Labels, Toxic Psychiatry, Empathic TherapyBy Robert Rose
What is your label? Most of us have been labeled in some derogatory way by family, friends, or people who see us in ways easy to generalize. Their remarks may focus on physical, gender, ethnic, racial, or religious differences (or believed ones) and we may shrug them off by some defensive ploys – but they hurt. Worse, in many cases, especially if repeated by others, we begin to believe them in a sad self-fulfilling prophesy.
Dr.Peter Breggin is a psychiatrist who challenges the beliefs and practices of many of his colleagues. I was interested in talking with him because I also strongly believe we are medicating our children and putting into their minds that behavior that deviates too far from the “norm,” (read: expectations of controlling adults) means they are sick and have to have medication. This is one example of how labeling becomes a continuing cause of a specific dysfunctional behavior.
Another “illness” we discussed was Borderline Personality Disorder. It seemed to me obvious that everyone has a personality that we may not like or do like, but it is A personality, a collection of individual characteristics that define that person. How can there be a borderline personality? To me it is a garbage diagnosis that gives doctors a reason to prescribe drugs or therapies so that insurance companies will pay for the alleged treatment. This diagnosis is not working well because it is garbage and doctors don’t know what medications will cure it. Mainly because it’s not an illness, but a money maker. Toxic Psychiatry explains much more about the unintended consequences of giving prescription drugs as if they were the answer for every human discomfort. Instead they prevent the patient from facing the causes of his illness.
Dr.Breggin states, “Empathic Therapy is a big tent. Divergent views, cordially expressed and discussed, are welcome. However, the goal of the Center for the Study of Empathic Therapy, Education and Living is to study and to encourage genuine human engagement as the centerpiece of all good helping relationships. If you are only in partial agreement, come along. You will find the participants happy to engage and even to embrace differences of opinion, provided they do not oppress those who seek help.”
He continues, “Genuine empathy, as well as good science, lead to the conclusion that damaging the brain with drugs, electroshock and lobotomy is simply wrong, and should be actively opposed. Unfortunately, the leadership of the various divergent schools and critiques have rarely if ever dared stand up to organized psychiatry by criticizing the use of these brain-damaging treatments.
Jung, Adler, Rogers, and nearly all the existential and humanistic leadership have always taken a ‘live and let live’ approach to the most abusive psychiatric practices. Szasz was the first to clearly and meritoriously criticize involuntary treatment, but he and many of his followers have taken a hands-off attitude toward the actual physical abuses perpetrated by psychiatry.”
Finally, “Authoritarian viewpoints embedded in psychiatry, and in much of contemporary psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, have no place in empathic therapy. Diagnosing people with pejorative labels elevates the therapist to a superior position while diminishing those who seek help.”
All the above ties together as a way to give balance to labeling. It is important that doctors, teachers, employers, all of us listen to, try to understand the enormous differences and uniqueness of each. That leads to a feeling for, an empathic relationship with each person. It’s not happening too often, but Dr. Breggin’s books can help make it a reality for many more. He offers no simplistic solutions, but respects the patient’s rights and recognizes his ability to take increasing responsibility for his care and his life.