I ended a recent post arguing that psychiatrists should not have a leadership role in whatever kind of helping program eventually replaces the present mental health system, which is crumbling at the seams, conceptually and practically.
So the question arises – which profession is suited to a leadership role. Of course, this begs the question – do we need any kind of formal helping system at all. Perhaps what we should be doing as a society is strengthening the natural mutually-helpful bonds that already exist within our culture. I can see a lot of merit in that position, and it may be that this is what will eventually happen. But I don’t think it can happen right away.
As a psychologist, I would like to be able to say that psychologists are the clear choice for leadership once the psychiatrists have shuffled shamefully to the wings, but I find myself unable to say this with any confidence. Psychologists, at least in America, have individually and through their professional associations repeatedly and consistently endorsed the spurious medical model to a degree that seriously undermines our credibility.
My choice – for what it’s worth – to lead a newly-conceptualized demedicalized helping profession would be social workers. Of all the various professions represented in the field, they are most intimately aware of the social forces that drive so much counterproductive behavior. In addition, the notion of a client-centered approach is, in my experience, more deeply embedded in their professional culture than is the case in other professions. They are – again in my experience – pragmatic, practical, solution-oriented, and realistic. They don’t just sit in offices and accept the client’s “office behavior” at face value. They visit clients in their homes and are intimately familiar with the environmental forces that underlie human problems.
They have also – and perhaps this is the critical point – kept themselves at least somewhat aloof from the nonsense, venality, and destructiveness of the present bio-psychiatric-pharma industry