Working from a trauma-informed perspective, I provide psychotherapy to people who, for a variety of reasons, are experiencing significant struggle, distress and life disruption. I have particular interest in working with individuals who live with varying degrees of dissociation, depersonalization, personal dis-integration, and ‘psychosis’, as can occur in response to traumatic experience. Another one of my areas of interest is existential despair, which can happen when the ability to find meaning and purpose in daily living has been diminished or lost. And, I work with those who have challenges stemming from what they’ve been told are attentional and/or autism spectrum disorders.
I’m often asked if I’m ‘anti-psychiatry’ or ‘anti-medication’. The short answers are ‘no’ and ‘no’. Below are expanded explanations of the positions I occupy on both.
Most of mainstream psychiatry and associated mental health systems locate ‘problems’ within the individual by applying a psychiatric diagnosis. The individual’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours are labelled as ‘symptoms of disorder/illness’. By doing this, the circumstances surrounding and impacting the individual (i.e., the things the person is trying to cope with) are essentially ignored. Rather than looking at the individual in the context of their environment and seeing the environment as the problem, the individual becomes problem. Natural & expected responses to trauma & adversity are repackaged and then viewed as ‘symptoms of mental disorder’.
In my opinion, this is essentially socially accepted gaslighting – telling someone they are the problem rather than acknowledging and addressing the impact of the trauma & adversity the person has endured, and how they are being so adversely impacted by this.
So, I’m not anti-psychiatry. Rather, I cannot abide any practice or profession(al) that does what I have described here.
Regarding psychiatric medication, there are a few points that explain my position. The first of these is the use of the word ‘medication’. It is my belief that ‘drug’ is a more appropriate term than ‘medication’ for use when referring to the collection of agents used in psychiatry. I base this belief on evidence found in the growing body of scientific literature that shows among other things, what the drugs do and what they do not do.
The second issue that influences my position on psychiatric drugs is the matter of informed consent. I have a firmly held belief that anyone who is prescribed any treatment (drugs or other) should be given the opportunity to provide fully informed consent to treatment. This requires the prescriber to ensure the user has all the information needed to make an informed choice. In the case of psychiatric drugs, users should be told what the drugs do and what they do not do, the potential short- and long-term side effects, how to safely taper and how to safely withdrawal from the drugs, what other options could be used to help them with their distress.
When users are prescribed a psychiatric drug, and they are not given this information, they are not being given the opportunity to make an informed choice. It’s been my experience that few (if any) users are being given the opportunity to provide fully informed consent to treatment. In more than 20 years of providing support to those who are distressed or struggling, none of the individuals I’ve worked with, and who are taking psychiatric drugs, were given the opportunity to provide informed consent when they were prescribed psychiatric drugs. This is a fundamental problem.
I recognize that many people live with states of distress that are so extreme they often feel they cannot be in their world in ways that are meaningful. I also recognize that where psychiatric drugs are readily available to most people, other options like long-term psychotherapy are inaccessible to most people.
Essentially stated, where psychiatric drugs are concerned, my position is that it is not up to me to decide whether someone does or does not take psychiatric drugs. My primary concerns are those described above.
Putting all the above aside, I genuinely do believe most people share a fundamental desire to experience a greater sense of overall wellbeing, and that this is not created or maintained through processes and systems that medicalize and pathologize how we cope with our burdens, traumas and adversities. I’m convinced that wellbeing is a fundamental state that is available to all people. In this regard, I feel ‘modern’ mental health care has lost its way.
It’s been my experience that the journey towards wellbeing can start within some of the humblest spaces …… like the ones that are created when two people join in mutual regard, for exploratory conversation that is non-judgmental, and that is guided by a compassionate heart and an open mind.