Friday, December 30, 2011

3 New Year's resolutions

Most of these resolutions have to do with the memoir I have been writing and rewriting going on seven years now.  My writing has gotten better, or at least more precise, thanks to the freelance editor who is helping me whip the chapters into shape. Right now I'm working on the chapter on Family Constellation Therapy. I'm a bit like a plumber who has completely torn apart the kitchen sink in order to determine where the leak is. All the sentence nuts and bolts are strewn on the floor and I've got to figure out how to put them back in the right order to avoid taking the chapter apart again.

New Year's Resolutions

1. Finish editing my book.

2. Finish editing my book.

3. Pepper my posts liberally with LOL.

Reason: I've been resisting introducing LOL into my posts 'cause I generally hate using popular and geographically based slang. It's fine for other people who seem to know how to use LOL appropriately. I also fear a sense of humor doesn't come across as well as I would like it to in my writing. Hence LOL. It will also make me look more carefree, almost as carefree as I feel these days.

Oh, yes, and Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The placebo effect and the diagnosis effect

There is an article in the Dec. 19 edition of The New Yorker magazine about how the placebo effect is gaining new found respectability. The Power of Nothing: Could studying the placebo effect change the way we think about medicine? The subject of the article, Ted Kaptchuk, Director of the Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter at Harvard's Beth Israel Medical Center, believes that if the patient gets better, not because of a drug, but due to the placebo effect, shouldn't the placebo be considered a useful took in the medical tool kit, as useful as any drug?

The article states that simply believing in the treatment can be as effective as the treatment itself. In several recent studies, placebos have performed as well as drugs that Americans spend millions of dollars on each year.

The New Yorker article started me thinking about how the placebo effect, which we all tend to positively associate with healing, could also be used in the opposite sense - being told you are not going to get better. The placebo effect is often used to demonstrate how amenable the human mind is to suggestion - if people believe they are going to get better, they often do. What then do we make of the mental illness diagnosis, the label that the psychiatrist hands out? The mental health diagnosis, critics charge, opposes the expectation of recovery. The worst mental health diagnosis, the one with the least prospect for recovery (for people who believe what the doctor tells them) is a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

Patients are told by the doctor that they have a life long illness, that can be managed by drugs. They are told there is no hope of being cured. Therefore, the patient correctly internalizes the diagnosis and his actions henceforth tend to uphold the diagnosis. It is my experience that people who reject the diagnosis and/or do not succumb to the medical model of the so-called disease are the ones who cure themselves. Looking at recovery incentives in the hard nosed context of money, the article states: In several recent studies, placebos have performed as well as drugs that Americans spend millions of dollars on each year, one might logically ask, well, why not give schizophrenia patients the equivalent of a placebo - the expectation of being cured? The patient's mind will take over from there.

The diagnosis effect is much more sinister than the placebo effect, at least from what little we know of how the placebo effect is being manipulated in drug trials so far. The New Yorker article IMHO shows that in the future, it is possible that the placebo effect can be manipulated for noble and not so noble ends. The diagnosis effect, when it comes to a mental health label, casts a spell over the patient, his family, and anyone who connects the diagnosis to the patient.  I have heard people parrot exactly what the doctor tells them -- that schizophrenia is life long, that not taking meds leads to relapse, that the disease itself, not the effect of the meds or the natural course of the illness at a certain point, dulls the mind. The family begins to treat the patient as a mental and emotional cripple. Whatever the patient may believe about the course of his condition is negatively reinforced every day by the family and others who believe that the original diagnosis is scientifically factual, and not something that can be tweaked by the power of suggestion.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Adults are not harmed by DSM labels

There is an excellent article by Paula Caplan, Ph.D.  in Psychology Today (Dec. 19).

 In "Who Will Protest Against the DSM Harm?", Dr. Caplan points out the hypocrisy of some well known psychiatrists who have suddenly  (but not really) "seen the light" when it comes to societies most vulnerable citizens (children and the elderly.) We are only too aware that society's vulnerable adults have been harmed for decades by the labels and the drugging, but a petition  by The American Psychological Association that is gaining huge momentum tellingly omitted adults from its list of those harmed, until Caplan pointed out this rather gaping hole to the petition's coordinator.

The good news: More people than ever before are learning that psychiatric diagnosis is not grounded in good science and causes a vast array of harm to people who have turned for alleviation of their suffering to those who are called helping professionals. The bad news: The forces keeping the psychiatric diagnosis juggernaut rolling and misleading the public are more powerful than ever.

IMHO, psychiatry's new found zeal to right past wrongs for certain groups is merely sensing which way the wind blows, but it is hoping to keep the public focused on cute children and elderly parents in nursing homes in order to divert attention away from the bulk of its clients, namely adults. Here's a confession of mine, which I think I have already confessed to elsewhere in my blog. If an organization wants to be at the receiving end of warm fuzzies from the public while simultaneously enriching its own bottom line, focus on children. Psychiatry is no different from charities in that respect. What, no adults in need of our support? I ask myself before flicking the remote or failing to drop a coin or two into a cardboard box at the check-out counter. The widely promoted concept of "child poverty" is a particular bugbear of mine. Child poverty, I often snort. Children aren't by themselves poor. They have poor parents. Bah humbug.

Caplan writes:
You may have heard about the petition started by several divisions of the American Psychological Association, who express concern about possible harm to children, adolescents, and the elderly and ask for an external group (the DSM is published by the American Psychiatric Association) to evaluate the proposals for the next edition, called DSM-5. This petition has garnered thousands of signatures and the support of additional American Psychological Association divisions. Although it is wonderful that these brave divisions have at last spoken out about the devastation caused to untold numbers of people over the many decades of the DSM's existence, it is stunning that they would specifically omit mention of harm to adults who are not elderly.

There's lots to ponder in her article. Please read it.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Calling all First Episode Schizophrenia Torontonians

Raymond J Pataracchia ND, BSc © 2011/2012
Clinic Director, Naturopathic Medical Research Clinic
December 7, 2011

Our outreach project, localized to the geographic catchment of Southern Ontario and US vicinity, aims to provide an advanced drug-free treatment regimen that offers hope for first-episode schizophrenia (FES). First-episode schizophrenia is identifiable in people with consistent psychotic symptoms lasting 6 to 24 months. It is in this FES group that researchers believe early treatment offers the most benefit. Indeed it is in this group that there exists the greatest potential to bring brain chemistry back to a state of normalcy.

We are currently accepting patients for a one year open-label clinical trial (where everyone knows what the treatment is) and we encourage all interested to call our Toronto clinic toll free at 1-877-ORTH-871 or locally at 416-944-8824. Although medical referral is not mandatory, we work with an array of medical professionals and encourage inter-professional collaboration.

In this international outreach effort, the Naturopathic Medical Research Clinic (NMRC), located inToronto, Ontario, will use an advanced drug-free nutrient-based protocol with a central nutrient foundation that has been used successfully over the past half century.

We intend to report on the effectiveness of this unique first-episode treatment method in the sample of patients. Reporting will not only help future research efforts, but will also help society appreciate the value of a drug-free approach considered to offer profound hope.

It is important to note that FES patients taking drug medication can safely and simultaneously use this nutrient-based protocol. In society, we see a high drug drop-out rate in FES. Indeed many patients (upwards of 40%) opt not to take drug medication at all. With this existing demographic sample we aim to determine the comparative effectiveness of an advanced nutrient-based protocol in drug-naïve versus drug-medicated FES. Although the fact that the benefit of using neuroleptic drugs in FES is not established, the majority of modern day psychiatric researchers will assert: 1) that medication benefits outweigh apparent risks, 2) that maintaining medication while implementing an alternate treatment method does not negatively alter results or study validity and, 3) that drug sedative effects play a paramount role in maintaining socially acceptable society decorum.
We all look forward to the day when FES patients will be given the opportunity to live life free of major sedation. The NMRC treatment protocol archive on first-episode and chronic schizophrenia encompasses a comprehensive array of nutrient targeted patient data. Our archive supports the use of an exceptional model of wellness in FES. In considering the protocol of choice in first-episode cases, we have taken into account sixty years of evidence-based archives and a decade of in-house data on alternative clinical treatment outcomes in schizophrenia. The chosen FES protocol is a clinical nutrition vitamin and mineral regimen that combines adjunct thyroid treatment when indicated. The clinical nutrition component is an advanced and novel clinical nutrition (orthomolecular) regimen that addresses core nutrient deficiencies and dependencies. We consider this approach to provide the best treatment outcome scenario in FES.
There will be a comprehensive lab testing component integrated in this trial as we aim to determine the metabolic and biochemical factors that define good responders. There will also be a comprehensive component that assesses symptoms and quality of life functional recovery aspects. An international
outreach effort of this quality will facilitate an understanding of the most effective alternative treatment model for FES, and thereby offer hope to a segment of society that so drastically needs it.

This outreach project is considered an ‘in-house’ open-label research endeavor and as such does not
require grant funding or natural health product regulatory body approval. In this case, under this research design, eligible participants will be required to pay for a portion of assessment and treatment services and supplement costs. A four-part service package fee covers one year of assessment and treatment services. Monthly supplement cost estimates are available and vary depending on body weight and protocol allocation at the 6 month mark. At the 6 month mark, participants are allocated to either the thyroid or the multi-EPA treatment stream, and iron deficient cases are supplemented as indicated.

Eligible Candidates are those who:

i) have a diagnosis of FES or who through a collaborative effort in assessing symptoms are provided with a solid FES diagnosis; participants must be moderate to severely symptomatic and functionally semi-independent in society; diagnostic uncertainty excludes participation but candidates with prodromal symptoms of 1-2 years will be considered for a separate open-label trial with a streamlined treatment intervention;

ii) are on, off, or have never taken neuroleptic medication; if on medication, participants are not to discontinue or withdraw unless directed under psychiatric supervision; if progress is substantial and withdrawal from medication is indicated, this is to be done only as recommended under psychiatric supervision with the aim of maintaining the lowest effective dose to avoid receptor related confounds to treatment outcome (dose reductions should thereby not exceed 15% of the ‘stabilized’ dose ofneuroleptic every 3-6 months during the one year study protocol);

iii) are less than 2 years post-onset at the time of starting the protocol;

iv) are age 18 to 40; those aged 14-17 or 41-55 will be considered for a separate open-label trial with similar treatment intervention;

v) are willing to allow their progress to be documented by providing disclosure to report data on their case up to 5 years post-treatment (anonymity is respected in all cases);

vi) are committed to adhering to the protocol to ensure compliance; participants are excluded if they use other alternative treatments during the one year study protocol; participants must be able to form an alliance with the research team to comply with protocol structure; where possible, patients should be accompanied by caregivers to provide a support network that ensures compliance; a compliance contract is mandatory;

vii) are willing to pay for treatment and participate without subsidization; a heavily discounted rate applies to encourage access to all socio-economic populations; participants must be able to afford transportation to and from the Toronto clinic and other miscellaneous out-of-pocket expenses;

viii) do not have a history of a chronic condition that is a confound to treatment response; for example, active liver disease such as active hepatitis, illicit drug use, alcohol abuse, peptic ulcer, assaultive or flagrant uncooperative behaviour, or moderate to severe destructive behaviour.

Many thanks to Duane Sherry for spotting this study.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Worth repeating

Gianna Kali at Beyond Meds has posted some links to the inspiring work of Jungian analyst Maureen Roberts. I wanted to highlight just one of them for this post. Please read the rest of the article for an in-depth shamanic interpretation of schizophrenia.

from Schizophrenia: Your Questions Answered, by Maureen Roberts, Ph.D.

What is Schizophrenia?

A good question, with no simple, short, or straightforward answer, since each sufferer is unique and schizophrenia is a complex phenomenon. In general, schizophrenia is an extremely introverted, psychospiritual mode of perception, or way of relating to the world; or state of consciousness involving (what I have called) 'extreme empathy'. This simultaneous blessing and curse is due to a fragile, fragmented, dead, or lost ego, or conscious personality structure. The normal, ego-enforced boundaries between the self and the world have broken down, such that schizophrenia sufferers - for better and worse - find themselves identifying with everything within their scope of perception. It is because of this ego loss, or 'dis-integration' that psychosis, shamanic initiation and mystical experience are so inextricably bound. The schizophrenic person may appear to family, friends and doctors to be lacking in emotion, but in reality is in a state of intense empathy, such that extreme sensations of joy and fear are usual. Because of their fragile personal boundaries, schizophrenic folk typically see, hear, sense, perceive and understand things that others are unaware of. Secret, or symbolic meanings are seen and heard in everything, and the schizophrenia sufferer typically feels responsible for the fate of the world.

Further reading: "Schizophrenia: The Shaman Sickness" by Sam Malone (former sufferer). Visit his website, which includes testimonies by schizophrenia sufferers.
(Editor's note: The link provided does not work and I can find no trace of this website on the Internet.)

A Digital Christmas story

Enjoy this bit of fun.  Season's Greetings to all (and to all a good night!)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Welcome Om*

Our family will be escaping shortly to spend Christmas in a small village about a three hour drive from our city. This post is a bit of a seasonal wrap-up of family events and some observations on my part.

I picked up our youngest son, Taylor, at the airport on Sunday after depositing my husband, Ian, in time to catch his flight. Taylor was exhausted after his transatlantic flight and slept the rest of the day. Then, all three "boys" played video games till midnight. Taylor's got one semester left of university before he takes on the challenges of a job and independent living. Alex, our middle son, is taking time off over Christmas from his current job. He, too, needs the rest. I managed to snag him into replacement ushering (for Ian) at our church but I had to resort to laying some heavy guilt on him. "You live at home, your rent is minuscule, you can offer to help out occasionally," says Mom. Alex doesn't do guilt. Never has. I admire him for that quality. Still, it took some pestering on my part to get him to don at least a sports jacket for the occasion.

On the other hand, we have Chris, who does do guilt, but is getting much better at questioning why he feels he has to take on the burdens of the world. To boost his resiliency in this area and others, Ian and I bought him a pre-Christmas gift - 36 hours of DVD lectures on Why Evil Exists, and 36 hours of lectures on Christian theology. I felt he needed a rush job, to have all his questions answered (LOL) before his first Saturn return 28th birthday in January. If all goes well, according to the Evil description, these 36 lectures offer you the unique chance to approach the subject of evil through numerous lenses and to refine your view of this central question of human life, giving you a broad and deep resource for your own thought and action. (Don't tell Chris, but I also got him The Portable Nietzsche as a gift.) Chris's problem/opportunity is that he thinks too much.)

Despite the guilt feelings, Chris is gaining lots of confidence in his voice. He turned in a strong performance as a soloist during the Nine Lessons and Carols service on Saturday evening.

"I am finding that I like the attention, Mom."
"Great," says Mom. "Keep doing more of what you like."

The first Saturn return period (ages 28 to 30 or so) is a encouraging time for young men who may have been having mental health difficulties up until now. I was heartened to read how well Randye Kaye's son is doing. In her post Randye does a superb job of describing how to support an individual through psychosis with humor.

At its best, humor creates partnership. At its worst, it is ridicule and bullying. The difference is often a matter of simple courtesy, but also a decision based on your sharpest instincts when it comes to those close to you. Tread carefully - but if results are encouraging, then proceed with joy. The results can be amazing.

What Randye describes is the humor variant of concept of Low Expressed Emotion. Although treating a person with respect appears obvious to getting positive results with someone else, in practice, many of us give into our darker impulses and we tear the person down by our looks and comments. In practice, it takes quite a while to learn how to get it right. I like what she writes "if results are encouraging, then proceed with joy." Eventually, continuous respectful treatment becomes second nature to us.

Chris, on his own initiative, is beginning a Transcendental Meditation course. I had been gently suggesting for years that he may find peace in meditation, but, he wasn't emotionally ready to take that step until now. Learning to meditate seems a fitting way to for him to end the year and to enjoy the mysteries of the years to come. I was delighted to read this Beyond Meds post from Will Meecham about meditation and building mental health resiliency:

Ever since starting this blog, I’ve sung the praises of meditation and right attitude as tools for building mental health. Not that many years ago I felt horribly familiar all the adjectives that open this post. I had tried many types of therapy and many different pharmaceuticals without much improvement. Eventually, I turned attention inward and began to work with my thoughts and feelings directly.

By clearing out misconceptions and misperceptions, I found clarity and readiness to accept whatever happens in life. I am not immune to grief and disappointment, but I am much more resistant to despair. Meditation succeeded where medication failed.

"The goal which all the Vedas declare, which all austerities aim at, and which men desire when they lead the life of continence … is Om. This syllable Om is indeed Brahman. Whosoever knows this syllable obtains all that he desires. This is the best support; this is the highest support. Whosoever knows this support is adored in the world of Brahma."
~ Katha Upanishad I

Monday, December 19, 2011

Early psychosis intervention programs pay mere lip service to spiritual beliefs

Is schizophrenia a spiritual illness, as patients often maintain, or is it a brain disease, as the medical profession claims? The OASIS program at the University of North Carolina, like many psychosis programs affiliated with university medical programs, strikes a hypocritical note.

Gianna Kali at Beyond Meds alerted me to a recent newspaper article about the program. (Thank you, Gianna!) I have noticed that the medical profession is now starting to pay at least lip service to the idea that schizophrenia, in the patient's view, is a psycho/spiritual quest. But as you read further into this article it becomes apparent that the staff at the OASIS program completely reneges on the promise to the patient - that they believe him when he maintains that schizophrenia is a spiritual quest. It almost seems like they "tricked" him, because, to the program, it was all about the meds all along.

What is actually happening is that outpatient programs for identifying and treating early psychosis (like the OASIS program) are getting the idea that they should appear sensitive to the client's "delusional" beliefs. This looks innovative and "client centered." So, journalists are fed the following story about hope and recovery, and the staff "accepting" (humoring) the young man (Binanay) in his spiritual delusions, and how outraged the medical director is that the parents of a different boy are given no hope, and we the readers are emotionally sucked into this outrageous idea that there is no hope! We are also being sucked into thinking that the only hope to manage psychosis is through meds.

Binanay was also lucky to be diagnosed soon after the onset of his illness, and to be referred to the Outreach and Support Intervention Services (OASIS) program – administered by UNC’s Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health – in Carrboro’s Carr Mill Mall.

Binanay needed direction; he needed acknowledgement of his perception that what was going on was as much in his heart as his head. It was a profound spiritual experience.

The staff at OASIS was willing to accept that. The importance of mapping an exit strategy of the client’s own design is a cornerstone of the OASIS philosophy. The conviction that there’s hope is another.

Diana Perkins, OASIS’ medical director, describes a recent meeting she had with the parents of an 18-year-old boy in rural North Carolina who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. They had taken him to a local hospital, and were told by a psychiatrist that their son would never recover – no hope; get used to it. “And it was just devastating,” Perkins says. “Here they had this 18-year-old boy, off in college, and now they’re being given this message. This was a psychiatric hospital; this was a trained psychiatrist.”

The problem, Perkins says, is that psychiatrists often don’t see schizophrenia patients until their illness is advanced. But a commitment to the meds was part of the plan, and that involved a tradeoff – the euphoria for a shot at stability – he wasn’t quite ready to make.

“Clinicians have this bias,” Perkins says, “and they really need to understand that this is not inevitably a chronic, disabling illness, that people can learn to manage it.

Later in the article, OASIS staff seem to have reneged on their promise to Binanany, to respect his belief in the spiritual origins of his so-called schizophrenia.

“His illness took a severe course,” Saade says of Binanay’s struggle with recovery.
“I think David had a hard time coming to terms with the role that medication would play in his life,” Perkins says, “what he needed to do to maintain a sustained recovery, how he was going to manage.”

Maybe Binanay's "illness" took a severe course because he had a hard time adjusting to the diminished expectations that this program offered him and to the side effect of the meds. Maybe Binanay felt tricked. Instead, we have a spokesman for, in essence, a drug rehab program defining Binanay for us in disease terms. Who was on hand to help him with his spiritual issues and to build resiliency without resorting to drugs? As for the OASIS program -- been there, seen it, done it with my own son in a different "innovative" program. The goals and treatment methods were the same -- to keep people on their meds. The results were that my son was on meds, and no alternative treatment that would have worked with his beliefs was offered.

What is OASIS?

OASIS, which stands for Outreach And Support Intervention Services, is an award-winning program dedicated to providing services to adolescents and young adults who are experiencing early psychosis, or who are at risk for developing psychosis. (Ed. note - Psychosis risk syndrome is criticized as being a way to get people on meds early, many of whom might otherwise never go on to develop psychosis.) 


The mission of OASIS is to foster successful recovery from early psychosis and to increase public understanding of psychotic disorders. The program aims to:

•Provide early identification and treatment (Ed. note - This means meds.)

•Prevent relapse (Ed. note - This means meds.)

•Prevent hospitalization (Ed. note  - This means meds.)

•Minimize disruption in people's lives

•Support people in the workplace, school, and relationships

•Educate the community and other providers to recognize early psychosis and the importance of early treatment (Ed. note - Maintain and increase the public's belief in meds.)

•Provide educational opportunities for mental health professionals (Ed. note - This means jobs.)

•Provide access to state of the art clinical research programs (Ed. Note - This means you may become a guinea pig for drug trials. You will certainly be fodder for the university medical program with which this program is affiliated. You will be considered a laboratory animal for the scientific interest of the medical students and faculty. How many medical staff offer spiritual guidance?)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Chicago Hearing Voices training

I received the following e-mail from Len Lempa through the ISEPP discussion group. He has given me permission to publicize his request on this blog.

I am working to put together a group with an interest in bringing a Hearing Voices group training to the Chicago area. If anyone has feedback on the process that you went through in putting a training together in your area I would appreciate your input. Or more importantly if you live in the Chicago area and are interested in knowing more or helping us make this happen I want to get to know you. Or if the moderators of the group or anyone with access to ISEPP membership would be willing to share this with members who live near Chicago it would be appreciated.

Our planning group is in a very early phase of development and it only includes about 5 or 6 people and little or no institutional support yet. I am really looking to network to get a group together that can make this happen. I have connected with a couple recovery specialists out here and their interest level is high but there is still a lot of work to make this happen. We are targetting next April to have it happen. Help needed and appreciated.

Len Lempa
Elgin, IL

The Hearing Voices movement founded in Manchester, England, in 1989, and Intervoice, an international online community, are two of several self-help groups based on Dr. Marius Romme’s original work. Members meet to share experiences and learn to recognize that the voices may be expressions of their own subconscious. The emphasis is on personal growth for each individual.

Dr. Romme believes hearing voices is not an illness. The voices are messengers that speak about certain problems that occurred in the person’s life. Trying to kill the messenger by ignoring the voices or by medicating them, often makes them worse, the deep-seated problem is not addressed, and the result is a chronic patient. The difference between patients hearing voices and non-patients hearing voices is their relationship with the voices. People who never become patients accept their voices and use them as advisers. In clinical settings, however, voices are almost always seen as evil messengers and are considered a sign of schizophrenia.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pharma's sublimal seduction technique

In 1974 Professor Wilson Key wrote Sublimal Seduction, a book in which he put forth the idea that advertising media embedded sexual images into every day products (most famously ice cubes) in order to subliminally seduce the buyer into - no surprise here -  buying.

Perhaps you already can tell where I'm going with this. (Going for a bit of a ramble. Bear with me.) Pharma uses the direct sales approach to sell its products through paid advertising, but the safety and efficacy of its products is being questioned as never before (by scientists, academics, journalists, bloggers) so a different strategy, quite similar, IMHO, to subliminal seduction, is being tried.

Think I'm too paranoid? I may not be alone in my thinking. Concerning the fate of subliminal advertising, Julie Sedivy, Ph.D., earlier this year wrote in Psychology Today, that eventually

The dust settled, public paranoia about advertising practices abated, and in scientific circles, a professed interest in subliminal advertising came to be about as respectable as wearing scarlet lipstick and fishnet stockings to an academic conference—or conducting research about ESP, for that matter.

Then there was a Bush political advertisement where the word "RATS" briefly flashed across the screen when Al Gore's image appeared,  prompting Sedivy to write:

A lot has happened in psychological science in the decade since the Bush/Gore election. Weinberger and Westen's study is now only one among many that have found that people's attitudes and behavior can be swayed by cues that they have no awareness of, or that they don't believe to be relevant to their behavior. Here's a fistful of exotic findings from the last few years of research:

John Bargh and colleagues have run dozens of studies in which they've shown that human behavior can be "primed" in various ways—people became more polite after doing puzzles with words that relate to courteousness than with words that are associated with rudeness; they behaved more aggressively after the subliminal flashing of images that evoke stereotypes of aggression (such as the image of a black man); they behaved more altruistically when sitting in a room with a backpack on the table, than in a room with a briefcase.

Print articles and Video News Releases *(VNR) about "recovery" from psychosis are cropping up in great number these days. Embedded in these stories is a brief word, and the word, you guessed it, is "medications." A memorable embedding of this foreign object is the scene in A Beautiful Mind, when John Nash says in an off-hand way - so off-hand that some viewers may have missed it -  "I take the newer medications." The fact that Nash actually stopped taking antipsychotic medications decades before was not known by the viewers, who will associate Nash's recovery with the newer antipsychotics.

Pharma gets the drift of the way the winds of change are blowing, so here's how it plans to cling to market share. Companies will stoke the general demand for medications, not for their own brand names. Pharma will do this by feeding the the media and the public recovery stories. In these stories there will be brief testimonials by individuals, family members, or doctors, that medications are an essential part of the picture and the public will think that medications are the entire reason the person is standing in front of you smiling and "recovered." Where the viewer may discount a direct sales pitch from pharma, he or she will warm to a trustworthy individual. Without the public knowing who or what is behind these kind of stories, we are being asked to accept on faith that there is no puppeteer pulling the strings. Of course, sublimal advertising isn't restricted to pharma. Any group can put its message across by subliminal advertising techniques. The key objective is to engage the viewer to become emotionally invested in the recovery story and then "buy" the briefly stated reason for the recovery.

*from Wikipedia
Most VNRs feature a professional news reporter, such as Karen Ryan, someone with on-air news experience, or an actor. VNRs also often include interviews with experts (who often have legitimate, if biased, expertise); so called "man on the street" interviews with "average" people; and pictures of celebrities, products, service demonstrations, corporate logos and the like, where applicable. In some cases the "man on the street" segments feature persons randomly selected and interviewed spontaneously, and in other cases actors are hired and directed by VNR producers to deliver carefully scripted comments. In addition, regardless of whether real people or professional actors appear, VNR producers and directors, just like journalists, have complete discretion to excerpt and edit these "interviews" into 'sound bites' that help make the point they are trying to make.

Friday, December 9, 2011

More rubber body parts

A few weeks ago I wrote about experiments being conducted at Vanderbilt University. The original article appeared in Discover Magazine. In this well-known experiment dating back to a Princeton University party game, a rubber hand is introduced and stroked in time with one of the volunteer's hands while the other hand is hidden under a table. The findings of the Vanderbilt study confirmed its premise that people with psychotic episodes have a weaker sense of self and therefore experienced the illusion more strongly than people of a similar age and background who didn’t have schizophrenia.

Try this, Descartes!

This month's Nature Magazine has an article on neurologist Henrik Ehrsson's research. While what is going on in the laboratory makes for most interesting reading, there is enormous danger with these kinds of experiments done in the name of scientific progress because of the dark science of mind and body control of another human being. Read the article below. See what you think.

It is not every day that you are separated from your body and then stabbed in the chest with a kitchen knife.

But such experiences are routine in the lab of Henrik Ehrsson, a neuroscientist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, who uses illusions to probe, stretch and displace people's sense of self. Today, using little more than a video camera, goggles and two sticks, he has convinced me that I am floating a few metres behind my own body. As I see a knife plunging towards my virtual chest, I flinch. Two electrodes on my fingers record the sweat that automatically erupts on my skin, and a nearby laptop plots my spiking fear on a graph.

Out-of-body experiences are just part of Ehrsson's repertoire. He has convinced people that they have swapped bodies with another person1, gained a third arm2, shrunk to the size of a doll or grown to giant proportions3. The storeroom in his lab is stuffed with mannequins of various sizes, disembodied dolls' heads, fake hands, cameras, knives and hammers. It looks like a serial killer's basement. “The other neuroscientists think we're a little crazy,” Ehrsson admits.

But Ehrsson's unorthodox apparatus amount to more than cheap trickery. They are part of his quest to understand how people come to experience a sense of self, located within their own bodies. The feeling of body ownership is so ingrained that few people ever think about it — and those scientists and philosophers who do have assumed that it was unassailable.

“Descartes said that if there's something you can be certain of in this world, it's that your hand is your hand,” says Ehrsson. Yet Ehrsson's illusions have shown that such certainties, built on a lifetime of experience, can be disrupted with just ten seconds of visual and tactile deception. This surprising malleability suggests that the brain continuously constructs its feeling of body ownership using information from the senses — a finding that has earned Ehrsson publications in Science and other top journals, along with the attention of other neuroscientists.

“A lot of people thought the sense of self was hard-wired, but it's not at all. It can be changed very quickly, and that's very intriguing,” says Miguel Nicolelis, a neurobiologist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina.

Ehrsson's work also intrigues neuroscientists and philosophers because it turns a slippery, metaphysical construct — the self — into something that scientists can dissect. “We can say if we wobble the signals this way, our conscious experience wobbles in this way,” says David Eagleman, a neuroscientist who studies perception at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. “That's a lever we didn't have before.”

“There are things like selfhood that people think cannot be touched by the hard sciences,” says Thomas Metzinger, director of the Theoretical Philosophy Group at Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany. “They are now demonstrably tractable. That's what I think is valuable about Henrik's contribution.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I should not have panicked (but I did)

Or, I could have known sooner, but nobody told me that a schizophrenia diagnosis should not be considered a life sentence.

When Chris was given the diagnosis of doom in Dec. 2003, there was not such a robust on-line community of hardy folk who did not go along with the received wisdom that schizophrenia was a brain disease. Or, if there was such a thriving community, I didn't know about it.

My main point of reference were the doctors whose business it was to believe in the diagnosis. They were a uniformly pessimistic lot. If they actually thought that Chris had a future that didn't involve psychiatric medication, unemployment and sheltered living for the rest of his life, they didn't think to share this information with our family.

My second point of reference were the people who suddenly came out of the woodwork to tell me that their sibling was "schizophrenic," like when you get cancer and suddenly everybody you talk to has had the same cancer. You had no idea these conditions were so prevalent. My acquaintances were all baby boomers, roughly my age, so their sibling was now roughly the same age as us. The conversation usually went something like this:

Me (hopeful): Oh, so your brother has schizophrenia? Will he be flying over here for your third wedding?

They (frightened look, lowered voice):  "Oh, no, he doesn't travel very well. He's been living in a group home near my parents for a number of years now. But (trying to be reassuring), I hear that the medications are so much better these days, I'm sure it will make all the difference for Chris."

My third point of reference was the chat group I joined within the first couple of years of the diagnosis of doom. I began to notice how drugged up its members were. They accepted their diagnosis and they seemed to accept five, six or seven drugs to get through the day as a matter of course.  Many of them were my age and had been this way for years.

Was I right to panic given the dreadful scenario that was being painted by both doctors and acquaintances? I think so. Unfortunately, my panicking caused me to push Chris into activities for which he wasn't ready. My panicking caused Chris to panic, naturally. This retarded his growth. If someone had reassured me that there was every expectation that Chris would resume a normal life if he was left alone for a few years to figure things out for himself, with no pressure brought to bear on him to do things he wasn't ready to do, then I could have relaxed and learned be more philosophical and patient.

Today it's a different story. Thanks to the Internet and the mounting evidence that puts the diagnosis under scrutiny as never before, there is a shared community of people who know there is a better way. There is becoming a shared understanding of what schizophrenia and how to treat it (needed time out for regrowth).

The stupid diagnosis to begin with, and the fixation of the medical community on using drugs as primary treatment, meant the the good news, which was there all along, was kept from many people who could have benefited from it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

To dream the impossible dream

 Dr. Clancy McKenzie sent  his observations about reprogramming dreams to the ISEPP discussion group of which I am a member. Dr. McKenzie has given me permission to reprint his patients' story, which appears below.

My son, Chris, isn't the only person in our family who has learned to direct his dreams. Programming dreams is something I've been doing in recent yearsto help me take control of my life, to realize that I had greater power to influence positive outcomes than I ever thought possible.  Chris's crisis left me sleepless and fearful for several years. I would wake up every night from a bad dream and the first person who popped into my mind was Chris, and I immediately felt overwhelming sadness and fear. Today, I don't worry about Chris during the day or when I wake up at night. I do occasionally have anxious dreams. If my dream is a typical anxiety dream about a math exam, I might think to myself, Well, I know I was about to fail that final math exam because I hadn't opened the book all year, but here's what I'm going to do about it to make sure I pass. When I go back to sleep, I'm going to pick up where I left off with that dream. I'm going to hire a tutor and I will pass that exam. (Whether my instructions to myself are realistic about passing the exam at such a late date doesn't matter. Dreams make all things possible.)

Notice in the story below the way Dr. McKenzie gives general instructions to his patients about the content of the dream. Minds and bodies know what to do with the information given to them.


Six months ago a young family was disrupted when the mother suddenly died in a car crash. Left behind are her young husband, a 7½ year old daughter, and a 4 year old son. They were devastated.

I immediately saw them and gave them “programmed” dreams. I instructed the father to have a dream about his wife, decide the dream would not be upsetting, and decide the dream itself would resolve all upset feelings.

I told the 7½ year old that she would have a dream about Mommy that night, the dream would not be upsetting, and in the dream Mommy would take away all her upset feelings.

With the 4-year-old I just said “You can visit Mommy any night you want, during sleep. Tonight she is gong to visit you and take away all your upset feelings.”

The next time I visited with them, the father tried to comfort them by saying “Mommy is sitting right here with us now.” The four-year-old piped up “she’s not sitting, she’s playing.” The following visit the father told me that his son led him to the laundry room that morning, pointed to the washer and said “mommy said you have to take the clothes out of there and put them in over there” (pointing to the dryer). He was stunned. He did the laundry two days earlier and forgot to put it in the dryer.

During the visits the children are very happy, not showing any signs of sadness. The next visit when the man took his son to the restroom, I asked the daughter what her mommy tells her during sleep. She was beaming with joy as she proudly answered: “She tells me I am going to be a very good mommy some day.” When I tried to question her further, she clammed up as though she wasn’t sure she was supposed to reveal what her mommy had said to her.

Months passed. The children remained very happy, playing together and never fussing or fighting. One day the man came in alone and we just began to visit. He spoke about how well the children were doing, and I mentioned a finding I had just made and was very excited about. I realized two studies I had done were sequential, with no other similar studies in between – which meant they were cumulative. The first data was one over two to the 12th power and the second was one over two to the 15th power. They revealed the same thing, but now it was one over two to the 27th power, or one chance in 134,217,728 by chance alone.

This was exciting, but it was as it should be, because one cannot have delayed PTSD without original trauma–even if it is delayed PTSD from infancy (schizophrenia, depression, etc). I told him I was going to send letters to the Senate and to Congress.

Two nights later the little girl brought the portable phone into his bedroom, saying “Mommy wants to tell you something.” He told her to lie down in the bed, which she did, and then she began to speak “Tell Dr. Clancy to send those letters right out; it's very important.” (Her mother addressed me as Dr. Clancy, but the little girl always addressed me as Dr. McKenzie.) The father wrote 1½ pages of notes, part of which were her speaking and part of which were her mother speaking through her. It ended with her mother saying “tell your brother I will see him tomorrow night.” She had no recollection of any of this the next day.

The real shocker came at Thanksgiving. There were twelve family members sitting around the table. None knew of the relationship the children had with their mother, and everyone was taking turns telling what they were most thankful for. When the 7½ year- old girl spoke, she gave a one word answer: “Mommy.” Her brother was next in line and he said: “Mommy.”

No one could speak several minutes. The father’s eyes filled with tears, and he could not speak. He was grateful that he was not the next in line to speak. When the children were not around, he told the other adults that the children dream about their mother.

For 42 years I have had all my patients program dreams, and have not known any to get a wrong answer. There have been more than 400 who programmed a dream about a lost loved one. Usually it is like a visit – geared to help the person overcome grief. There are two articles about miracles of programmed dreams on , listed under “WORKS” – for any who might be interested.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Two things you can do to keep the spotlight on change

1. Take the latest research findings and critiques of psychiatric drugs to your doctor

Gianna Kali at Beyond Meds has zeroed in on the Irish Examiner article I posted yesterday and sees a niche marketing developing for psychiatrists who will help their patients get off psych medications. Those psychiatrists who do will have a hard time keeping up with the demand. If you are one of these patients who feels that they would like to try functioning without psych meds, or at the very least reduce the number and dosage, there has never been a better time than now. Only a  few years ago, a lot of the information about the effect on the brain of psych meds was suppressed and it was easy for the psychiatrist to point to scientific "evidence" of the need for these medications. No longer need a patient go cap in hand to attempt to convince a psychiatrist that the drugs aren't useful and are actually doing a lot of harm. Now, psychiatrists should be more than willing to listen.

Gianna Kali/Beyond Meds

The article ends with that final statement which I have bolded because the fact is there is a huge niche opening up for psychiatrists and other prescribing physicians who want to take the opportunity. People want and desperately need COMPETENT professional help in coming off of psychiatric drugs. We need prescribers to make the transition easier.

This is an invitation for prescribing doctors to think about stepping up to the plate and perhaps even undoing some of the harm they’ve maybe helped cause.

This is not to be taken lightly. Many people come off meds with relative ease. Some of us, though, become crippled with iatrogenic illness. You will need to educate yourselves. Once you start making it be known that you can help — those of us who’ve been seriously and gravely harmed will start appearing on your doorstep. Most doctors never see (or recognize) us because once they deny our reality those of us who understand what has happened to us don’t hang around to be further abused. The doctors then move forward believing we don’t exist and spread that dangerous misconception to other doctors. It creates a treacherous world for those of us who are very ill with nowhere safe to go.

Please, it’s time that doctors learn how to help us. Some of you have unintentionally helped create the iatrogenesis that is now limiting our lives so much more than any “mental illness” ever did. Please start helping us heal now. We need you.

Some of what I’ve learned about psychiatric drug withdrawal with links to additional resources here: Withdrawal 101.

2. Join the MindFreedom campaign

On Sat. May 5th, 2012, in the spirit of free thought and liberty, MindFreedom is taking itsnonviolent revolution to historic Philadelphia, PA, USA, and to thedoorstep of the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting.

The APA is expected to give their blessing to the newest version of their devastating label bible (the DSM-5), and so MFI is going to 'occupy the APA!' This is part of a global peaceful campaign to Boycott Normality.

There will be a counter-celebration, Mad Pride Liberty March, and a Peaceful "Creative Maladjustment Protest." Members and allies will also be holding events in solidarity in other states and countries. Toronto is already on board!

For more information, visit:

If you live in NYC, you may want to participate in an important public event, moderated by MFI President Celia Brown, in conjunction with the United Nations NGO Committee on Mental Health, on 8 December 2011, marking human rights day, more info here: 


Synthetic sanity: medicating inmates in order to execute them

Fit to be Killed: Manufacturing Synthetic Sanity on Death Row looks at the likely fate of the Arizona shooter, Jared Loughner.

Eventually the Supreme Court will probably rule on forcibly medicating inmates for the purpose of executing them. It is difficult to be optimistic about the verdict that would be handed down by the Roberts court; the outcome will probably depend upon Justice Kennedy. But whatever the verdict of the Supreme Court Justices, prison physicians can make the difference. All too many of them have long forsaken the fundamental oath of medicine, "Do No Harm." Doctors must stand up against synthetic sanity in substantial numbers, and their professional societies must punish those who breach the doctor's oath. Ultimately, however, there is only one definitive solution to practices like creating synthetic sanity: to abolish the benighted practice of capital punishment once and for all.

Read the full article here:

Friday, December 2, 2011

Today's media grab bag

It's long over-due and wonderful to see how the news media is picking up on the widespread drugging of children in foster care. I watched the Diane Sawyer clip, but, of course, it was way too simplistic in equating coming off drugs with suddenly becoming an honor student and playing the clarinet. If this is not just a Hallmark feel-good story, the real story is what else happened to this child in the interim?

Further  rummaging around on the Internet got me the answer.
Ke’onte, who was on up to four medications at a time during his years in six foster homes, said that therapy has helped him in a way that meds never did. “In therapy, you talk about the deepest thing and it hurts, but you can deal with it better the next time,” he said.Now, he said, he is first chair in clarinet in his school band, participates in cross-country and has three small roles in the school play.“I’m not only more focused in school… I’m not going to the office anymore for bad behavior and I’m happy.”

Hopefully subsequent coverage will show in greater detail what alternative interventions are helping these kids
The Sawyer clip also implied that merely being adopted into a family will do the world of good for a troubled child. We all know it doesn't work like that. A child still has problems and the adoptive parents must deal with them with simultaneously dealing with their own inexperience as parents. Parenthood, adoptive, foster or otherwise, is about the most challenging work anybody can take on. Most of us have good intentions when we first start out on the parenting road, but reality intervenes.

Another public good that more media exposure about childhood drugging of foster children will do is to turn the spotlight on all the non-foster children who are taking the same cocktails of drugs. Children from two parent families, children from single parent homes, adopted children. The foster children exposure will soon start making a lot of people very uncomfortable about their chosen course of treatment. I'm getting so old that I can see what is already happening. The pendulum is starting to swing in the other direction. More crazy excessive things will happen with our newfound zeal to right all the wrongs of the past. And so it goes.

Now, over to Sanjay Gupta. I gotta say I wince when somebody who should know better, titles his news clip "Young schizophrenic shares hope" It's so carnival side show. See the schizophrenic dance and perform tricks! Come on, Sanjay. You are perpetuating the use of schizophrenia as an adjective to describe a set of behaviors that almost nobody with that label shares with another person with the same label. Alright, maybe if we gave the label "manic depressives" back to schizophrenia's look-alike sibling people with bipolar disorder would I be more accommodating of the word "schizophrenic." "Young manic depressive shares hope"  Young bipolar shares hope? Since there is no medical test for schizophrenia, Dr. Gupta is reinforcing to the viewing audience that schizophrenia must be like diabetes, and we know that Robert Whitaker's book has exposed that myth. Apart from diabetes and schizophrenia, what other "tics" are used to describe people in the medically approved lexicon? There are fewer and fewer* once manic depressives got a face lift. It's like trying to find an English word that rhymes with "orange."

*narcoleptic, epileptic

I was delighted to read this quote from the Irish Examiner

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Dr Browne, now a counselling psychotherapist, said there is so much evidence about the dangers of psychiatric drugs that it cannot be ignored. . . .

"We don’t have alternatives in place for people and drugs are damaging long-term. We need to treat people as humans and not patients who have a long term sickness. And we shouldn’t call what we do ‘treatment’.

There is no way I can say to a person ‘I will treat you and make you better’. I can only guide the person. They themselves have to do the work."

Dr Browne said 60%-80% of his work is helping people to slowly get off drugs. "At the moment I can’t keep up with the numbers of people trying to come and see me."