychological distress, even severe distress such as psychosis, chronic anxiety and depression, and addiction, is possible without medications and eventually without psychological professionals.

Everyone has the potential to live happily relying on their own innate abilities to both heal themselves from distress and maintain their own health. This is the foundation of hope and strength I stand on personally and professionally. This foundation of belief has helped many people to reach levels of recovery from severe psychological distress that are not believed to be possible by most people, including virtually all mental health professionals. I invite you to open your mind and your heart to the possibility that full recovery as I define it is possible and that everybody can enjoy a life of self-confidence, self-regulation, and self-reliance.

Treating humans as people, not objects

In my training as a psychologist, I was taught to treat myself and my clients as objects, as machines needing mechanical repair. The medical model of mental illness was generated by research methods used in physical science for centuries. The same research tools used to study a rock, an ocean, or a bus are used to describe the characteristics of human experiences such as anger, joy, depression, or schizophrenia. When research subjects are treated like objects, it is no wonder that the mental health education built on such research creates professionals who objectify and dehumanize their clients.

In my clinical practice and research using a method which treats humans as as people, I have found that with proper support and a willingness to engage in the difficult work necessary for recovery, psychotropic medications and the serious health risks associated with their use are unnecessary. Hopefully, we will look back on the reliance on medications as simply another step in the evolution of an increased understanding of mental health. Hopefully, we will say, “We used to believe psychological distress was an incurable disease. we also used to believe that bloodletting, leeches, solitary confinement, straight jackets, lobotomy, electroshock, insulin coma, and tobacco-smoke enema machines were effective treatments. Now we can add psychotropic medications to the list.”

Medications seem necessary now to most professionals and those in distress. This is due to a lack of acceptance of research and information concerning their dangers and ineffectiveness.  It is also due to resistance in the media and the mental health field towards considering a different approach towards psychological distress.

Some Core Values of the Full Spectrum Approach

  • We are so much more than a brain with legs and arms. An effective approach to psychological health must take into account our whole body. Through our choices in life, each of us becomes a unique combination of the effects of our nutrition, exercise, family, intimate relationships, and community. Each person brings unique knowledge of themselves, their situation, and their own solutions to their problems. My role as a clinical psychologist is to help each person discover and develop their innate skills to heal themselves; in my approach, this includes many considerations beyond the traditional focus on the brain and its chemicals.
  • Complete Recovery is possible!  I fight against the prevailing trend in my profession of labeling people in psychological distress as broken and irreparable. Lasting healing and true transformation  is not possible through medication management.
  • Medications interfere with the process of recovery from psychological distress. While they may seem to relieve distress, they only relieve superficial symptoms, locking our distressing thoughts and emotions along with our power to address them into an almost unreachable chemical prison. Continual suppression results in a growing emotional abscess. This abscess festers, causing even more internal damage. Its pressure builds, usually requiring higher and higher doses of medication. Even then, our distress can burst into unhealthy thoughts and behavior, causing deeper distress depression, and even possibly psychosis.
  • Medications are never the healthiest solution. In addition to causing emotional and psychological damage to our innate abilities to heal ourselves, psychotropic medications are toxic and cause physical damage. Unfortunately, most physicians, nurses, and psychological professionals are taught to push the prescription of these toxic substances without first taking the time to fully explore healthier alternatives. In upcoming installments of this blog, I will explore the healthy alternatives that have proved successful for many people, allowing them to move off of medication and into transformation.

Recovering from Psychiatry’s Medical Model

I am a recovering clinical psychologist. By this, I mean I am recovering from traumatic experiences that happened while I trained to become a licensed clinical psychologist.  For over a decade, I had to confront the outright errors, unproven assumptions, and dogmatic teaching styles of my teachers and supervisors concerning the “proven”causes and solutions to psychological distress: the myth that psychological distress is a physical illness whose primary “cure” is pharmaceutical.

For me, the use of medications and the medical model which supports their use is both a serious issue  affecting the personal health of anyone in psychological distress and a serious social issue affecting the overall health of the human species. Unfortunately, we live in a world where any of us can be legally locked into a hospital, physically restrained,  drugged for the rest of our life against our will, and kept there indefinitely simply based on the opinion of one psychological professional. We do not even have to be in psychological distress to be legally and physically trapped by this system. All we need to do is find ourselves in the presence of an “approved”authority: a single psychological professional, a member of the police, a judge, a school official, or even a parent or guardian who decides that we are “mentally ill” or just an unwanted nuisance. Although this issue is carefully ignored by the media, forced hospitalization and forced medication of people in psychological distress is a common occurrence…and I have not even begun to talk about the millions of people who are forced to take these toxic medications simply because they are not offered any other option by their psychological professional.

Sadly, I know too many people who have much, too much experience with the painful, ineffective treatments prescribed for people suffering from psychological distress. I have met so many people who, having put their faith in psychiatric thought and practice, have experienced not only no improvement in their lives, but suffered added physical and emotional distress as a result of their prescribed treatments. In addition to the many debilitating physical effects commonly caused by prescribed psychiatric treatments, I have found that the repeated failure of psychiatric methods creates layers of extra depression, which sit like an iron burden on top of whatever personal trauma resulted in the prescription of these dangerous and ineffective treatments in the first place.

Even those who sincerely wish to discontinue their prescribed psychiatric treatments are still caught clinging to their belief in the unproven medical model of mental illness. They deny their own experience of psychiatry’s ineffectiveness because of their very understandable belief that if psychiatrists, the supposed experts, have not been able to help them, they are either too broken to ever recover or a failure for resisting psychiatric treatment. Usually, one or both of these beliefs have been encouraged either directly by those who use the medical model to shift blame for failure away from themselves or indirectly by the depressing diagnoses of the medical model.

As a practicing psychologist, my initial work with most individuals and groups is to invite them to consider that it is psychiatric theory and practice which is defective, broken, and resistant to change–not them.  I have developed what I call the Full Spectrum Approach to Psychological Health.  It has grown out of my research and personal search for safe, effective ways to heal from psychological distress. In addition to providing details of this approach, this blog will continue to give you information which exposes the causes of our continuing healthcare crisis, in particular the use of prescription medications as a valid treatment option for psychological distress.