Sunday, November 08, 2020

Embarrassing use of the term ‘anti-psychiatry’

I’ve mentioned before (eg. see last post) that it was David Cooper that first used the term ‘anti-psychiatry’. Adrian Chapman has an interesting article about him. He references a Guardian piece by David Gale, who saw Cooper for therapy for 4 years. 

As Chapman says, “Cooper overreached [himself]”. This is, I think, a rather generous assessment of what happened to Cooper’s anti-psychiatry, which as RD Laing said became rather embarrassing. Chapman also notes that Adrian Laing, the son of RD Laing, in his biography of his father says there was only ever one anti-psychiatrist. That was David Cooper. Those that still use the term ‘anti-psychiatry’ generally don’t mean Cooper when they use the term. Instead they are usually trying to denigrate criticisms of psychiatry (see eg. previous post).

It’s also rather outrageous to include classic works like Erving Goffman’s Asylums and Michel Foucault’s History of Madness within a denigratory use of the work ‘anti-psychiatry’ (see another previous post). As I’ve said before, I think people should stop using the term. It was a historical phase that psychiatry went through, which actually was not as negative as is commonly made out. Psychiatry needs to learn to take on board criticisms of its tendencies to reductionism and positivism.

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