Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Is critical psychiatry merely anti-psychiatry?

I have been looking at a presentation I gave on whether critical psychiatry is the same as "anti-psychiatry" (see powerpoint slides). I have always tended to emphasise critical psychiatry's links with mainstream psychiatry.

For example, I have mentioned Adolf Meyer several times in previous posts (see example). He was the foremost US psychiatrist in the first half of the twentieth century. His approach, which was called Psychobiology, has the same integrated understanding of mind and brain as critical psychiatry. The problem with Meyer was that he did not follow through on his challenge to biomedicine. He had a tendency to compromise. The full impact of his objection to the biomedical model in psychiatry tended to get lost. In a personal note in his papers a few years before he died, he himself admitted that he should have made clear his "outspoken opposition, instead of a mild semblance of harmony" [his emphasis].

Similarly, George Engel promoted the biopsychosocial model, which forms the basis for patient-centred medicine and psychiatry, as does critical psychiatry. As I pointed out in another talk, Engel was specifically responding to a paper by Arnold Ludwig when he published his 1997 paper in Science arguing for a new medical model. He was explicit that he was challenging biomedical dogmaticism. However, what has happened over recent years is that the biopsychosocial model has been interpreted in an eclectic way evading its full ideological impact. Nassir Ghaemi agrees with me on this point (see my review of his book The rise and fall of the biopsychosocial model). Where we disagree is that I don't think he has fully appreciated the validity of Engel's biopsychosocial model in its original form. I have even suggested using the term "sociopsychobiological" to make clear that I am not using biopsychosocial in an eclectic way (see previous post).

The point I'm making is that critical psychiatry does have roots in mainstream psychiatry. It is not "anti-psychiatry" in that sense.

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