There’s an interesting article on Vermont’s Seven Days. It’s called Burlington’s HowardCenter Tries a New Approach to Treating Mental Illness: More Talk, Fewer Meds. You can see it here. (Thanks to Steven Coles on Twitter for the link.)
Apparently Vermont’s Department of Mental Health is promoting a “new” kind of treatment for psychosis: talk therapy. The project leader is Dr. Sandra Steingard, who for most of her career accepted the orthodox view of schizophrenia and the need for neuroleptic drugs.
But then an interesting thing happened. She read Robert Whitaker’s book Anatomy of an Epidemic. One of the highlights of Robert’s book was the notion that the loss of brain tissue, which psychiatry had long insisted was a consequence of schizophrenia, was actually caused by the neuroleptic drugs.
Dr. Steingard says that reading this was like being “kicked in the belly.”
“If you’ve just spent your entire career giving people these drugs, and in many cases convincing people why this is what they really need to do, that’s a pretty horrible thing,” she says. “I wasn’t sure I would come to work the next day. That’s how profound it was.”
The Vermont program is called Open Dialogue. Psychologist Greg Tomasulo is the Clinical Director. He is quoted as saying:
“One way of thinking about schizophrenia is that it’s a brain disease… Another is that it’s how somebody expresses their most difficult experiences in a way that they can’t yet put into words, so they use hallucinations and delusions to express themselves.”
“By learning other ways of talking about difficult experiences,” he adds, “the patient no longer needs those symptoms anymore and they ‘resolve.'”
It sounds like a good program, and it will be interesting to watch its development. It will also be interesting to see if there are attempts by mainstream psychiatry/pharma to marginalize or discredit the program.