Monday, April 20, 2020

‘Anti-psychiatric’ voices that have haunted psychiatry

Sarah Kamens’ excellent article on post-colonialism and (anti)psychiatry shows how a discursive hierarchy in psychiatry subjugates certain communicative modalities while elevating others. As she says, we need to “gain a better understanding of those ‘antipsychiatric’ voices that have haunted psychiatry for all of these years”.

As I said in my previous post, anti-psychiatry is more to do with mainstream psychiatry wanting to dismiss criticism of the biomedical model (which ranges from radical reductionism to eclecticism). David Cooper, who coined the term, became an embarrassing figure who was very much out on his own in his later books (see extract from my book chapter). However, the rotten reputation of anti-psychiatry lingers on.

Anti-psychiatry at least overlaps with mainstream psychiatry in its emphasis on human rights, the therapeutic community and community care. Kees Trimbos (1975), one of the founders of Dutch social psychiatry, warned against imagining that anti-psychiatry was just a fad: "after all, anti-psychiatry is also psychiatry!"  There may be more benefit from looking for the continuities, rather than discontinuities, of anti-psychiatry with orthodox psychiatry.

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