Today, after two years of deliberation, the Division of Clinical Psychology (which is part of the British Psychological Society) issued a Position Statement on the Classification of Behavior and Experience in Relation to Functional Psychiatric Diagnosis. It is subtitled “Time for a Paradigm Shift.”
The DCP summarizes its paper as follows:
“The DCP is of the view that it is timely and appropriate to affirm publicly that the current classification system as outlined in DSM and ICD, in respect of the functional psychiatric diagnoses, has significant conceptual and empirical limitations. Consequently, there is a need for a paradigm shift in relation to the experiences that these diagnoses refer to, towards a conceptual system not based on a ‘disease’ model.”
Here is another quote:
“…it should be noted that functional psychiatric diagnoses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, personality disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorders and so on, due to their limited reliability and questionable validity, provide a flawed basis for evidence-based practice, research, intervention guidelines and the various administrative and non-clinical uses of diagnosis.”
The paper is brief and restrained, but very clearly identifies the weaknesses and negative impacts inherent in the medical model, including discrimination, stigmatization and disempowerment. Predictably it has stirred up a good deal of controversy, much of which is polarized along the usual battle lines, but there is also a great deal of genuine interest among the media, the general public and practitioners.
It’s just a few years since those of us who dared to critique the psychiatric juggernaut were ostracized and marginalized, and survivors who spoke out against the system that had abused them were dismissed as “non-complaint” and “treatment-resistant.”
The DCP’s statement is important for what it says and for the direction it provides. But it is even more important in that it is the first time (to my knowledge) that a major professional group has come out so clearly and so compellingly on this issue.
Hopefully the DCP’s statement will precipitate a greater willingness on the part of British psychologists to challenge psychiatric hegemony, and to deliver more effective help to people experiencing distress.
Let us hope that the DCP’s move will encourage other professional associations – both in the UK and here in America – to address these matters and issue similar statements.
I look forward to a time when social workers, counselors, etc., employed in nursing homes, dialysis units, child services departments, etc., will feel empowered by their training and by their professional associations to challenge the routine administration of dangerous drugs for the purpose of management and control. There is an almost unlimited wealth of client-centered ideas and practices lying dormant and suppressed in the so-called ancillary professions.
It’s time for other professional associations to follow the DCP’s lead, and to speak out against psychiatry’s spurious concepts and its destructive and disempowering practices.