September 2, 2009

According to Peter R. Breggin, MD, a psychiatrist/psychotherapist who has spoken out, and author of many books on the hazards of psychiatric drugs: If you are educated in the humanities or have read a few good self-help psychology books, and if you like to think about yourself and others, you may have more insight into personal growth than your psychiatrist does; and if you’ve taken a few college courses or read a little in academic psychology or psychoanalysis, you might know more theory as well. If you’ve also shared feelings and personal problems with some of your friends, then you may well have more experience and practice in talking therapy than your psychiatrist.

On the other hand, your psychiatrist will have more power than you. He or she can prescribe drugs or shock, lock you up against your will, talk behind your back with your husband, wife, or parents and make plans for your future without consulting you. There are numerous cases of individuals who sought psychiatric help for routine problems in living, such as sadness over the loss of a loved one, only to find themselves swept along the path of biopsychiatry, ending up with permanent brain dysfunction and damage from drugs and shock treatment.

What Is Psychiatry?

Many people don’t know the difference between psychiatry, psychotherapy, psychology, and psychoanalysis. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in treating people defined as having psychiatric problems. As physicians, psychiatrists have the right to prescribe drugs or electroshock, to hospitalize patients, and to treat people against their will. They are the only mental health professionals who routinely exercise these powers. Psychiatry sets the tone and direction for the field of mental health and has been rapidly pushing it toward a more biological or medical viewpoint. Psychotherapists are a very broad group, which includes anyone helping people with problems by talking with them. Not all psychiatrists are psychotherapists or "talking doctors." Many psychiatrists have little or no training in how to communicate with people about their problems. Instead they are trained in making "medical" diagnoses and giving drugs and electroshock. Psychologists are educated in graduate schools of psychology, rather than in medical schools, and they receive a Ph.D. rather than an M.D. Clinical psychologists are given training that overlaps with psychiatrists, and they often receive much more intensive training in psychotherapy than do psychiatrists. Sometimes they work side-by-side with psychiatrists in mental health facilities, but they usually exercise much less authority. In addition to psychiatrists and psychologists, many other professionals also offer psychotherapy, including clinical social workers, counselors, family therapists, some nurses, some ministers, and a variety of lay people.

Psychoanalysis is the form of psychotherapy founded and developed by Sigmund Freud and taught in his independently franchised psychoanalytic institutes. In the public’s mind, psychoanalysis is correctly associated with the couch, the note pad, and the silent listener. But psychoanalysis is often incorrectly equated with psychiatry. Contrary to popular belief, Freud was not the father of psychiatry. Psychiatry existed long before Freud, and had been and has been largely hostile to his teachings. Freud did not become a psychiatrist, and he warned his colleagues to beware of the medical profession. Nonetheless, psychiatry took over and overwhelmed psychoanalysis in the United States. Very few psychiatrists have become psychoanalysts, and psychoanalysis has very little influence in modern psychiatry.

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