Some already understand that concepts such as ‘mental illness’ are constructs of language, not something that is established as fact. For others this will be new information.
It is bold to say that “mental illness does not exist”, but in a way one can indeed say this, despite the crazy ways that some people behave. To call some behaviour (eg being delusional) an ‘illness’ because it is bizarre, and other behaviour (eg shyness) not an ‘illness’ is a convention, an agreement by a group of professionals. It is a choice about the way people decide to use language, and not really detailing something factual.
This is what Constructivism is about. It tells us that we construct our view of the world, through the way we use language. This has profound repercussions, particularly in the area of mental health, as I will show in this series of essays.
By calling some behaviours ‘illness’ results in certain thinking, about causation and remedy. Not surprisingly doctors and psychiatrists often think biology and medication. This has been the dominant thinking, but unfortunately has shut out much that is helpful.
There are better ideas. Even those with the most pessimistic labels should be viewed hopefully. The purpose of the following essays is to show with examples, powerful tools in the field of talking therapy. In contrast, information about psychiatric medications has misled professionals, consumers and their families.
I will give an easily understood explanation of constructivism. I have collected therapy examples from various sources which describe amazing changes. They are either amazing as they happen so quickly, or they happen with problems that ordinarily are deemed to require medication; or they change after being stuck for years.
THE ESSAYS IN THIS SERIES
Following this introduction, my first essay gives an easy explanation of constructivism. It highlights that we make ‘reality’ by the parts of experience we select, emphasize and describe.
My second essay presents a case study showing the grave error made diagnosing a client (Josie) as having schizophrenia. The case shows it is easy to make this type of mistake, which is a direct consequence of not understanding constructivism. (1,046 words)
The third (5,047 words) and fourth (1,820 words) essays gather examples of therapy that I do not hear discussed in mental health services. They reveal more possibilities when working with those diagnosed with psychosis and other disorders.
In the fifth essay questions are raised about the efficacy of psychiatric medications. It suggests that review articles and meta-analyses are more trustworthy than individual studies selected by companies whose primary focus is to maximise sales of its products. I encourage people to examine claims of efficacy rather than presuming we are given accurate unbiased conclusions. (1,160 words)
Essay six returns to constructivism. It questions the presumption of objectivity in psychiatric diagnoses, and uses more examples to show why therapy should be favoured as the first choice of treatment. (1,628 words)
Essay seven summarises some of the harm that arises from the biological paradigm, and adds that we should be honest with clients about the diverse views in this field. (898 words)
Essay eight explains there are errors in thinking, which easily occur and lead people to think psychiatric medications are more effective than they are. Promoting medications, particularly as a first choice may diminish clients’ belief in their own capabilities; instead patients learn to rely on solutions outside of themselves. (1,111 words)
Essay nine highlights the famous (and amusing) “Pseudo-patient study” of the early 1970s and reminds us of the message of constructivism, that psychiatric labels are not objective and reliable. Doing without them might remove a cause of harm, and promote a focus on behaviours and difficulties, more easily solved than an alleged ‘illness.’ (818 words)
Essay ten is a short conclusion arguing that psychotherapeutic methods have been greatly under-utilised. People are amazing. Their capacity to exceed expectations is vast. Once we operate from such a mindset, great changes can be achieved. (1,004 words)
[The essays are numbered in the order to be read, and each builds on the previous. Number 2 & 3 are essential in understanding the overall idea of these articles, and the fourth gives further examples of powerful therapy techniques. Essay 3 is longer, and essentially is an extract of two examples of dealing with people labelled as psychotic. The other articles are 2-4 pages each. Some have links to video clips.]
(Go to Essay No 2.)