Dr. Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D,B.C.S.A.,DAPA.

Dr. Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D,B.C.S.A.,DAPA.
e-mail: batushkad@yahoo.com

Thursday, December 30, 2010


A colleague asked me about the first person I had worked with as a psychotherapist. Granted, prior I had provided counseling as a chaplain, my first actual therapeutic encounter was in 1999. I visited a psychiatric ward where an 18 year old trans-gender person was a patient. He had engaged in some self-mutilation and his family life was disastrous. I was told his name, but he asked me to refer to him by a female name, which respectfully, I did. I will admit some initial discomfort myself and wondering if I would be able to make a connection. I chose to simply listen to his tragic story and I learned of the brutality he experienced in his family and the challenges he faced with issues concerning his gender identity. The focus of our time was merely 'being with' and supporting. I was greatly concerned for this person, and after our brief time together inquired often about his status after he was discharged. I was pleasantly surprised that he had found a trans-gender minister who was able to guide him further and things began to ease for him.
This was my first lesson in learning about the importance of listening, supporting, and the building of relationship as the fundamentals in emotional healing. Shortly after this, when working with a community based mental health agency, I was assigned a 12 year old boy who many had given up on, as he was diagnosed as 'psychotic' and had an extensive history in the psychiatric system. No one else wanted to deal with him. Though his situation was quite challenging, I was able to develop a strong alliance and we worked through many complicated issues. I later asked why I was chosen to work with him after being told he was the 'most difficult client', and was told that it was because of my ability to 'listen and connect'. I have carried this forward in all my future work with others, to be one who will 'journey with'. But the other key lesson was to understand that I must respect the autonomy of persons, even when they may make choices where I personally disagree. I had to not continue the patterns of control that had often enslaved and brought distress these persons, but to simply be a supportive person to share in their experience and to guide them through times of distress to a more hopeful place.

-Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


I recall recently a young man who had come to see me for a consultation, he had made prior suicidal remarks, he was now residing with his biological father after concerns about physical and emotional abuse by his mother. He came in in the most solemn state, unable to identify any of his strengths, and telling me how he felt he was a horrible boy, and that he could do nothing right. I let him vent, and then we discussed the dynamics that led him to believe these things about himself. I asked him what has made him happy, and he said baseball, but his mother would not allow him to play. I encouraged that now he was not living with the mother, that he be signed up for this when possible. We discussed this talent and other dreams he has, and how he does not have to allow others to take this from him. We shared some humor, and by the end of the time he was actually smiling and laughing, something he had not done in some time. This is the key- to listen, share experience, to seek to understand, and to forge a relationship.


In many areas, there are mental health officers and mental health courts which order persons to various sorts of 'treatments'. This is further evidence that the mental health system is a branch of the law and social control (as Szasz has also suggested) and not medicine. Imagine if there were dental health officers- oops, you forgot to floss today, so you will be ordered to a 14 day oral hygiene program! You have not taken care of that cavity- you will be forced to have a root canal or extraction!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Often we see the process where dysfunction is hidden, where myths are told to children to conceal the facts and the reality of their situation. It is these processes which are often more damaging, more destructive than actual lies. It is these processes which can lead a person to mental anguish and even to that which we term ‘madness.’ We see situations where persons are abused and neglected by their families and these experiences are reshaped to appear as something other than what they are. We see individuals so desperate and despairing that they will seek out any means to escape the suffering for but a moment, and the escape is often through methods that are self destructive.

Morris is abandoned by his biological parents, he is then placed in a foster care setting. The foster parents agree to adopt Morris and tell him, “we will take care of you, we love you very much.” The foster parents do not indicate that in reality they are only seeking the financial incentive provided by the State for keeping him. When the now adoptive parents separate, the father becomes abusive and sends him to live on the streets. Through the abuse, the adoptive mother cowers and does not take any action to address the abuse or protect Morris from the abusive father. No one knows of the abuse, it is kept behind closed doors, the family being active in their religious community, the father being involved in various civic projects and community functions. They are looked upon as ‘nice, regular folks’ but behind the closed doors of their home lies another story, one that leads Morris to the greatest of anguish.

James lives in a upper middle class neighborhood. He is provided much in the way of material wealth, but emotionally he is deprived. His brother is put in a glorified role, and many expectations are placed upon the brother. The father is emotionally abusive and often distant. The mother makes excuses for the father or tries to reshape the events that James has experienced. The mother is a master at mystification. In the community, they present a good ‘public image.’ The brother begins to rebel, and automatically he begins to be defined as ‘the problem’ as the mother seeks to find out why he is so angry and depressed and has him put on a psychiatric drug. James begins to feel that a lot of the attention, even if negative, has been diverted to his brother, so he begins to act out. He experiments with his brother’s psychiatric drugs, and then it moves on to experimentation with other drugs. He seeks to fill the empty void in his life with the drugs. The parents, particularly the mother, begin to worry about how they will be perceived in the community by their ‘unruly’ sons. They decide that it would be good in order to preserve the ‘integrity’ of their family to send James away to live with other relatives. They do not relate to the relatives the circumstances of James’ challenges and they dare not say to their friends and neighbors why he has left. Instead, they say, “Oh, James, is going on a vacation for awhile, he is visiting his Aunt and Uncle.” Feeling lowered esteem and it plummeting even further by being sent away, as well as the impact of much drug use, James enters into a psychotic state. The aunt and uncle have no idea of what to do and they call the parents. The parents and the aunt and uncle without James being aware arrange to have him admitted to a psychiatric hospital. The cycle of psychiatric hospitalizations continues, and each time the story remains that he is ‘on vacation’ or ‘visiting someone’. In the interim between hospitalizations and in his confusion, he indulges himself in superficial relationships, having unprotected sex, and engaging in more drug use with so called ‘friends’ because he has felt abandoned by his family and has become alienated from the world around him. Eventually, the ‘vacation’ story has worn out its usefulness and as questions begin to arise from family, friends, and neighbors, a new story must be developed. The family stumbles upon a new and wonderful story- let us make him ill. If we can say that he is ill, then people will take pity upon him and upon us. So, from that day forward, James is said to be ill. James has a terrible break-up with a girlfriend and in this goes into a rage, becoming suicidal, arguing with his mother, and entering again into a psychotic state. This is said to be his illness. James himself begins to like this idea of being ill, as he finds that he can manipulate situations, excuse himself for poor choices, and escape from difficult and challenging situations by saying he is ill. So, ill he remains. As the questions come from the outside to explain this illness and as some carefully guarded details become known, James is left flustered and devises means of escaping these people and these questions. He has educated himself well about his illness and comes across to others as an ‘expert’ on all matters pertaining to it. If he cannot just plainly escape, then he can present this ‘expert information’ and hope that it leads persons off the track. He talks of wanting to be apart from his family, of stepping away from the typical societal expectations, however remains attached to his family solely for financial reasons. He does the talk of wanting to be apart but really cannot live without his ‘things’. So, James too projects a public image of being this person desirous of a Bohemian lifestyle, but in reality happily receives whatever the parents offer him financially.

And so it is with the entanglement that we create. It may be very easy for individuals to separate from the person or persons who have contributed to their distress, but is this separation to be called liberation? The liberation only comes when we are able to face up to the truth, to confront our experience, and to unlearn all that which was said to said to be and all the messages of who we were said to be. Then we can start life anew, this is not an easy task.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


lets say we go to our physician and the nurse checks our heart rate, she then accidentally drops the chart on the floor and it startles us, she then checks our heart rate again and notices its elevated. She reports this information to the physician who based on this diagnoses us with heart disease.
If this actually happened, we would find it absurd and we would never encounter this physician again. But this IS what happens every day with the psychiatric establishment. They have no credible evidence that any so called disorder is an actual disease and if a person should have a physiological change because of a trauma or so forth, then this is used to somehow give 'evidence' of disease rather than looking at it as a natural response to the experience of the person.

-Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Response to An Ardent Follower of Bio-Psychiatry

I was recently sent a comment from an ardent follower of bio-psychiatry who accussed me of being an 'amrchair scientist" and criticizing my prior background with Comparative Religious Studies. First, I believe this background gave me some preparation towards understanding individuals, their belief systems, and how they construct meaning, however I do not look at my present work as a religious pursuit or connected to religion at all. Second, I have been directly in the field for 11 years, as a psychological evaluator, behavioral specialist, and psychotherapist. I have worked firsthand with people in serious distress, listened to them, heard their voices, and found that at the key to any emotional healing lies relationship. I have pioneered drug free and community based approaches and have seen that true recovery is possible whereas bio-psychiatry instills the idea that recovery is simply being a lifelong consumer of psychiatric drugs and maybe holding a menial job if you are lucky. My work is to respect the dignity of individuals and empower them, and this is being done, and I am proud to offer an alternative based on humanity and compassion.

-Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


One of the most destructive problems is the breakdown of community, and it is this breakdown that has often led to the breakdown of persons. Though we may put many around us, we are alone. Relationships have become superficial, there is no longer concern for the other, and we are pressed by societal and financial pressures to focus on our own survival. We do not concern ourselves much with the plight of others except a few we may call family or friends, and even then, our concern and attention is waning. It is this which is leading to numerous dilemmas for our children and the diagnosis of a gamut of so-called mental disorders and the their mass drugging to subdue them and force their conformity to a system of madness, a system they and most despise but which continues to perpetuate itself. We may have at one time gone to our neighbors home and asked for an ingredient for a dish and they would give it and invite us in. Today, do we even know our neighbor, do we even care to know our neighbor?
And so we go along wearing masks throughout the day, playing the game, taking upon us the various roles. I see the impact of this upon our children, who become torn when made a pawn in this game. Families seek to project the goodly image to the outside while the reality is that there is immense turmoil and conflict. For some of these children, they begin to become part of the masking reality as well. I recall a young man I worked with whose family life was strained and there had been a lot of traumatic events and harshness. In the beginning, he presented his family as ‘golden’, and denied that anything anyone had noted was of truth. But fortunately over time, he came to grasp the courage and ability to think critically to challenge the way things were and to present reality to the family. And it certainly did require immense courage as in these situations the secrets are safely guarded and no one wants them exposed for what they are. The reaction was to be expected, the blame was shifted, and the young man was made to be the scapegoat and threats issued as to what would happen if he did not change his thinking and accept the myth the family held to. I have seen this similar dynamic in situations of sexual abuse that involves a relative. The only way that the young man was able to finally come to the point of challenging the family system and surviving the verbal assaults was by having one from the outside who had been able to forge a connection with both him and the family. In this, it was possible to advocate for the young man and also challenge the other family members but in a diplomatic way. This tactic worked and it was agreed upon that certain ways of interacting would need to be worked upon. They left behind the myth and came to face reality.
So if we are to truly be alive, to truly move beyond surviving to thriving, if we are to truly be human beings rather than alienated beings or drugged zombies, then we are going to need to return to the sense of community, to lay aside the barriers, and to be able to realize our common humanity. We are going to have to abandon the myths and the games we are often so entrenched within, and accept truth, even when painful.
There are powerful forces at work which pull us to and fro and infect us with ideas of who we are, what we should be, and often block us from becoming. These forces arise within our social and familial structures. We are sent repetitive messages and they become deeply engrained. We may have been told we are not attractive or too attractive, not motivated or too achieving, etc. And we enter the social sphere having absorbed these messages. As we do so we begin a painful process of comparisons. There becomes a striving for something or sometimes nothing at all. But if there is striving, it is for what and for whom? Some sadly seek only to survive, it is all they can do. But if we can realize that no matter what has been dumped upon us and what the conditions are, we retain the choice to become! We have the choice to allow these powerful forces to consume us or to be defiant in the face of them and develop a process of unlearning. In this unlearning, we may be able to break free and emerge into a new world of being.

Monday, October 18, 2010

International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology Conference (ICSPP) in Syracuse, NY

I had the opportunity to attend the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology conference in Syracuse, NY October 7-9. It was a wonderful experience and I commend this organization for their hard work in promoting human rights and dignity in the mental health system. I had the opportunity to meet and hear many bright and dedicated individuals. I took particular interest in Robert Whitaker's (author of "Mad in America" and "Anatomy of an Epidemic") presentation which gave some background as to how we have gotten to the unfortuante point we have in the mental health system. I also appreciated the insights of Dr. David Cohen, and particularly his comment that dialogue with those steeped in the bio-psychiatric paradigm is futile. I had the opportunity to spend two evenings in conversation with Dr. Clancy McKenzie and have been inspired by his work regarding the two trauma mechanism and delayed PTSD as well as programmed dreams and love energy. I was able to present as well at the conference in regards to my recent text, "The Meeting of Two Persons: What Therapy Should Be" which addressed the social, familial, and poitical factors behind emotional distress, challenges the bio-psychiatric paradigm, encourages relational approaches, and asks existential questions. The Gala dinner at the end of the conference was great fun. I hope to become more connected with ICSPP and hope that all organizations that are seeking for the betterment of the lives of others and for dignity in the mental health system will forge together in this common struggle.

-Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D.


Dan Lee Edmunds was born in Tampa, Florida. In 1983, he located with his mother to Fort Collins, Colorado and attended public schools there. Edmunds as a teenager developed a keen interest in philosophy and comparative religion and enjoyed visting various religious communities and having discussions and dialogue. Edmunds also developed as a young person a strong interest in social justice and spent alot of time volunteering with various projects (veterans affairs, homeless, program for developmental differences). He became interested in political change, and in 1991 became the youngest legislative aide in the State Senate of Colorado, working in the office of then State Senator Robert W. Schaffer. He later registered as a professional lobbyist and worked on various political campaigns among them the campagin of Corrine Brown for the Third District Congressional Seat in Florida in 1992 which afforded him the opportunity to transport Martin Luther King III to an event at Bethune Cookman College.

In 1993, Edmunds graduated from Fort Collins High School, he returned to Florida, and later entered the University of Florida where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree with major in Religion, minor in Sociology in 1997. Edmunds entered the Orthodox Church and was ordained in 1997 and in the same year entered the Master of Arts program in Theology at the University of Scranton and obtained his degree in 1999. He was admitted to a Doctoral program in Community Counseling at the University of Sarasota and completed post graduate coursework at Nova Southeastern University in Dispute Resolution in 2000. Edmunds served as a chaplain for a nursing care facility for the elderly from 2001 to 2003. Later becoming disillusioned with the Orthodox Church, he became affiliated with the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church and later the Apostolic Church of the Divine Mysteries. Edmunds received his Doctorate of Education in Community Counseling in 2006 from the University of Sarasota.

In 1999, Edmunds had the opportunity to work with Bobbi Gagne, director of the Sexual Assault Crisis Team of Vermont and was greatly inspired by her. Edmunds began work the following year as a therapist for a behavioral health program for children and adolescents in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Edmunds was initially indifferent to the concept of psychiatric drugging of children and rather unaware of some of the abuses in his field. When he first encountered a young man with tardive dyskinesia from psychiatric drugs, and then began to see some of the issues related to power within the field, this had a major impact on his thinking, and he began to set forward to make changes in how to help and interact with distressed persons. In 2002, Edmunds received training in relational approaches to autism/developmental differences and began work with a number of autistic and developmentally different clients. Edmunds received Board Certification in Sexual Abuse Issues in 2003 from the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. In 2005, he began lecturing on ways to help children and adolescents without resort to psychiatric drugs. it was also in this year that he worked with a young man with a psychotic disorder and set up an experiment to see if relational and community based approaches would be more effective than traditional hospitalization and residential programs. Edmunds found that during the time of interaction with the young person, the project was very successful, but he began to plummet uppn being returned to his home. This and future experiences shaped his idea that emotional distress is brought forward by social, familial, and political factors, and this became the topic for his 2009 book "The Meeting of Two Persons: What Therapy Should Be" which he also presented as a presentation at the October 2010 conference of the International Center for Humane Psychiatry in Syracuse, New York. In 2006, after completing his doctoral degree, Edmunds began private practice in conjuction with working as a psychological associate (conducting evaluations and assessments) and also began writing and speaking. In 2006, he completed the book "They Say My Child Has ADHD: Thinking Outside the Bio-Psychiatric Paradigm". In 2007, he wrote "Navigating Through the Mainstream" which addressed autism and developmental differences. In 2010, he completed "Mystical Metaphors" which was written with a New Zealander artist and university student who underwent what would be labeled as a 'psychotic episode'. Edmunds sought to make this experience understandable and argued that with the proper support, that this journey, though painful and terrifying could lead to a point of transformation. Edmunds also argued that much of what occurs in the mental health profession is to suppress experience which leads to oppression. Edmunds has focused much of his work presently on extreme states of mind and maintains a private practice in Northeastern Pennsylvania and continues to lecture and provide consultation. Dr. Edmunds is Founder of the International Center for Humane Psychiatry, an emancipatory movement for human rights in the mental health system and has been involved in the Society for Laingian Studies and a member of the International Society for the Psychosocial Treatment of Schizophrenia. Dr. Edmunds is adjunct Professor of Existential Psychology and Comparative Religion for European American University. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity in 2007 from St. James Theological Seminary.



Tuesday, October 12, 2010


In my work with persons undergoing extreme states of mind, I have established a number of scenarios where we sought to break down barriers between the therapist and client and to provide support outside of a hospital setting. We created an environment where the client would live in the community, have supports to integrate into the community, and to have individuals who would journey with them on a daily basis and accept them 'where they were at' and for who they are. It is not to say that creating this environment was easy or that persons still did not undergo many challenges, but we certainly found it a more humane means of care, where people were not forced and coerced and they had a means to work through their crisis. I do know that these scenarios did produce far better results than the 'traditional' methods, and persons made their way to a better means of functioning and felt that they were treated with dignity.

-Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mystical Metaphors: Book on Extreme States of Mind

Dr. Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D., founder of the International Center for Humane Psychiatry, noted psychotherapist in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and Professor of Existential Psychology has teamed with Jarrad Dickson, an university student from New Zealand and psychiatric survivor in developing a new approach towards the understanding of extreme states of mind, what psychiatry labels as ‘psychoses’.

Dr. Edmunds and Mr. Dickson have completed a book MYSTICAL METAPHORS which describes the mystical and spiritual nature of the experience labeled as psychosis. The premise is that these experiences can be understood and it is a mistaken approach to seek to suppress them, that with the proper support and guidance, these experiences can be a transformation, they need not be all breakdown as Laing suggested but breakthrough.



Friday, August 27, 2010


The International Center for Humane Psychiatry is an emancipatory movement for human rights in the mental health system. By becoming an affiliate, you will be helping to provide drug free, empathic psychotherapy for those who are disadvantaged, helping to fund important research and publications, and advancing the cause of a humane mental health system. Affiliates can donate in any amount they feel they are able, those who donate $40 will receive a copy of THE MEETING OF TWO PERSONS: WHAT THERAPY SHOULD BE.

For information on becoming an affiliate, please write to:


Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Look at her eye, that was wide open and wild, as Ligeria, the priestess of the Chinese albino golden star walked along the beach of Hahei, behind her the Pa, casting its shadow on her, and see her gowns fluttering with the wind, and her hair, also wild, and her skin, white, milky and pale, shining in the night.
The moon reflected in the ocean, illuminating the night, and Ligeria was beautiful, full, and enchanting.

Look at her eye, and know her. Know her as the one of the Pa, the one of Hahei, its spirit, and know it to be white.
Who is the mystery of the Pa? Know it to be a white mystery; know it to be Ligeria, in her name Pandora, the source of the Pa.

The Pa opens, revealing the holy products of Pandora, her box, and see the souls of Anesidora.

Look at the Pa, the eye of Hahei, and see it full like the moon, and know Ligeria as the ancient playwright of Hahei, the woman of the Pa.

Look at her eye, as she sees Michael walk towards her and wrap her in his arms.

Look at his eye, the eye of Michael Mathew, as he stares lovingly into Ligeria’s eyes, and know him as the man of the Pa, the soul of Hahei.

“You have to live, I have to die, we have to be together,” spoke Ligeria.

Look at their eyes, that were wide open and cut as they met for the last time, in a tryst, their heart strings pulling wide eyed and open.
Their eyes are one eye, and it is the Pa, and was their last sight, as they were sentenced to death and beheaded on the beach of Hahei.

Look at his eye, and her eye, and know their deaths, and know them as the soul of Hahei, and know forever more they will be in the Pa, and of the Pa, and always from the Pa.

Look at the Pa, it is the eye of Horus, and looks out to you, inviting you in, and you go, and look at your eye now, it is the eye of the dead.

Saturday, August 07, 2010


I have found Northeastern Pennsylvania (particularly Wyoming County) to be a beautiful place in regards to scenery but sadly a place of much filth and corruption politically. Few in power appear to learn their lessons. I was very pleased to see that the American Civil Liberties Union won its suit against Wyoming County, but this has not really cleaned up the Juvenile Probation Department there, how Child Protective Services operates, or anything else for that matter, it remains status quo. Below, is an article regarding the ACLU settlement as well as my past article on the Luzerne County judges and the Cash for Kids scandal. In this, I examine the larger problem, of how we are not truly meeting our children's needs and it appears that abuse of power and greed remain rampant in the minds of the public officials in this area. I hope that many will continue to speak out, but beyond this, it is necessary for young people to be empowered to challenge these abuses that directly impact them and their future.

-Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D.


(Dr. Edmunds) is a man of high integrity. He is firm in his convictions and not easily swayed by political pressure or public opinion... Dan is also a very clear thinker and writer. And shows plenty of initiative. I especially admire his devotion to defending and supporting the spirited nature of our young people. I know he has a wealth of experience working with people, and I know he communicates his ideas well. He is not a closed system, but able to listen and open to new ideas.

-John Breeding, Ph.D., psychologist and author of the "Wildest Colts Make the Best Horses" and founder of Texans for Safe Education

I think (Dr. Edmunds') insights are RIGHT ON and deserve a place in canon psychological, growth, and child development texts. The patterns described and the reactions I experienced, and have witnessed others experiencing, could not have been more accurate and profound. I think a great goal would be entirely replacing the DSM with the patterns and reactions you observed because those present dilemmas that can actually be nurtured and solved.


"I have been very impressed with (Dr. Edmunds') work ethic and clinical skills...He has an innate ability to connect with many families and help them through multiple complicated issues."- F.A. Bresser, L.S.W.

(Dr. Edmunds) is bright, thoughtful, often wry, and utterly responsible."

Dennis E. Owen, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Religion
University of Florida- Gainesville, FL

I wish you every success with your important work for those unfortunate enough to be labeled 'mentally ill'. So many of us have been guinea pigs because the medical profession have made diseases which do not exist out of human problems in the pursuit of profit.It is good too to hear you and your organization exist.

In support and solidarity,

Mary Maddock
MindFreedom Ireland


Dear Dr. Edmunds:
I agree with you- many of the problems we see around us are either 'societal' or 'systems' problems. However I also believe, very strongly, that individuals have a huge responsibility in resisting some of the temptations on offer and behaving ethically. In countries like mine, where there are virtually no checks on physicians and corruption is the norm, this is a huge problem. I would be happy to collaborate with you in any way I can. Perhaps we can think about some ideas how to take this forward. You would be most welcome to make a presentation at our university- whenever the opportunity arises. In the meantime, let's keep the dialogue going. I am attaching another one of my articles that you may find relevant.

With best wishes

Dr. Murad M Khan, MRCPsych
Department of Psychiatry
Aga Khan University
PO Box 3500, Stadium Road






BIO-PSYCHIATRY ILLUMINATED- THE ADHD REPORT (featuring the work of Dr. Dan L. Edmunds)




Dr. Edmunds presented on the work of the International Center for Humane Psychiatry and the impact of current mental health practice on children on August 20, 2008 on the program THE MENTAL HEALTH EDGE WTAN-AM RADIO in Clearwater, Florida.


Dr. Edmunds was a presenter on the TALK OF CONNECTICUT WRDC-AM RADIO in Hartford, Connecticut on July 21, 2008 at 2:30pm addressing issues of informed consent and human rights in the mental health system.




LISTEN TO RADIO INTERVIEW - Melbourne, Florida radio interview with Dr. D.L. Edmunds regarding Psychiatry and Religion

Dr. Edmunds was a keynote speaker at the opening of an exhibit in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on psychiatric abuse held July 13, 2008.

Youth Advocacy Program a relief to parents- Scranton Times

Police break up 'fight club' in Tunkhannock, PA


Scholarship program for youth




Edmunds earns Doctoral degree- Scranton Times



Focus should be shifted to true rehabilitation

Published: Thursday, January 29, 2009 Updated: Thursday, January 29, 2009 6:08 AM EST Editor: It is a positive development that Luzerne County Judges Mark A. Ciavarella and Michael T. Conahan are being brought to justice for their actions in profiting from placing youth in detention facilities.

However, it is necessary for us to examine the problems inherent with residential and detention facilities themselves. In these settings, youth are placed often under conditions that lead them to further emotional distress. The decisions to place children is often not based on a genuine interest in the child�s best interests, but what will be profitable and the easiest way out of having to actually rehabilitate youth and meet their emotional needs.

It is no wonder that the socio-economically disadvantaged youth are the ones that are so frequently seen in this system. How does placing a child into a detention center or residential facility, which often is geared toward the concept of staff forcing conformity through rewards, punishments and often deprivation, teach a child who seeks to use power inappropriately that this is wrong?

How does a militaristic system teach anything but that children must submit to someone stronger than themselves? It only reinforces wrong ideas about power and domination.

These facilities are bound to create new emotional problems for these children. But the system profits here, as well, because then they are able to label and drug the children and make money in the process of billing for this injustice.

A youth is removed from the home, programmed, and when they conform to the expectations, released back to the setting that led to their distress and misbehavior to begin with. It becomes a vicious cycle.

These facilities are also very costly and their efficacy is questionable. The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law noted the ineffectiveness of these facilities in treatment of youth as well as the many documented abuses that occur in such places.

Community-based options have proven effective and need to be more readily available and implemented.

We need to shift our focus to true rehabilitation and to addressing actual social problems, not locking our children away, drugging them into submission, and ignoring their needs.


Wyoming County settles with ACLU over legal fees in sexting case
Published: June 23, 2010

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TUNKHANNOCK - The Wyoming County commissioners agreed Tuesday to a $140,000 settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union over legal fees the organization incurred in a sexting case, county solicitor James Davis confirmed.

The dispute over legal fees began after the commissioners' decision in April not to appeal a March U.S. Circuit Court ruling that blocked felony charges against a teenage girl for possessing what then-District Attorney George Skumanick Jr. claimed was a sexually explicit photograph of herself on her cell phone.

"None of us are real happy over this," Mr. Davis said.

Because the ACLU was the prevailing party in a civil rights action, it is entitled to recoup its expenses, he explained. What the county took issue with, Mr. Davis said, was the amount.

Efforts to reach the ACLU on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

The final figure was reached after more than a month of negotiations. Mr. Davis said the agreement has already been signed by ACLU attorney Witold Walczak.

He was reluctant to settle for even that amount with the ACLU, but to pursue the matter any further might have been more costly, Mr. Davis said, adding that the ACLU could continue to tack on expenses it incurred during any additional legal challenge.

Under terms of the agreement, the county is to pay the ACLU $70,000 within 30 days, with the balance to be paid by Jan. 30. The commissioners said the money to pay the settlement will have to come from the county's general fund.

Mr. Davis said it's unlikely the county will be able to recoup any of the money. He noted that the Pennsylvania Counties Risk Pool, or PCoRP, agreed to pay the county's legal fees during the appeal. However, PCoRP took the position that the county is not eligible to recover attorney's fees through a claim.

PCoRP is a liability insurance program run by the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania. It serves 44 of the state's 67 counties.

Mr. Davis said because Mr. Skumanick was acting as an agent of the county, the county as a whole is responsible for costs incurred in the matter.

That's true, he noted, even though the commissioners have no control - and don't want control - over the district attorney's actions.

"We don't want control over the district attorney and who he prosecutes. But since he is a county official, we're responsible for the expenses," Mr. Davis said.

Mr. Davis noted that in theory, the county could have appealed the Circuit Court's ruling, but there was no guarantee it would prevail. He said after Mr. Skumanick was replaced in the November 2009 election by Jeff Mitchell, the new district attorney decided not to pursue the matter any further.

Thursday, July 08, 2010



All I ask is to be heard.
Yet when I look at you, you turn away.
You do not have time for me. Your world created my pain, and when I seek to share a glimmer of my experience, you look at me with revulsion.
Staring at the watch, pretending to listen, but really distant. And some of you seek to mock me further. Is it not the wish of us all simply to be heard? And because there is no one to listen, no one to understand, I retreat into myself, and I find my own to listen.


If I opened the door to Paradise, would you choose to remain in Hell? If I gave you my heart, would you notice? Can you respond to that you never knew or had? Surrounded by the demons, yet truly alone. You recognize not your friends. Engulfed in delusions, seeking pleasure in that which but leads to more suffering. How I sought to change the wretched mind. A deafening silence, but then an echo, a constant echo. Are you too far away to hear it? Your hurt is now the hurt of others. You inflict your pain on many. Covered in stinking filfth, they say you are foul. Yet I saw what was within. I saw what was possible. You glorify the one who hurt you. You have indeed become him. A sick cycle. The wheel must be broken. Who are you? What do you see? A mirage. A false image, not you, but that which the demons say you must be to join their legion. You think they laugh and revel with you, they laugh at you, they scorn you. And now in the darkness, they flee, leaving you truly alone. If I open the door to Paradise to you now, will you choose to remain in Hell.


From Within.
There again and again.
Repeating its haunting call.
From Within.
A New Refrain.


f only I did not know, it would have been safer, but I would soon
find out or be forced to encounter it, the deserved
and undeserved sufferings of the world. Each with an
inward struggle, many striving to make their way only
to be crushed and to start again. Love is evaporating
from the earth, and there is nothing to yearn for but
survival. Meaning is lacking and we frustrate ourselves
in seeking answers to the unanswerable. Community
is no more, together, but alone. Where is the solace?
Who will journey with us? Maybe it will come, we
have waited a long time.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Within the past year, I printed the text THE MEETING OF TWO PERSONS: WHAT THERAPY SHOULD BE which details a plan for compassion, dignity, and human rights in the mental health system. In addition, I have had the great opportunity to present lectures to various mental health agencies and conduct radio and television interviews to discuss the impact of bio-psychiatry on human lives and what we can do to insure that persons are respected and do not receive treatments they do not want, receive informed consent, and where they have autonomy and respect. I have also worked heavily on drug free approaches for autistic/developmentally different persons and promoted acceptance of these individuals.

In order to accomplish this work and to further future efforts has required an investment of time and resources. If you would be interested in joining this alliance for human rights in the mental health system, it would be greatly appreciated and greatly needed.


* obtain copies of THE MEETING OF TWO PERSONS, THEY SAY MY CHILD HAS ADHD and distribute to various groups, organizations, etc.
These books can be ordered from stores.lulu.com/voice4kids

*sponsor lectures or seminars

*make a financial contribution

* assist with letter writing campaigns and research.

*help to promote care in your area that is based on compassion, autonomy, and dignity.

If you are interested in being part of the Center for Humane Psychiatry and supporting this vital work, please contact:

Sunday, April 11, 2010


This is a photo walking up the path to the Kadampa Buddhist World Peace Temple in Glen Spey, New York.

Friday, April 09, 2010


In today's mental health system, most individuals in distress are treated more as objects than persons, are labeled, drugged, and their experience is often invalidated.
Noted psychotherapist, Dr. Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D. believes in the need to return humanity and dignity to the mental health system. Working in collaboration with Maya Winddancer Noble, a licensed acupunturist and scholar of Oriental Medicine as well as other holistic practitioners, Dr. Edmunds has offered a place of sanctuary in Northeastern Pennsylvania (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre) area that provides a safe place for individuals enduring emotional distress to recover from their challenges without resorting to psychiatric drugs and labels or 'treatments' that they may not want.
For more information, see the website at
www.humanepsychiatry.com or write to DoctorEdmunds@DrDanEdmunds.com

Monday, March 15, 2010


In his text, published in 2008. ANARCHO-PSYCHOLOGY, noted psychotherapist Dr. Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D. clearly expressed the damage done to children in residential treatment centers and their lack of efficacy and offers a more humane and compassionate approach to meeting the needs of troubled children. This recent study by the MacArthur Foundation offers further validation to Dr. Edmunds' poignant commentary.



Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D.
Tunkhannock, PA 18657

From the MacArthur Foundation:

Washington, DC, December 9, 2009 – As many states face budget shortfalls, a new report on youth convicted of serious offenses finds that stays in expensive institutional placements produced no measurable results. Researchers found that even among youth committing serious (often violent) offenses, a large proportion turned away from serious offending after involvement with the court and were able to live successfully in their communities. The research also shows that institutional placement appears to have no advantage over probation in reducing rates of re-arrest or self-reported offending. The length of institutional stay also does not appear to make a difference.
The report is the first in a series from a long-term study of juvenile offenders. The Research on Pathways to Desistance Study – a multi-site, collaborative project that was launched in 2000 – is designed to identify and better understand factors that contribute to desistance, or ceasing to commit additional crimes. The research is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
“The most surprising finding is that a youth’s future behavior did not correlate very well with the sanctions they received, suggesting that costly punitive measures may not be the best approach for keeping communities safe and rehabilitating young people in trouble with the law,” said principal investigator Edward Mulvey of the University of Pittsburgh today at a national conference of MacArthur’s Models for Change juvenile justice reform initiative. “Persisters’ and ‘desisters’ spent about the same amount of time in the same types of institutions. When you look at youth involved in a ‘low-level’ of offending, institutional placement actually raised the level of offending by a statistically significant amount.”
The Pathways study is following 1,354 juvenile offenders (ages 14 to 18), interviewing these adolescents as well as their family members and friends over a seven-year period after their conviction in court for a serious offense (a felony).
Significant findings to date include:
• Adolescents who become involved in serious crimes are not a particular “type” but a heterogeneous group, much like their non-offending peers. They differ substantially from one another on a number of relevant dimensions: parenting styles, social development, the timing of psychological development, mental health, attitudes toward the law, and the level of substance abuse. Seldom are these differences among them considered by courts, nor are they usually translated by service providers into different types of intervention.
• Nothing in the basic psychological or social characteristics of these adolescents strongly predicts which will go on to a high level of offending, even in the near future, and which will curtail their offending after court involvement.
• Longer stays in juvenile facilities do not appear to reduce offending; however, continued probation supervision and community-based services provided after a youth is released do make a difference, at least in the six months following release.
• Substance abuse is a major factor in continued criminal activity. Treating substance abuse can reduce subsequent offending.
“Policy makers often treat this group as if they were all the same and headed for the same life of adult crime. Actually, less than 10 percent continue illegal activity following court involvement. Closer consideration of individual and developmental differences by the courts and service providers could lead to more tailored, more effective services,” said Laurie Garduque, the Director of MacArthur’s juvenile justice grantmaking. “Our hope is that evidence about what works will inform policy changes to better serve youthful offenders and their families, while ensuring communities are kept safe.”
The Pathways to Desistance Study grew out of work by the MacArthur Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice, a ten-year, interdisciplinary project that provided research cited by the Supreme Court to ban the death penalty for juveniles under the age of 18. The study is supported through MacArthur’s Models for Change juvenile justice reform initiative, an effort to create successful and replicable models of juvenile justice reform, through targeted investments in key states. Models for Change seeks to accelerate progress toward a more effective, fair, and developmentally sound juvenile justice system that holds young people accountable for their actions, provides for their rehabilitation, protects them from harm, increases their life chances, and manages the risk they pose to themselves and to the public. The initiative is underway in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and Washington and, through action networks focusing on key issues, in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin.
The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society. More information is available at www.macfound.org.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


It is necessary for us to accept the reality that in life there will be discontentment, struggles, and events that are absurd. Often distress arises when we make the choice to ask the questions which lack answers, to ask, "why me?" or worse to delve into the realm of self-pity. Despite what is thrown to us, we retain the choice as to how we wish to create meaning of the situation, we have the choice of what to become. For every human being there exists anxiety, it is only natural as we progress through a life filled with uncertainties. But for some the fear becomes too overwhelming that they can become more afraid to live than to die. For some, they have never truly lived for they have lived solely for others, they play the game for others, they wear their masks and fill their roles, being but a construct of what others said they must be. And in this, they gave up their critical thought, they gave up their freedom so that they would not bear any burden of responsibility.
Define or be defined. This is what we do. We think that by defining and categorizing that somehow we understand more, but we do not, yet if it seems if we do not define, that we ourselves will be defined.

Friday, March 05, 2010


Presently, I have offered an alternative to persons undergoing extreme states of mind, persons who have received labels of 'schizophrenia', 'schizoaffective', or 'bipolar'. Many of these persons sought help within the psychiatric system but found that the 'treatments' only squashed their creativity, did not respect their experience, and in many circumstances, did them great harm and was traumatizing not to mention insulting to their dignity and autonomy. I am thankful for friends such as Victor Manocchio, LCSW, and Maya Winddancer Noble, an acupuncturist, who have helped me in providing caring and compassionate alternatives to persons in distress. What is unfortunate is that because of the current bio-psychiatric paradigm, it is difficult to maintain this work. It has been my desire to expand this work of creating 'sanctuary' and a center for persons undergoing 'spiritual emergency'. Your help and support in furthering this much needed work would be greatly appreciated.
Please contact me if you are interested in being of assistance to this work.

Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D.

e-mail: DoctorEdmunds@DrDanEdmunds.com

Individuals at times go through what Grof terms a 'spiritual emergency', in this a person may develop unusual perceptions and a sense of consciousness that is part from the 'norm'. The psychiatric establishment based on a medical model would identify such experience as pathological, label it, and prescribe a drug to suppress it. But what if this experience can lead to an awakening? I share some examples:

* I met with a 17 year old male who had been abused beginning around the age of 14 months. He began to express some concerns about meaning in his life but also presented with intense anxiety surrounding feeling his actions were being watched and monitored. This began to intensify after encountering his abuser again after a prolonged period. He described his family life as often chaotic and discussed how he felt that he often felt 'controlled." He told me that when watching television, he thought that there was something in the center of the screen that was recording him. I initially employed some humor to the situation, and suggested that he not change in front of the television. This provoked some laughter but also helped him feel more relaxed and we soon delved into the more serious issues of his crisis. What he discovered was that his feelings of being watched and so forth were all 'metaphors' for the very real feelings he had of lacking autonomy in decision making and the chaotic circumstances he encountered. As this discovery was made, we were able to enter the realm of reframing and creating new meanings, and he has begun the process of emerging from the impact of his past trauma towards overcoming.

*A woman discussed with me about her guilt ridden past where she had involved herself in prostitution and drugs. She related how she had an experience of hearing a voice that told her she was Mary Magdalene. The psychiatric establishment would automatically seek to suppress this experience, label it as delusion, however after hearing more of her journey and listening intently, it made perfect sense as to why she would connect with the story of Mary Magdalene, and it soon pointed this out. The story coincided with her own experience and she was desparately seeking 'redemption' from the shame of her past.

*i was contacted on one occasion to conduct an assessment and consult with a family in regards to their son who was in his early twenties who had been involuntarily committed by his father to a state mental hospital. As I entered the facility, wondered how any in this place could not feel worthless, depressed, and mad. I entered to meet John. He appeared somewhat lethargic because of the cocktail of psychiatric drugs he was being given, but he greeted me warmly and with a smile. John began to immediately speak and told me how he was an African American infant who when he was around two years old was turned white. (John was quite pale in complexion). He then proceeded to tell me about the mind control he felt he was experiencing, that his freedom was taken away, he could no longer think for himself. I asked him who he felt was controlling his mind. His answer did not surprise me- it was his father. I later asked the mother if John's father was a racist and if John had been abused. The answer was yes to both; the father had been linked to racist organizations. The abuse began around the age of 2. It was clear that John had a powerful message, though surrounded in metaphor. To the person only wanting to categorize behavior and ignore experience, would they have known what John was seeking to communicate?

*Aaron was a delightful 10 year old boy with a great sense of humor and alot of creativity and imagination. However, Aaron looked at himself as a 'bad kid'. His step-mother was filled with negativity towards him and his parents were embroiled in constant conflict. Aaron had been sexually abused when he was 3 years old. The memories of his trauma continued to haunt him. Aaron developed a challenge of encopresis that was occurring on a daily basis and it only furthered the negative relationship with his step-mother. After getting to know Aaron, I began to realize that he felt stifled and was often told to be quiet and was never allowed to really express himself. He told me that he felt he could not be himself and he was afraid to share any of his feelings, he did not feel safe and secure. I saw his encopresis as a reflection of the negative emotions he so deeply wished to share and it was no surprise for me to learn that this seemed to only occur in his home environment. I felt it was necessary for him to build a trusting relationship with someone, and sought to build him up and encourage his resiliency. Though our periods meeting together were short, I hoped that it would be a period of respite, a period where he could truly be himself and express himself without any fear of judgment. I believe Aaron will face many more challenges, but I remain hopeful that pointing him to an understanding of the roots of his distress and challenges, and giving him a spirit of overcoming, and with his own innate strengths, that he will be able to survive the violence so sadly inflicted upon him.

Often times in the various crises, persons come into conflict with the dominant worldview, and they begin to feel alienated and isolated. There are some who respond to crisis through excessive worry and others who develop apathy, or complete despair. I have argued that people do not need drugs, rather people need people. It is necessary for there to exist a supportive network to help the person through the crisis so it may reach a transformative ending. It is possible after undergoing such a crisis to emerge with new insights, to develop new meanings, a renewed sense of purpose. But, it is necessary for there to be a journey, a journey in togetherness, where the person can feel safe and supported in conquering fears, to be able to face the intrusive thoughts and feelings of dread that haunt them. In this journey is the process of being able to shed the false self, to actually be able to be a human being with another human being, and to no longer feel that they must repress their feelings or must 'play the games' or wear the masks that society imposes upon us. To be able to come to a radical authenticity, a mastery of past truamas where we make the choice to live and be rather than merely react.

I have often used the concept of programmed dreams which I learned from Dr. Clancy McKenzie. In this, the person decides to have a dream, one which will not be upsetting, but which will be an answer to a dilemma. In this process, I have seen many obtain valuable insights. For example, a young man had serious esteem issues, he fretted about how others perceived him. In his dream, he saw many mirrors with himself smashing through them all. He related to me that this dream was a 'release' and he felt the mirrors represented all the images others had created of him. He was no longer going to concern himself with that, these images were gone. In another example, a woman having intrusive thoughts and recurrent nightmares about past abuse had a dream where she was able to assert herself and say directly that the abuse was wrong. She said this relieved a serious burden she had been carrying for some time, as what occurred in the dream is something she always wanted to say.

These crises can be challenging, and often painful. The person may have to journey through dark imagery and confront many obstacles, but with support and the proper conditions to facilitate the journey, it can lead to an awakening, it can be breakthrough rather than breakdown.

Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D.
202 W. Tioga St.
Tunkhannock, PA 18657


Monday, March 01, 2010



A 5 year old boy who had been given a diagnosis of autism began working with Dr. Edmunds. He was completely non-verbal when Dr. Edmunds encountered him. He came into the office and began to bang on the computer keyboard. In the main room of the clinic was a large pit of plastic balls. Dr. Edmunds told him, "I am going to have to scoop you up and throw you in the ballpit." He smiled and walked away, only to return to the keyboard with his hand outstretched towards the keyboard, not touching it, just grinning. Just as he touched it, Dr. Edmunds picked him up and said, "yep, to the ballpit with you." He giggled and smiled, and then returned to the keyboard again, but this time he did not touch it, he just fell into Dr. Edmunds arms and then for the first time spoke "throw me in."

Order your copy of ROOTS OF DISTRESS

Alan was seen by most as an obstinate young man who had completed departed from any sense of reality. His hallucinations had earned him the diagnosis of a psychotic disorder not to mention he frequently displayed aggressive behavior. Reading the charts from before, it painted a monstrosity, but gave little detail to what Alan's experience might have been. When I first encountered Alan, I did not demand that he speak to me or that he not speak to me. I made no demands. I solely informed him that I was a supportive person who wanted to know him for who he is. This opened the door to intense dialogues. Together we explored questions about life that we both may have never thought much on before. The topics would drift to purpose, impermanence, suffering, the human condition. He related to me the pain of years of abuse, how he felt dehumanized and humiliated by the various people he thought would help him. He told me of his feelings of being alone, of being nothing. This feeling of nothing for him was an end at the time, but really it was the beginning. It was the door for him to question life, to question what he had been taught, to become. He related to me about his hallucinations, and his imaginary friends became mine as well. I asked about their habits, and their words. I noticed that these beings he saw were him at various points in time. As I met each of these beings, I learned something a bit more about the experience of Alan. Gradually as his emotional needs were met and he began to see himself once again as a singular person in the present moment of time and space, these beings began to depart. I saw in Alan the resilient human spirit and I will not forget him.

I was contacted on one occasion to conduct an assessment and consult with a family in regards to their son who was in his early twenties who had been involuntarily committed by his father to a state mental hospital. As I entered the facility, wondered how any in this place could not feel worthless, depressed, and mad. I entered to meet John. He appeared somewhat lethargic because of the cocktail of psychiatric drugs he was being given, but he greeted me warmly and with a smile. John began to immediately speak and told me how he was an African American infant who when he was around two years old was turned white. (John was quite pale in complexion). He then proceeded to tell me about the mind control he felt he was experiencing, that his freedom was taken away, he could no longer think for himself. I asked him who he felt was controlling his mind. His answer did not surprise me- it was his father. I later asked the mother if John's father was a racist and if John had been abused. The answer was yes to both; the father had been linked to racist organizations. The abuse began around the age of 2. It was clear that John had a powerful message, though surrounded in metaphor. To the person only wanting to categorize behavior and ignore experience, would they have known what John was seeking to communicate?

Aaron was a delightful 10 year old boy with a great sense of humor and alot of creativity and imagination. However, Aaron looked at himself as a 'bad kid'. His step-mother was filled with negativity towards him and his parents were embroiled in constant conflict. Aaron had been sexually abused when he was 3 years old. The memories of his trauma continued to haunt him. Aaron developed a challenge of encopresis that was occurring on a daily basis and it only furthered the negative relationship with his step-mother. After getting to know Aaron, I began to realize that he felt stifled and was often told to be quiet and was never allowed to really express himself. He told me that he felt he could not be himself and he was afraid to share any of his feelings, he did not feel safe and secure. I saw his encopresis as a reflection of the negative emotions he so deeply wished to share and it was no surprise for me to learn that this seemed to only occur in his home environment. I felt it was necessary for him to build a trusting relationship with someone, and sought to build him up and encourage his resiliency. Though our periods meeting together were short, I hoped that it would be a period of respite, a period where he could truly be himself and express himself without any fear of judgment. I believe Aaron will face many more challenges, but I remain hopeful that pointing him to an understanding of the roots of his distress and challenges, and giving him a spirit of overcoming, and with his own innate strengths, that he will be able to survive the violence so sadly inflicted upon him.

Initially, James was brought to me as he was having violent outbursts with peers. James had Downs Syndrome but was high functioning in many areas. I came to learn that James had been prescribed Paxil. I was convinced that because he had no prior history of violence that Paxil was contributing to the violence he experienced and I arranged for him to be seen by his physician to discuss this. The drug was discontinued and amazingly the violence discontinued. James was very religious and had a dream of being a minister. I thought of a creative way to help James feel that he could accomplish his dream. I organized for his ordination to a minor order in his church and James decided to put a small 'chapel' in his room where he could reflect. I taught James some meditation and relaxation exercises that he consistently used whenever he began feeling frustrated. I began spending some time with James in various community activities and helping to foster further skills. He is an amazing individual with much kindness and compassion and it appears that with the ability to feel that he was 'part of something' and making a contribution that most of what was looked at as problematic behavior resolved.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D.
202 W. Tioga St.
Tunkhannock, PA 18657

1975- Born In Tampa, Florida.

1983- relocates to Fort Collins, Colorado

1191- serves as legislative aide to State Senator Robert W. Schaffer and later as registered professional lobbyist. Returns to Florida at end of this year

1992- serves as county campaign coordinator for the successful campaign of US Rep Corrine Brown. Transports Martin Luther King III to event at Bethune Cookman College. Has opportunity to meet then Governor Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and US Senator Al Gore during campaign event in Daytona Beach, FL.

1993- attends Congressional Black Caucus swearing in ceremonies in Washington, D.C., later returns to Colorado and graduates from Fort Collins High School

1994- enters University of Florida- Gainesville, FL

1996- ordained deacon in the Eastern Orthodox Church

1997- earns Bachelor of Arts (Religion major, Sociology minor) from the University of Florida, ordained to priesthood in Eastern Orthodox Church, relocates to Scranton, PA to attend University of Scranton

1998- publishes "State of the Soul After Death" in University of Scranton's Diakonia Journal for Eastern Christian Studies; inducted into Theta Alpha Kappa National Honor Society for Theological Studies

1999- collaborates with Bobbi Gagne- Sexual Assault Crisis Team of Vermont; receives Master of Arts in Theology from the University of Scranton; begins Doctoral study in Community Counseling at Argosy University of Sarasota

2000- completes post graduate work in Dispute Resolution via Nova Southeastern University; begins work as therapist for community based agency for children and adolescents

2001- hosts AM radio program on drug free approaches for distressed children. Begins training in relational approaches to autism.

2002- Begins delivering workshops on autism/developmental differences.

2003- receives Board Certification in Sexual Abuse Issues.

2004- lecture tour in Florida "Thinking Outside the Bio-Psychiatric Paradigm"; becomes clinical director for therapeutic equestrian program; assessment clinician for family court

2005- presents presentation, "Thinking Outside the Bio-Psychiatric Paradigm" at conference of International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology in New York City.

2006- receives Doctorate of Education in Community Counseling from Argosy University of Sarasota. Delivers keynote address at exhibit on psychiatric abuse in Niagara Falls, NY. Guest on nationally syndicated and local radio programs. Publishes, "Children Our Treasure"; begins work as psychological evaluator for intensive day treatment, therapeutic family care, and wraparound programs. Opens private practice as existential-humanist psychotherapist and educational advocacy.

2007- lectures on "Children Our Treasure" in various locations in Pennsylvania and New York. keynote address at exhibit on psychiatric abuse in Philadelphia. receives Honorary Doctorate of Divinity.

2008- publishes "Drug Free Approaches to ADHD", attends meeting in Miami, FL on foster care reform and informed consent, guest on various radio programs. Locates private practice to Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania. Becomes Professor of Existential Psychology and Comparative Religion for European American University and joins the Society for Humanistic Potential.

2009- publishes "Anarcho-Psychology", becomes Advisory Board member of Society for Laingian Studies

2010- becomes member of the International Society for the Psychosocial Treatment of Schizophrenia

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Dr. Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D.,B.C.S.A. is an existential-humanist psychotherapist, philosopher, social activist, and author. Dr. Edmunds is in private practice in Northeastern Pennsylvania (Tunkhannock and Dunmore) and specializes in drug free relational approaches for individuals experiencing extreme states of mind (schizophrenia, schizoaffective, bipolar) and assists autistic and developmentally different persons.

Dr. Edmunds completed undergraduate study at the University of Florida with a major in Comparative Religion and minor in Sociology. He received his Master of Arts from the University of Scranton and completed post-graduate coursework in Dispute Resolution from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Edmunds earned his Doctorate of Education in Community Counseling from Argosy University of Sarasota. His dissertation examined the efficacy of a drug free program versus psychotropic medications for children diagnosed with ADHD within a wraparound program. Dr. Edmunds received an Honorary Doctor of Divinity from St. James Theological Seminary.

Dr. Edmunds is Professor of Existential Psychology and Comparative Religion via European-American University and is a member of the Society for Humanistic Potential.

Dr. Edmunds began his work volunteering with the Sexual Crisis Center of Vermont. In 2000, he began working as a psychotherapist for community based agencies. Dr. Edmunds has also served as a assessment clinician for family court, educational advocate, and behavioral consultant. He has testified in cases involving family mediation, custody, and juvenile offenders.

He is the author of CHILDREN OUR TREASURE, a book derived from a presentation to the 8th Annual Conference of the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology which details psycho-social approaches towards addressing the needs of distressed children. In addition, he is the author of NAVIGATING THROUGH THE MAINSTREAM (addressing relationship based approaches for autism/developmental differences) and ANARCHO-PSYCHOLOGY which discusses the social, political, and familial factors leading to emotional distress and encourages a mental health system where experience is regarded, persons are treated with dignity, and abuses cease.
He published the article, "Returning the Soul to the Mental Health System" in the Aaina Journal of the Centre for Mental Health Advocacy, Pune, Maharashtra, India.
Dr. Edmunds has been interviewed on a number of local and nationally syndicated radio programs.

He is the founder of the International Center for Humane Psychiatry

To arrange a consult in person or by phone, please contact

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Tonglen is a Tibetan Buddhist meditation practice. Tonglen means 'giving and taking". It is a selfless meditation where the person envisions and takes in the suffering of another person and gives back compassion and thinking of the happiness of others. This is a practice in virtue and is very useful in our developing not only a greater sense of our own happiness, but further empathy for others. The practice is similar to homeopathy or vaccination in that we take in a small mount of poison that helps to innoculate us from future misery.
I had the pleasant opportunity to chat with Marguerite Therese Laing, the wife of the late R.D. Laing who had reminded me of the story of the Buddhist saint Milarepa. In this story, Milarepa had lived a life of luxury later for this to be removed from him by the greed of his Aunt and Uncle. Milarepa later entered black arts and sought revenge on family members he felt harmed him. Later repenting of his actions, he found Marpa as his teacher. Marpa had been harsh with Milarepa and he instructed him to move rocks to construct a building to only then change the plans and Milarepa had to continously rebuild. Milarepa went through periods of despair, but looked at the actions of Marpa and that he did not receive the desired spiritual initiation he sought as a result of his past deeds. Over time, Milarepa through the influence of other teachers, one in the lineage of the Saint Naropa, he came to a state of inner peace.

Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D.

202 W. Tioga St.
Tunkhannock, PA 18657


-Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D.

Saturday, February 06, 2010


In the past I had written on my concern about psychotherapists selling 'love' as a commodity, that is, that if psychotherapists are seeking to help individuals then why would be price be put on this. As I began to think about this, I thought of psychotherapy as a 'secular ministry'. Religious ministers offer guidance and support and they receive voluntary donations to help sustain themselves. Therefore, I determined that in my work with persons, I should not set an established fee or look at psychotherapy as some institution in which the therapist holds the power but as a joining of individuals, where the person receives guidance and support voluntarily and decide to make a voluntary donation to help the therapist be able to sustain themselves.

Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D.



Sunday, January 31, 2010


In third world countries, 64% of people having a psychotic breakdown fully recover, compared to only 18% in developed countries. Let us remember that the developed countries are those with 'treatments', particularly anti-psychotic drugs. Why is there such a difference? A network of community support is crucial to recovery which is lacking in the developed countries which is suffering from a complete breakdown of community.
"Schizophrenia" can be seen as the dream state applied to everyday life. It has been noted that those undergoing a 'psychotic' episode spend greater time in REM sleep. When people are distressed, they often repress certain thoughts and feelings that later become expressed in dreams and nightmares. In the cases of severe trauma and the 'psychotic' episode, this dream state becomes activated while awake, and the process of hallucination and delusion becomes evident, with a struggle to be able to differentiate between the two 'realms'.
As it is indeed possible to control the dream state, people undergoing a 'psychotic' episode can be helped to manange their experiences that are distressing. This does not require them to become lifelong consumers of toxic drugs, it merely requires us to seek to connect with the person's experience and provide them a safe, supportive environment.

-Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D.
202 W. Tioga St.
Tunkhannock, PA 18657


Thursday, January 21, 2010


If you are seeking assistance where you are respected as a person, where self-determination and self-advocacy is a key principle, where you are not seen merely through the lens of a diagnostic label and where you can begin the process of discovery, we welcome you to contact us. We have helped many distressed children and families resolve areas of distress, create meaning, build better relationships. If you are a parent, mental health professional or educator, you may be interested in our training programs or arranging to have a lecture or seminar for your organization.

Dr. Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D,B.C.S.A.
202 W. Tioga St.
Tunkhannock, PA 18657



Existential-Humanist Psychotherapy (Children, Families, and Adults)
Autism/Developmental Differences
Post Traumatic Stress
Posychological Assessments
Educational Advocacy/ Assistance with Individual Education Plans (IEP)
Forensic Consultation
Behavior Consultation

The International Center for Humane Psychiatry was founded in 2006 by Dr. Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D., B.C.S.A., and is an emancipatory movement of mental health professionals, psychiatric survivors, educators, activists, and others concerned about human rights in the mental health system.

Our work is to fight against oppression and coercion in the mental health system, to eradicate the hierarchical barriers between 'doctor and patient', to eliminate the medicalization of emotional distress, and to develop means of helping distressed persons where their autonomy, experience, and dignity is respected. We seek to return a conscience to the field of mental health and create an environment where people undergoing distress feel validated, empowered, and capable.

We believe in the power of the human spirit and each person's potential to be resilient. We believe that the forging of relationship is a key to emotional healing as well as the ability to help a person explore themselves, their world, society, and the human condition. We we seek to join with people in setting life goals, understanding the human condition and experiences without looking upon the person as defective. ICHP encourages involvement in issues related to social justice and believes that our working together to create a world free from poverty, greed, conflict, and discrimination will go a long way towards the development of true mental health.

We seek to be pro-active and preventative in our care for persons. We promote drug free, relationship based approaches for troubled and distressed children and adults and encourage the development and implementation of community based programs. We advocate for juvenile justice reform and for an education system that inspires a zeal for learning and is respectful of children's innate strengths and abilities. We believe in the development of community based options. We are opposed to force and coercion in the mental health system.

We seek to provide a place of sanctuary for people in crisis or undergoing extreme states of mind, where they can feel supported and validated, and not be subjected to any 'treatments' they do not desire. We believe distressed people thrive in environments that are non-threatening and they feel safe.

We collaborate with and offer consultation to parents, educators, and children and their families to develop relationship based approaches and problem solving towards resolving issues of distress, realizing that people are resilient and capable of healing from distress. We have been successful in helping individuals not have to resort to psychiatric drugs or to be able under the direction of their physicians significantly reduce their use.

We believe the key to this healing is by the forging of relationship and the construction of meaning. We believe that compassion is one of the highest ideals. We believe that psychiatric drugs do not teach new ways of living, thinking, loving, and being, whereas people do. We are particularly concerned about the vast prescribing of psychiatric drugs (many which carry warnings of suicidal ideation, violence, agitation, and aggression) upon individuals' well being. We are concerned about the unethical conflicts of interest existing between medical psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical industry.

We seek to provide to those individuals undergoing serious distress a place where they feel safe, secure, and can begin to begin the process of discovery and overcome fear and emotional chains.

We do not feel that locking individuals away in institutions solve human problems, rather it is through compassion, empathy, and seeking to understand our human condition that true mental health will arise. We believe that placing persons in mental hospitals is equivalent to incarceration however the distressed person has committed no crime, rather they are subject to a psychiatric ceremonial where the pschiatrist seen as 'sane', interrogates the person, makes a judgment, and then declares a sentence. We believe that psychiatric diagnosis often stigmatizes and limits opportunity for individuals. We believe that modern society is driving people 'mad' and that we must have radical transformation of ourselves and our values as well as return to a greater sense of community. We believe those who call themselves therapists must be actively involved in issues of social justice, helping end oppression and encourage liberation for marginalized persons. We recognize that distressed individuals must be treated as persons with respect and dignity. We believe in recognizing that even the most troubled persons and families have innate strengths. We believe that persons need to be given informed consent and not seen merely by a diagnostic label. We believe that ethics must proceed technology. We believe that bio-psychiatry has often used brutal methods (such as electroshock, insulin coma, toxic drugs, and lobotomy) and has evoked much harm in the lives of individuals and does not provide any true answers to the problems of life. We believe that there is no objectivity and science to the process of psychiatric diagnosis and that those diagnosed are often stigmatized and oppressed in society by virtue of this label.

We encourage drug free relationship based, problem solving, and holistic approaches and encourage individuals who choose to use helpful adjuncts such as meditation, acupuncture, tai-chi, and yoga. The International Center for Humane Psychiatry is one of few entities taking a strong stand on social justice issues and seeking to create a mental health system that does not treat people as objects, but persons.

We believe that it is also necessary for us to assume personal responsiblity and accountability for own own actions and choices and to not resort to the use of or embracing of labels to exonerate ourselves and institutions.

We are joined and supported in this endeavor by a number of talented and compassionate professionals as well as members of the psychiatric survivor movement.


provide information on the adverse events associated with psychiatric drugging of children and inform the public of how these drugs have been implicated in causing violence, mania, and psychosis in some children and provide research on effective psycho-social approaches.

encourage informed consent in regards to mental health treatment of adults

advocate for community based alternatives and reform in the juvenile justice system
promote social justice and equality
support consumer choice and the voices of psychiatric survivors

expose the lack of scientific evidence for bio-chemical theories of mental distress

oppose the role of the pharmaceutical industry in influencing psychiatric practice.

encourage science to be tied to ethical principles

seek to listen and understand the experience of people undergoing emotional distress and extreme states of mind

encourage spirituality and psycho-social human services

eliminate psychiatric abuses and support psychiatric survivors

encourage informed consent be given to adults involved in the psychiatric system

respect autistic/ developmentally different individuals and encourage drug free relational approaches towards furthering their self-determnation and self-advocacy

Sunday, January 17, 2010


"People look for pleasure and excitement, instead of joy; for power and propert, instead of growth. They want to have much, and use much, instead of being much."- Erich Fromm

I have seen many clients who have gone through physical, sexual, and emotional abuse yet in spite of these horrid experiences, relate their experience in psychiatric institutions as the scariest and most traumatic. Many of these individuals in childhood were seen according to the 'good-bad-mad' concept as Laing would term it. They were seen as good as they remained quiet and gave no problem to others, but when they challenged the system of things, they were seen as bad, and once the psychiatrist was brought into the picture, then seen as mad.
I recall an evaluation with an 8 year old boy who had been physically abused. In spite of this abuse, he remained a connection with the abuser because they sought to buy his love and affection. This child had been considered 'quiet' until he reached 3 years old, at this time he became more rambunctious and for the parents to continue in their self interest and for him to remain quiet as havoc was created around him, they had him drugged with stimulants and anti-psychotics from that age on. This boy related a psychiatric hospitalization as the scariest event of his short life. In many of the facilities and programs he had been in, no one sought to connect with him, rather they evoked their power and authority, and he reacted with aggression and was frequently restrained. I was told I would have 'difficulty' connecting to him. But, as we spent our time together, and I simply listened, I saw a very kind young man, though a hurt and terrified young man.
If only individuals are able to remove self-interest, and to simply hear the voice of the child, not seeking to control, then it would be possible to help this child through his distress. I worry that with the current forms of 'treatment', this child will sadly have a long term psychiatric 'career'.

I have wondered about our society today. It seems in the 60;s and 70's there was more community, more connection, even when things were going badly, and a regard for others. We see now that young people are complacent, feel disillusioned, and are apathetic. I wonder if this is the result of the "Decade of the Brain", of further alientation by greed and corruption where young people have basically just surrendered. I hope that meaning and purpose can once again be restored to young people.

Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Dr. Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D. is serving as a consultant in the case of Kurt Danysh, an individual without a prior history of violence who committed a violent act shortly after being prescribed Prozac. For more information on Mr. Danysh's case, please see

International Center for Humane Psychiatry


A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association has noted that anti-depressants are of little help for mild and moderate depression. It also suggests that non-medical intervention may be more useful.
This study confirms what I have been stating for some time that these drugs are often dangerous in themselves, provide little benefit, and people need people, not drugs to overcome emotional distress.

Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D.
Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania, USA


Tuesday, January 05, 2010

"Anarcho-Psychology"- Uncovering the Roots of Distress by Dr. Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D.

by Dr. Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D.
Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania, USA

Dr. Dan L. Edmunds is a noted existential humanist psychotherapist, child developmental specialist, and social activist. He is Board Certified in Sexual Abuse Issues through the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. Dr. Edmunds specializes in drug free relational approaches to autism/developmental differences, extreme states of mind (schizophrenia, schizoaffective, bipolar), and trauma. He is a member of the Board of Advisors of the R.D. Laing Society and is a Professor of Existential Psychology and Comparative Religion.

When a distressed person enters the realm of modern psychiatric practice they are
first confronted with what Laing terms as the ‘psychiatric ceremonial’. In this process,
the experience of the person is not considered. Rather, the psychiatrist sits in a place of
judgment, he being considered sane and stable, and determines by his subjective
observation of behavior how the person is a deviant from what should be expected of him
or her and then categorizes it and assigns it a label. There is no concern for the person’s
experience, rather the person is seen as an ‘it’, as an object whose behavior is to be
analyzed. Science is only able to examine what is, not what will be. It is based on
duplication of results, but can we duplicate experience. When we merely look at behavior
without understanding the context of it, we draw false conclusions. Understanding the
context may lead us to see that the behavior is not truly meaningless after all. Frankl
states, “An incurably psychotic individual may lose his usefulness but yet retain the
dignity of a human being…a doctor, who would still interpret his role mainly as that of a
technician would confess that he sees in his patient nothing more than a machine…but
man is ultimately self-determining.”
Laing states, “behavior therapy is the most extreme example of such schizoid
theory and practice and proposes to think and act purely in terms of the other without
reference to the self of the therapist or the patient, in terms of behavior without
experience, in terms of objects rather than persons. It is inevitably therefore a technique
of nonmeeting, of manipulation, and social control.’ Experience is the soul of
psychotherapy and we should note that the term psychotherapy literally means the
‘healing of the soul’. The therapeutic process should be a meeting of two human beings,
it should be the sharing and understanding of experience. Laing states that “I see you and
you see me. I experience you, and you experience me. I see your behavior and you see
my behavior. But I do not and never will see your experience of me.” It is popular today
to look at individuals’ behaviors merely as the result of chemical processes or the effects
of so called chemical imbalances. But then we must ask the question as Laing did- do
chemicals come together because they love each other? Do atoms explode because they
hate one another?
So often we seek to ignore experience. Laing notes the invalidation of experience
by such comments as ‘that never happened’, or the trivialization of
experience, or to invalidate its content by such words as “it wasn’t really that way’ or
‘how can you think such a thing?” We must realize that we exist in an existential
vacuum, and it is these things that leads to the development of aggression, addiction,
depression. Our behaviors are how we communicate distress; they are for some the only
form of communication they know. Their behaviors communicate to us a glimpse of their
experience. “If our experience is destroyed, our behavior will be destructive. If our
experience is destroyed, we will have lost our selves (pg.28).” The therapeutic process is
a shamanic voyage, a journeying with another person. But can two human beings truly
come together? Are there too many barriers? Can we put aside our affiliations, our
ethnicities, our religions, and all the other things that set us apart? Can we come together
completely bare and share in the human condition? Nietzsche stated, “Nihilism represents
the ultimate logical conclusion of our great values and ideas- because we must experience
nihilism before we can find out what value these ‘values’ really had.” So, we must come
together in nothingness and from this to ex nihilo, from nothing, become. We must as
Frankl (pg. 112) stated be able to transform tragedy into triumph.
But without often realizing it, therapists and others become agents of oppression.
Is our work solely leading people to become proper conformists, to do what others are
doing? Is our work solely to make people adapt to totalitarianism, to do what they are
told to do? It has always been these two processes that have led to the most dangerous of
outcomes. When freedom and autonomy are taken, and individuals can no longer be
individuals, when critical thinking has ceased, we have entered a dreadful place. Maybe
we are already there. Freedom is to have choice and have regard for others. License is to
do which one wishes without regards to the other. Often today we see the violence
evoked on people in the name of a common good or a common cause, or as Durkheim
would say the collective consciousness. We can even justify our brutality as progress if
what we are doing somehow subdues a person, makes them more amenable to society, or
brings us satisfaction. If we can turn a person into a ‘them’ by ascribing a label, then ‘we’
can feel justified to treat them as we wish. This violence which calls itself love can be
found within the very structure of the family. Within the structure of the family are
certain rules that are established that the members are to adhere to. These rules may not
always be sensible, but nonetheless become a part of how the family operates. They are
generally known whether or not they always be followed. It is dependent on who is in
control and what the consequences are for violation whether the family members adhere
to the established rules of conducting themselves.
Children have moments of looking at themselves apart from the established
structure. This becomes more pronounced in the teen years. This can become a major
source of contention inwardly where the child sees himself in a way that may not meet to
the approval of the family structure. The structure where authoritarianism reigns may
shun the thought and creative expression of the child leading to repression of independent
thought and action. The child is expected to do those things which protect and preserve
the family structure. The structure may be faulty, but nonetheless it is maintained, at
times violently so. Being a deviant from the structure can have dire consequences for the
child, from within the family structure itself and as a result of the energies wasted in a
struggle to change something where they have not been empowered to evoke change.
They are left only to comply. Their unhappiness and discontent will be ignored to
preserve the 'integrity of the family structure."
Often there exists the situation of self fulfilling prophecies within certain
structures. What one hears they unfortunately become. If a child is told that he is a certain
way, and this becomes a repetitive message, it is likely he will behave in like fashion.
The child may repeat the very language he hears, not necessarily knowing its meaning,
but knowing it conveys a feeling and can be used as a defense.
There exists at times in families, one who will do all possible to preserve the
structure, no matter how dysfunctional it may be. This person often utilizes an
authoritarian stance and expects their children to respect them solely for the sake of their
presumed authority. Their objective is control, and the independent or creative nature of
the child is looked upon as a deficit. The child's only voice is to be the parental voice, if it
is not, punishment will certainly come. This person is many times a person who implies
the idea of 'do as I say" but not necessarily as they do. This creates despair in the child,
leading to states of hopelessness and depression. They may begin to question their sense
of self, their own identity. They become anxious, fearful children who appear timid
because they dare not speak something which could bring them punishment from the
authority in charge of the structure. This learned behavior begins to manifest outside the
family structure as well, as these are the children who then become easily swayed by peer
influence. These are the children who do not really know themselves so they adopt the
traits of those around them, seeking to gain acceptance and a sense of belonging. They
are thus always victims of control. Once they branch out from the control of the
authoritarian parent, they are bound to be controlled by some other party who will
influence their decisions and deprive them of critical thought. They may not realize they
are being controlled, thinking they are somehow apart because they belong to a 'clan' who
dresses this different way or that, but nonetheless they are under the control of something
or someone. These children are usually the underachievers. They are not sure of what to
strive for, thus they often do not strive at all. They allow life to merely 'happen' rather
than taking charge themselves.
The overachiever is one bound by feelings of inadequacy and this often takes its
roots in the familial structure. It is often in these situations where there exists a force
within the family who has defined the rule of what it means to be 'successful'. There is
the constant pressure and drive to have the child to conform to expectations. Those with
this structure in place highly value competitiveness. The siblings are often competing for
attention for one another. It is often the only child or the firstborn who is placed in the
glorified role. If they meet the expectation, they are heaped with praise, if they do not;
they are likely to be cast aside. Once cast aside, or in the worst case, cut off from the
family, they often enter into depressed states. They may seek various avenues to mask
their feelings of inadequacy. These feelings of inadequacy may impair their future
relationships. They may become those always striving for an unreachable ideal, always
slightly out of reach. They cannot fully accept themselves in the present moment, but
always want to be gaining or achieving more. They become individuals whose level of
dissatisfaction can become immense.
There exists in some families as well where the gap between ages of the siblings
is significant, and where one sibling may have been seen as having provided a
contribution to the family and deemed ‘successful’, and the far younger sibling once
reaching the ‘freedom’ of adulthood develops a resentment towards the older sibling and
adopts a victim mentality. This then can lead to the younger sibling entering a period of
rebellion, rejecting opportunities, and seeking to align himself with those who standards
are lower than himself or that of his family. By doing this, the younger sibling can stave
off their feelings of inferiority.
There is the public image and the private image. This dichotomy often creates
great confusion and distress and can lead the child to questioning of reality and their
identity. What is meant by the public image is what the leader(s) of the family structure
wish to convey to the outside world, whereas the private image is that dysfunction which
lies within that these individuals are wanting to conceal at whatever cost. Familial secrets
exist, trust is lacking, and children are guarded about their expression. Children may be
lied to and dilemmas between family members masked or suppressed. The real nature of
things may be shrouded in confusion and 'mystery'. Mixed messages may arise, or the
members of the family may see themselves placed in 'damned if you do and damned if
you don't situations." Some family members may frustrate themselves in striving for the
'ideal' structure which never arrives.
In the dysfunctional structure, as in oppressive societal regimes, there are those
who seek rebellion. Rebellion against the structure becomes more pronounced in the
stage of adolescence where already the teenager is beginning to exert a greater sense of
autonomy and desire to be apart from the familial structure. However, because children
lack the resources for which to engage in a rebellion that could be successful, the
rebellion is always squashed. What does this leave the child to do? They can do little but
endure and await the period where they can break free from the structure that they find
oppressive. What is termed 'conduct' problems is usually this desire to break free from
what the child has perceived as oppressive in their lives. Often without the appropriate
guidance and 'moral compass' coming from the familial structure, their rebellion turns not
just to fighting the familial structure, but the structures outside which also resemble the
authority they have found oppressive. This type of rebellion is usually futile and selfdestructive.
There exists the warring between parents themselves, which cause the
children to be placed in the predicament of divided loyalties, not knowing which parent
to turn towards. There may exist the opposing styles, one parent who is permissive and
one who is the authoritarian. This scenario leads to immense conflict.
In the worst scenarios, the combination of 'seared in' memories of trauma, with
the dynamics as mentioned above leads to the disintegration of the person. Reality is too
painful, and is questionable. Reality is not reliable. As a result, this member of the family
seeks to 'break out' and develops the behavior that would be termed psychosis. They
retreat into their own inner world, their own sense of reality and identity. This too is often
a painful journey, but not anymore painful than the experience of the structure they have
felt subjected to. Children in some structures are still viewed as ‘property’; therefore they
are often enslaved to the faulty structures. Mere compliance does not earn one's freedom
but neither does active rebellion. Cycles exist, once a structure is learned, it is bound for
continuation. The child in many instances will perpetuate the structure that they learned
once they have their own family to lead. The stresses and trauma of one can often
become the stresses and trauma of all, it becomes a collective trauma. The faulty
structures within the family dynamics are seen in society as a whole. Therefore, we are
all shaped by the society and the family structures in which we have encountered. Thus,
concepts of 'mental illness' or the 'unruly child' all take shape and form by the experience
one has in the family and ultimately in society. These are not biological processes, but
rather social and political processes.
What is termed ‘madness’ or ‘mental illness’ is for some the only means for
expression of their being lost and confused in a world which has caused them deep hurt
and pain. Such is not disease but behavior with metaphorical meaning. There has been
received through life mixed messages and placement into situations where regardless of
the option they choose they felt damned. They seek to break out from the reality which
has only caused them distress. The development of hallucinations and delusions are all
metaphors for the very real demons they have encountered in disordered society. The
inner mind, the voice within us, becomes amplified, and becomes ‘possessed’ with the
demons coming forward from the trauma and distress which has been encountered.
Rebellion against the system of things becomes self-destructive as the person seeks to
send a message to the world of their distress, but it remains unheard. Each coping
mechanism that has been employed has often led to failure and not brought them out of
the unlivable situation that is their life. However, the catharsis of this pain and grief can
go in two directions- it can be misery and existential death, or it can be transformative.
Through the pain and struggle, through the breaking out of the ‘typical reality’
one can journey through various modes of altered consciousness. Many deemed ‘mad’
speak of the supernatural. They have sought every attempt to reach out and create
meaning. If they can be helped by a loving, supportive network to navigate through this
state of confusion and the various realms of altered consciousness towards rebuilding and
reconstructing a life of meaning, then they can come forward to a recovery that gives
them valuable insight about human nature and who they really are and the reality of the
impermanence of this life and the world around us. They will find that suffering is an
inevitable, and it that suffering is the state of the world which is mired in greed and
attachment. The one deemed ‘mad’ for once has accomplished a rare task- they have
completely detached. But this detachment is only from the typical standards of the world.
They remain haunted by the visions of their previous life. They cannot escape it, and thus
they become anxious and paranoid that something or someone will pull them back to that
painful existence. At times, rage comes forward as the reaction to challenges, but who
would not be outraged if their voice was suppressed and they became the scapegoat for
the problems of their families or those around them? Those deemed ‘mad’, feeling always
alone, depart to a world where they remain alone from people, yet may create for
themselves beings who give them comfort and solace. This is really the end of their
search, to simply be accepted and loved. But here too lies a problem, for when their lives
have been devoid of love and they receive unconditional love, it becomes like an
overwhelming fire that consumes them. They have never been loved, so how can they
respond to an outpouring of love? When all they knew was that oppression and coercion
was said to be because ‘we love you’, when ‘love’ really was only about control, how can
the person then understand genuine love? Once again, the confusion sets in. To reach the
person who has been deemed ‘mad’, we cannot overwhelm. Our sincerity will not be
enough, for there trust has been shattered time and time again. It is only through entering
their world for what it is, by joining in, and learning to speak the language, can we
ourselves begin to understand the experience of these individuals. It is only by this
joining in that the person may have the chance for their journey known as ‘madness’ to
reach a transformative ending towards discovery.
What exactly is a person? We live, but what does it mean to actually live? Who
are we? Where are we going? What exactly are we doing? Must we do anything? Must
we go anywhere? It is innate in us to search out for meaning, wherever it may lie.
Life is our creation. We create it by our choices. In this ability to have choose,
this is where we are gifted with freedom. But this freedom can be liberating or it can
bring us to hell. Life is like a play or performance. At times, people's frame freezes and
they become trapped in that singular moment. All that they define about life, about who
they are returns to that singular point. We imprison ourselves by our thoughts, by our
own choice.
Life does throw us challenges at many turns, but it is our choice to either become
entrapped and fall into despair, or to seek for our liberation. It is our choice how we wish
to perceive events and circumstances. We can take charge and create our existence or we
can allow life to control us. Human beings have the capability of being resilient. We have
the ability to create, to create our own destiny. Eplicletus had stated that men are not
disturbed by events but rather their perceptions of them.
Challenges and mistakes can be moments of discovery, if we will allow them to
be. Hindus often use the greeting, "Namaste". This statement implies that I honor the self
within you. We are all inter-connected, each of us plays a role in this play of life, we are
all part of the human condition. Within each of us is the innate ability to remain interconnected
and the nature of what is benevolent. It is as if we each are a mirror reflecting
beauty, yet when this mirror becomes covered with dirt, it no longer reflects this image of
beauty. The image becomes contorted, even ugly. In Buddhist thought, there are three
poisons that lead to the downfall of a person- greed, hatred, and delusion. Greed implies
the desire to possess at the expense of another. Hatred is the resentments we hold to, the
thought of harming another, and delusion implies that we are unaware or our thinking is
clouded. It is these poisons that are a 'collective sin'. We infect ourselves and our infected
by others, and it is for this reason why individuals are born into various degrees of
Therefore, we must realize that our self is inter-connected with the self of others.
We are all journeying the same path. It is not a race or a competition, but rather a simple
journey. We cannot complete it alone.
What is success? We may find many, many answers. It is often our view of what
success is that shapes our vision, our goals, and ultimately who we are and will become.
Our views of success should be tempered with the reality of our mortality. Whatever our
view is of that which occurs at death, we can all ask the question if our life was fulfilled.
What have we created? What do we leave once we have passed on?
What exactly does it mean to love? Often love comes with strings attached or is a
means by which to control another. The definition of love as put forward by Saint Paul is
of great value- Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not
proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of
wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects,
always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I recall working with a young man who had undergone sexual trauma at the age of
4. He lived in a chaotic family with an aggressive, addicted father. There was little
positives spoken to this young man. He had an extensive history of psychiatric
hospitalizations. What I began to note was that within the hospital setting he was able to
'conform' and was discharged in only a few weeks, but problems would erupt again once
sent home leading to further hospitalizations. In one instance, this young man stayed in
the home of those outside his family. Though there remained some challenges, he
appeared calmer and more able to communicate.
I recall a similar instance with another child. The step-father was abusive both
verbally and physically. The mother often because of her own fear would 'cover' for the
step-father's actions. The child in one on one settings never created any disturbance.
However, his behaviors in the home were often 'disturbing'. I was pleased that
during my work with him he was not hospitalized at any point nor on psychiatric drugs.
However, I was aware that he had a prior history of this many times over. In both of these
situations, I saw the family dynamics as oppressive and detrimental and tried my best to
help the children navigate through the challenges with the system doing little to
collaborate in meeting these children's needs.
In light of these two situations, and hearing of others from colleagues, I
determined that it was the home, the family dynamics that was the catalyst for making
these children 'mad'. When apart from these dynamics, they were able to conform to the
rules of the institutions because they were forced to do so. But really what were the
psychiatrists accomplishing for them? They merely subdued them with drugs, forced their
compliance, and returned them to the same oppressive environment which led to their
being hospitalized in the first place. It became evident that the psychiatric establishment
could really care less, for each admission added to their coffers. The family was pleased
to create a scapegoat rather than addressing the core problem and to have a place to send
the 'disturbed child' to so that they could continue in their own self-interest.
I recall two other clients that I collaborated with in therapy. One was an
adolescent boy who I will refer to as Alan. Alan was seen by most as an obstinate young
man who had completed departed from any sense of reality. His hallucinations had
earned him the diagnosis of a psychotic disorder not to mention he frequently displayed
aggressive behavior. Reading the charts from before, it painted a monstrosity, but gave
little detail to what Alan’s experience might have been. When I first encountered Alan, I
did not demand that he speak to me or that he not speak to me. I made no demands. I
solely informed him that I was a supportive person who wanted to know him for who he
is. This opened the door to intense dialogues. Together we explored questions about life
that we both may have never thought much on before. The topics would drift to purpose,
impermanence, suffering, the human condition. He related to me the pain of years of
abuse, how he felt dehumanized and humiliated by the various people he thought would
help him. He told me of his feelings of being alone, of being nothing. This feeling of
nothing for him was an end at the time, but really it was the beginning. It was the door for
him to question life, to question what he had been taught, to become. He related to me
about his hallucinations, and his imaginary friends became mine as well. I asked about
their habits, and their words. I noticed that these beings he saw were him at various points
in time. As I met each of these beings, I learned something a bit more about the
experience of Alan. Gradually as his emotional needs were met and he began to see
himself once again as a singular person in the present moment of time and space, these
beings began to depart. I saw in Alan the resilient human spirit and I will not forget him.
I was contacted on one occasion to conduct an assessment and consult with a
family in regards to their son who was in his early twenties who had been involuntarily
committed by his father to a state mental hospital. As I entered the facility, wondered
how any in this place could not feel worthless, depressed, and mad. I entered to meet
John. He appeared somewhat lethargic because of the cocktail of psychiatric drugs he
was being given, but he greeted me warmly and with a smile. John began to immediately
speak and told me how he was an African American infant who when he was around two
years old was turned white. (John was quite pale in complexion). He then proceeded to
tell me about the mind control he felt he was experiencing, that his freedom was taken
away, he could no longer think for himself. I asked him who he felt was controlling his
mind. His answer did not surprise me- it was his father. I later asked the mother if John’s
father was a racist and if John had been abused. The answer was yes to both; the father
had been linked to racist organizations. The abuse began around the age of 2. It was clear
that John had a powerful message, though surrounded in metaphor. To the person only
wanting to categorize behavior and ignore experience, would they have known what John
was seeking to communicate? As Laing states, " psychotherapy must remain an obstinate
attempt of two people to recover the wholeness of being human through the relationship
between them."
The distressed adolescent often has feelings of abandonment, emotional
detachment, withdrawal, and isolation. These children begin to develop an intense anger
directed towards an adult society that they feel has hurt them and does not understand
them. Parents need to learn how to build relationships with these children and this can be
accomplished through a process of emotional coaching, of allowing the child to express
their feelings without judgment while providing clear guidance, limits, and
expectations. It is often inconsistency and lack of clear guidance from parents that further
the struggles for these children who then begin to seek guidance from misinformed peers.
These children need love, affection, and a non-judgmental atmosphere. If love
does not come from a meaningful and sustainable adult relationship then it will take on a
new and contorted character where the concept of 'love' comes from trying to be accepted
by peers (even if they be negative ones) as the child will know that they will find a source
of non-judgment and will be 'liked' even if it causes their eventual self-destruction.
Affection that is not provided by adults, who should be responsible, is then replaced by
irresponsible sexual activity where the teen not only seeks for pleasure in a world that
often provides only hurt, but feels once again that through sex, they can find a sense of
acceptance and supposed emotional connection.
Some teens are so hurt and are suffering from the adults in their lives and the
chaotic environment in which they dwell, that they turn to 'radical rebellion'. This can be
seen with those children who are 'cutters' as well as those into such movements as punk
and goth. With cutters, the emotional pain and trauma they have experienced is so
intense, that their mental anguish manifests itself physically through the act of cutting.
For the goth teen, who dwells in a world of emotional darkness and frequent experiences
of despair, once again, this mental anguish displays itself in physical signs through the
wearing of dark clothing, dark objects, body piercings and fascination with things
associated with death. There are also those teens who involve themselves in gangs as they
are seeking a sense of connection with a 'family', even if this 'family' causes them to
engage in dangerous behavior. The desire for a connection with someone who they feel
will accept them outweighs their thoughts of any sense of danger or risk.
Teens are seeking autonomy, but they must be taught by responsible adults that
this autonomy they desire also comes with responsibility. Many teens who are distressed
feel that they are controlled and are criticized. Rarely, are distressed teens positives and
strengths accentuated but teachers, parents, and others frequently focus on the negative.
The child enters despair and has no motivation or drive to change because they have been
taught by the adults around them the attitude of 'why bother' and the feeling that they are
without worth.
Parents and others must stop looking at the child as the 'problem' or try through
various means to uncover some 'hidden problem' or try to blame the problem on others. If
the parent can be honest and introspective, no matter how difficult and even painful that
may be, they will find that there are ways that they can help alleviate the suffering of
their child and they may even uncover that there were ways they contributed to this
suffering. This does not mean the parent must wallow in guilt, but rather to recognize the
things that must change for the teen and the family to have a more harmonious
When children have experienced abuse and abandonment in early childhood, this
often becomes a 'seared in' memory and halts emotional development to the point where
the trauma occurred. They may be seen to have a more 'infantile' mind. These feelings of
abandonment are often furthered by demeaning words and condescending language used
with the child. Each times this occurs; the child begins to look at themselves as a 'nonentity'.
They experience existential death. The external conflict that children see amongst
their parents becomes an internal conflict for them, the internal conflict then manifests
itself externally (usually as aggression). The child becomes devoid of trust, and those
who draw near often become the persons who this internal conflict is unleashed upon. It
is not that the child is devoid of any feeling for the person seeking to connect with them;
it is rather that every connection had strings attached or every connection has been
severed. The child becomes anxious and afraid of loss, of even losing themselves, if they
are to try again to embark on the process of building a trusting relationship. Laing (1969)
stated that 'if there is anything the schizoid individual is likely to believe in, it his own
destructiveness. He is unable to believe that he can fill his own emptiness without
reducing what is there to nothing.' It will be common then for these children to question
whether they deserve 'happiness' and many times question if they even 'deserve to exist'.
The children who have undergone the trauma of abuse and abandonment lack an identity
of their own; they appear as a construct of others and often are conformist. They do what
they feel will earn them the praise of others. But in reality this is based on their own fears
and their negative perceptions of themselves. These children are prone to be seen as
manipulative, but this is because they are seeking to exercise control over some aspect of
their lives when prior they had absolutely no control. They strive for ideals they cannot
be met. Often their intense desire to control or to engage in certain activities in reality is a
crying out for their real desire- to have an actual loving and trusting relationship. But
these children do not know how to respond to an outpouring of love. They feel that they
do not have a voice, are not heard. It is easier for them to feel hated than engulfed by
love, particularly when they have seen love to be about control. They desire autonomy
and feel they will lose it in the process of building a true relationship. These children may
begin to also de-personalize; they may not be prepared to relate to other persons. They
may be perceived as lacking empathy, however this is not that it is not there or could not
be there, rather it is their fear that blocks their emotional expression of empathy.
These children are often very hurt so they feel they must hurt others.
What do we do? How do we reach such a child? It requires a patient approach. We must
allow the child to vent their frustrations. We must share our understanding that we know
they are hurt. We must journey with them as they relate their experience of trauma. We
do not judge them or withdraw. Even when their emotional expressions may cause us to
be afraid, we continue to reach out. We need to be able to forge relationship know matter
what and to help the child come to an understanding of life's impermanency, yet we can
still strive for happiness now. The trauma is past and does not need to haunt us. We can
encourage this child to explore their own sense of self and engage in activities that give
them a positive sense of self worth apart from others. Caregivers and others need to make
themselves emotionally available, to look at emotional expression as a time for intimacy
and teaching. We need to be able to understand the behaviors, even that which are
annoying to us, as a means of communication, and when the child is in the 'right space',
to communicate with them and help them process those feelings that were behind
whatever incident occurred.
We may be prone to drug the child because the behaviors are seen as 'out of
control' or 'disturbing', but whereas this may cause the problematic behavior to lessen, we
may be making a grave mistake. We may be subduing the very process by which the
child is able to release the tension and pain. We may be numbing but not looking at the
root cause. Unless we see the behavior, how can we truly know what to do? If we cannot
allow the child to express their distress, how will we truly know of their distress?
To be simple, our means of reaching this child is this- to be with them unconditionally.
How do we make sense of the troubled teen? Particularly those who enter the
world of addiction, whose family relationships are torn, and who are often seen
associating with 'negative' peers? Many will assume that these teens can be easily
identified by their style of dress or maybe by their class, but these struggles can be found
in many families. Behavior can be seen but not experience. What the child may interpret
as their experience may be very different from the parent and vice versa. What may have
been gravely traumatic to the child may not have been seen as such by the family. In our
society today which causes us immense stress and pressure to survive (if we are poor) or
attain more (if we are well to do) has diverted attention away from understanding
experience. Society has now sought to medicalize experience where any thoughts and
feelings, any part of our human condition need not be understood but numbed by a pill.
We are a numb society responding to societal pressures. These pressures become
unleashed on our children. A parent may fear that their child will endure hardship that the
parent may have endured so the parent seeks to force and coerce the child 'out of love' to
achieve and do what the parent desires. The teen in a state of exerting autonomy feels
threatened and thus rejects in toto the guidance of the parent and seeks after peers who
will understand their experience and their pain.
As I mentioned that we are taught to be a numb society, some teens choose to
numb their emotional pain by illicit drugs. This idea has been instilled by our society.
The teen may not realize the self destructive course they are taking because they have
convinced themselves that they are free. But it is not freedom they possess, for freedom
comes with responsibility, rather they have traded one slavery for another. Parents must
take the time to understand the world and experience of the teen, to build communication
which seeks to understand their desire for autonomy and which respects their experience.
An overprotective stance and coercion leads to the breakdown of communication which
is vital for any relationship to survive. We often distrust children, we do not allow them
the ability to make decisions and when they are poor ones to see the logical
consequences. Why is it that adults assume they possess the wisdom when adult society
has engaged in numerous conflicts costing many lives? Could children make the right
decisions or better
decisions if we solely gave them support and listened and journeyed with them rather
than seeking to take away their autonomy they so desperately desire?
We all seek to be free. When we seek to create the identity and destiny of the teen, we
will fail. They will not be able to develop an identity of their own but will grapple with
who they are, meaning, and their purpose. We must allow them to find themselves as we
as adults function as coaches in this game of life. We cannot think we can play the game
for them or can manipulate the results. When we can become involved with children
again in a relationship of trust and respect, then it is possible that what is seen as
troublesome behavior will diminish. When the child feels validated, supported, heard,
and able to have a voice, they will in turn give the same to the parent. We must be
cautious of what we model. If we seek to coerce and manipulate the child to meet our
desires as adults, we will have manipulative children. Our methods of communication
will be the childs methods. If we focus our time on the mundane, we will find children to
do likewise or seek to rebel against this system. Because of the imbalance in power, the
child's rebellion is never successful but mostly self destructive but they rarely recognize
this. We can restore sanctuary to families, but it is up to each to take ownership and
responsibility for creating it.
Whereas I find the various disorders in the DSM IV to be highly subjective, they
are mainly a listing of certain behavioral traits manifested by certain individuals. It is my
proposition that behind all of these behavioral traits lies traumatic experience, and that
based on age of the time of trauma, the nature of the trauma, and environmental factors
will have a role in what reaction occurs and what behaviors are displayed.
Trauma appears to be the main causation of the majority of what are termed
'disorders' in children and adolescents. Hammersley, et al. (2003) found in his study,
"Childhood trauma and hallucinations in bipolar affective disorder" that there was a
highly significant association of those experiencing hallucinations and the behaviors that
are labeled bipolar disorder and those experiencing childhood traumas, particularly
childhood sexual abuse.
McKenzie (1998) noted that a symptom defining trauma prior to 18 months could
lead to the development of psychotic features once a symptom-precipitating trauma
occurred later in life. McKenzie (1998) also proposed that trauma between 18 and 24
months would lead to what would be term as 'schizoaffective' traits and that trauma
between 24 and 36 months would manifest later as 'major depression.'
I propose that trauma within during later childhood (approximately age 6-8) can
lead to the development of behaviors in children that would be labeled as "Conduct
Disorder". James (1989) states that trauma violates basic trust and disrupts one's ability to
have empathy. During the age between 6-8 is also the period where a child begins to
develop a sense of justice, a delineation between what is 'right' and 'wrong'. If a trauma
should occur during this period of formation, then the outcome would be the
manifestation later of serious conduct. Chemtob, Novaco, Hamada, Gross, & Smith
(1997) report that trauma can lead to an individual acting out by violent means. I have
seen that in children and adolescents who commit sexual offenses, that there is a pattern
of sexual victimization. In addition, these children had attachment concerns and problems
in bonding and connecting with family members. Physical abuse of the child is common.
These children lose sight of the ability to forge genuine relationships and as puberty sets
in become very confused by their feelings. Their having been subject to a lack of proper
bonding and attachment and their being subject to often cruel and chaotic situations leads
them to a complete lack of confidence and esteem. They mistake sex for love, and esteem
for power. Sadly, in our society though the rates of recidivism are low for juvenile
offenders and there is evidence that these children can be helped through intensive family
work and community based programs, these children are seen as 'throw-aways', of no
value, and looked upon with great disdain. They are often subject to detention centers and
other facilities where they are chemically restrained and held in isolation. It is
unfathomable how any can expect that such 'treatment' is expected to evoke any change
or rehabilitate. Rather, such leads these children to more despair, and even the possibility
of suicidality. I believe it is possible for even these children to be reached, but it requires
a multi-systemic approach as well as a person willing to connect with the child in a
profound way and to reinstill a sense of confidence, hope, and instill values and the
understanding of appropriate boundaries. However, we are not a society that has the
patience, caring, and understanding to want to pursue this more humane course.
If a child experiences significant abuse and neglect within the first year of life can
develop what is termed as 'reactive attachment disorder'. The child has difficulty forging
appropriate relational bonds. They are inherently distrustful. The child who would fall
into the categorization of "reactive attachment' must be differentiated from those with
pervasive developmental disorder, as whereas those with developmental challenges may
manifest difficulty in relational bonds, there is a differing causation.
With autism and pervasive developmental disorders, trauma is also a factor, however the
trauma is not resultant of any action of the parent in regards to abuse or neglect. Rather,
the trauma is beyond the control of the parents and is usually resultant from trauma in
utero or as a neo-nate. In addition, there may be some role in regards to exposure to
toxicity in relation to developmental delays. Waseem and Switzer (2005) report that the
earlier the onset of severe trauma the greater propensity for dissociation. Those children
who begin to dissociate are those where the trauma is not a single isolated event but a
pervasive and recurrent event in the child's life.
Trauma which occurs that is less intense and can be more readily resolved would
fall into the classification of what is labeled, "Adjustment Disorders". Lochner, et. al
(2002) in the study, "Childhood trauma and obsessive compulsive disorders' found a
significant higher level of childhood trauma, particularly emotional neglect in adults who
later manifested obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In OCD, the trauma occurs in
childhood and the environment is one that is chaotic, and the child begins to feel the need
to have a semblance of control. It is through the obsessive-compulsive rituals that the
child then begins to feel that they are able to take control over some aspect of their lives.
Anxiety and panic concerns can also be seen to be trauma related. Exposure to a fear
invoking event or 'flashbacks' to a traumatic event through a new precipitating trigger can
evoke the panic response. Being that the various psychological 'disorders' are connected
to trauma, it is logical that this is the factor that must be addressed and the use of
psychotropic drugs in 'treatment' would only be subduing behaviors and numbing the
impact of the trauma without truly ever addressing the core issue which has led to the
psychological distress. Therefore, it is important that clinician's begin to truly examine
the experience of children and adolescents and begin to understand the role and impact of
traumatic experience in their lives. It is necessary for the adults in the life of the child to
begin to address the factors in the environment which may perpetuate distress and to aid
the child in development of adaptive coping responses and the ability to resolve the inner
conflicts arising from the traumatic experiences.
A society can be judged by how it treats its children, even those most troubled and
disturbed. Many choose to 'throw away' those children who are deemed delinquent. But
how did they become that way? It is not just their choices but it is also the failure of
adults in their lives to truly reach out and guide these children. Court systems, Child
Protective services, and our educational systems fail these children time and time again.
They are shuffled off to placements and through psychiatric ceremonials only to become
more bitter, more hardened, more distressed, and more disturbed. We should be investing
our time to teach new skills, to change the frame of reference, to show compassion and
wisdom. We must have patience and journey with these children, to know that someone
truly cares and that their pains and hurts need not be self destructive. But the issue
remains greed. It is profitable to keep the status quo, the psychiatric establishment profits
and so do others. No one wants to take the time to bother with these children, few are
interested in social justice, few want to give the things that would truly rehabilitate.
I hope that there will be those who will wage a non violent resistance and to once again
make our children a priority. We live in a society where there must always be winners
and losers; it impacts every aspect of how we conduct ourselves, in courts, in politics, in
business. If only we can regain a sense of our common humanity, and be able to develop
concern for others, even the most troubled. We are creating the monsters by our failure to
meet the true needs of our children; we are contributing to their demise. Hopefully we
will soon awaken to this and make the important changes.
I had the privilege of working with a young man who had experienced much
turmoil in his life. From early on, we connected, and over time this bond became
stronger. Family sessions were often difficult and challenging, but one on one he would
share with me his pain, his dark secrets, his sorrows. He had been abandoned by his
father, sexually abused by a peer at age 7, witness to a suicide attempt of his mother, and
having a conflictual relationship with his step-father. He had little love in his life to the
point where he had no love for himself either. He began to loathe himself and be filled
with rage. I sought to be loving but firm, and to steer him towards finding meaning and of
resolving conflicts in his life. We had a strong relationship, we could joke together but
also share more serious reflections. However, I knew that because he had been so hurt
and broken, that he was not fully trusting anyone and he was constantly being sucked into
the vortex of negative peer associations and familial dysfunction. I'm spite of this, he
progressed, even to the point discharge was discussed by the psychologist. But then came
the series of unfortunate events. I noticed him struggling again and isolating. He then had
an incident where he was caught unclothed with his younger sibling. I suspected he had
been abused again by a peer, but he was not able to develop the courage to relate this
until much later. He persisted in some negative actions at school, using domination of
others as a way to regain control and his feelings of worth. There was another incident of
sexual acting out and this brought charges. I had predicted sadly that if better choices
were not made that legal ramifications would come and there would be a day where all
decisions would be out of his hands, out of his parents, and out of mine. The State
became involved. Not understanding my connection to the young man, and wanting
everything sterile and clinical, as well as having political machinations, they chastised me
for being real and genuine and actually treating this young man as a human being. They
had their agenda and decided to proceed. It was not that I did not understand that he
needed additional support and help, it was that I was concerned if he felt alone and had
no spiritual connection, he would only become more hardened and fall into despair. The
young man pleaded with me not to abandon him, and I said I would not. He told me that
he wished he would have followed what I said, but he could never trust anyone, but now
he knows that I truly cared about him, but he felt it was too late. I had given him a word
that means 'I see the love, truth, and divine in you.' He said this word to me as he
remembered it. When I examined it meaning, he wept. Now I am left to only hope for the
best in an absurd situation, to hope for the best in a system not knowing compassion, not
knowing persons, so filled with ego. His mother's words were very meaningful to me in
that she said- 'you did not fail, you gave him more than anyone ever did- you gave him
trust, hope, and love.' This I did and would do again and again even though the pain has
been great. And if any dare say that what I gifted this child with was 'unprofessional',
then I must question their heart. It is indeed a great misfortune that those who claim to be
in the field of protecting children are so beguiled by greed and corruption, that they lose
sight of how to truly reach our children, even the most troubled ones, and deal with them
in compassionate, rehabilitative means.
American society is now filled with the concepts of self interest, entitlement, and
playing victim. The downward spiral of our economy should be no surprise, our attitudes
have only led to this eventual result. As I have mentioned previously, the education
system does not value or reward initiative or creativity, it is rather focused on the self
interest of the educators and administrators who seek to have children conform to
standards based on tests and gain their compliance so that the administrators can appear
as if they have fulfilled their duty while the children actually languish. We are a society
that expects others to 'fix' our errors and provide for our relief. We are a society of
shifting blame. We are a society that does not seek to take ownership and responsibility.
We are a society that knows not how to think critically but only to possess and consume.
The American dream can be now said to be the American nightmare. We do not think of
others, but we focus on our own survival, and our political leaders and the elite have
placed persons in this uncomfortable position of intense worry for their own survival.
When this occurs, the concern for others lessens, and we focus solely on our own needs,
our own desires. Society itself is sick, yet it seeks to pathologize those who would react
to this sick society, and it offers them its technologies, it offers them its drugs, to numb
them into accepting things as they are rather than to actively protest and change the
injustices that exist. American society has become apathetic and numb, and if such
persists, our further decline is only inevitable. Let us hope that some will awaken from
their stupor before it is too late.
When we seek to judge behavior, we come upon some great difficulties. Let us
say that we have identified a person as 'aggressive'. What exactly is an aggressive act? A
person who hunts an animal? Is that an aggressive act? Johnny punches Sally in the nose,
is that an aggressive act? A nation invades another nation. Is that an aggressive act? Mr.
Smith invests a lot into the stock market. Is he an aggressive investor? George rises to the
top of his company. Is he aggressive? How we answer this is based on our values.
However, psychiatry would like us to think that judging and categorizing behavior is a
science, that it is medicine. So, understanding that these are value judgments, we could
say that 'well, a behavior that infringes on the rights of others is a problem'. Indeed, he
may be, but to state this means we are dealing with legality, not medicine. Therefore,
psychiatry can be said to be an arm of the law, a means of social control and defining
who are the offenders of the social 'norms'. From this arises the question as to whether
this position should be afforded to psychiatrists to be the arbitrators of values and what
society 'should look like'.
As human beings, we all seek to be free from suffering. We all seek to be free
from oppression. We all react to what we experience. Some react in unconventional
ways. Not all reactions are effective means, yet we react. We all are seeking to create
order, a sense of purpose to our lives, though there are varying constructs of what life is,
of what it means to be human. Some retreat from suffering or seek higher levels of
consciousness through use of substances, but this often becomes destructive, much like a
plane soaring to high altitudes only to crash and burn upon landing. Those who become
labeled as mentally ill are often seeking to break free from severe oppression and
suffering. Yet society seeks to stifle their experience. How dare they break free! How
dare they act in ways we do not approve! So we drug and shock them hoping they 'come
to their senses' or at least not be a 'bother' to us anymore. If we could only come to realize
the transformative process, and support their liberation. If society could but realize its
illness rather than ascribing so called illness to persons.
We all react to what we experience. We all seek at some point to create order in life and
at times control those events which are uncontrollable. We each have our stories of joys
and sorrows, blessed memories and traumas. For some individuals, the way they
experience the world has led them to despair, or led them to obsessive behavior as a
reaction to the extreme chaos they have internalized. Those we label as mentally ill are
those whose reactions to their experience society judges to be without value or
problematic. This creates stigma, but if we understood these reactions, if we sought to
understand the experience, we would find that these reactions may be the person's only
way of dealing with the intense emotions, oppression, or other experiences they have had.
As Laing stated, that what is termed insanity may be a sane response to an insane world.
We lock people up for behaving in ways we do not like. We argue it is for their own
good, and we claim that we can predict their behavior or judge them to be a harm to
themselves or others when in reality we do not truly possess this capability, we can only
hypothesize based on our own limited perceptions. We believe falsely that those labeled
mentally ill are more prone to violence while our 'sane' ones continue to involve
themselves in wars and conflicts.
Problems in life are inevitable, we cannot escape them, we do have no choice in this.
What we do have a choice in is how we wish to address these problems. We have the
choice to decide to allow these problems to make us anger, bitter, depressed, anxious, etc.
Our other choice is to become patient, to transform our minds towards total acceptance.
When problems befall us we can also think of the causes that we may have created or
misguided deeds or actions that may have led to our present experience. We must realize
that birth, death, aging, and sickness are events we cannot escape. So many people
indulge in various distractions and temporary pleasures to not have to think of these
events. However, all pleasures lead to suffering. For instance, we may have one drink that
is pleasant and relaxing, but multiple can cause us to become ill or hungover. We must
begin to examine our minds. Even if we are not raging, we must examine the angry minds
we possess. Simply being impatient is an angry mind, it is a mind based on not being able
to come to acceptance, of seeking to change that which cannot be changed. One of my
clients, age 14, commented that he felt he has always had 'anger problems' and that he
feels that he has always 'had problems in my life." I discussed with him the root of his
anger, patience, and the concept of total acceptance. I told him that he can change his
mind to not look upon himself as the 'kid with problems' but realize that we all undergo
problems, it is the human condition, and that he can transform his mind to accept this fact
and develop patience and total acceptance.
I have always had particular interest in the works of Dr. Alice Miller who
discussed the role of childhood abuse and the development later of emotional
disturbance, criminality, addiction, and further cycles of violence perpetuated on their
children and others. I have argued that aggression breeds aggression. My article "Trauma
Model of Psychological Distress" provided a timeline of when trauma occurs in
childhood and the resulting impact in the teen years and into adulthood. The mental
health establishment often ignores these important factors instead attributing emotional
distress to solely chemical processes. Miller discussed the role of the enlightened witness
which lessened the impact of the trauma. I strongly believe that this role is crucial and a
buffer to the destructive social and familial forces that impact some children. This is a
key part of the person developing resiliency. Even in the most serious emotional
disturbances the potential for recovery (and discovery) is possible. It is not an easy
process, but a possible one. It is sad that in our age we do not provide long term
psychotherapy but focus on numbing people's minds and feelings. This is not recovery, it
is repression which often leads to oppression.
For the disadvantaged youth, what are the choices that the ruling oligarchy allows
them? Go into military service and fight the wars for the rich so they can possibly receive
the 'blessings' of the rich to pursue an education? Or become a slave to them by amassing
student loan debt while the wealthy ones path is paved. There is no real opportunity.
Efforts are rarely rewarded, but the good conformists are rewarded. Is it any wonder that
many poor kids turn to the sale of drugs and crime? When we do not reward effort, the
elite oppress, and opportunities are grim, some are willing to assume the risk
and danger if only for a moment to be apart from poverty and struggle. And so it is with
our homeless and those we often label mentally ill. They seek to be free from oppression,
and thus many depart from the reality and standards of corrupt society. As Laing stated,
madness may very well be a normal response to a society gone mad. For these persons,
the elite drug them into submission, their experience is of no importance, and so they
often wander the streets with little chance of recovery as first, no one seems to care,
second, they are damaged by psychiatric drugs, and lastly, society refuses to change.
Where is our sense of humanity? Where is our compassion? Can equality truly exist? We
are taught not to worry about such things, there is a pill for these worries. No need to
change anything, its all in your brain. You have the money, you can be part of the game,
and maybe win. If you don't have money, you lose. Whether this be education, health
care, or other basic human rights.
In many of the instances of troubled teens I have encountered in my work, I have
noticed that a common theme is that they are lacking meaning and purpose. This does not
imply that they must have a particular religiosity. What I am referring to is that they have
become lost along the way, somewhat apathetic, and their zeal for life has been squashed.
Many of these kids are solely of the attitude that 'whatever happens, happens." Because
current psychiatric practice is focused on the medicalization of experience, it may be
missing a key component to the resiliency and recovery of these troubled teens. Many of
them I have worked with have been involved in numerous psychiatric programs, they go
through the motions, or they become distrustful, questioning genuineness and sincerity in
the system, and still on a quest for something more. The defiant interactions of these
children are only fueled more by these problems inherent in current psychiatric practice.
When persons feel they are unheard and become desperate, they often adopt a defiant
stance. If we sought to create places of sanctuary, places of understanding, places where
experience is heard, we may be on a better track to meeting the needs of troubled teens. I
have been confused many times how that drug addicted teens are weaned off of street
drugs only to be psychiatrically hospitalized and given prescribed drugs. I wonder what
message we are sending.
We are controlled in this country by a ruling elite, whether we wish to recognize it
or not. The elite have their paths paved for them. The middle class struggle to survive and
are burdened and the elite seek to make them slaves to the system. For example, a middle
class young person will be burdened with student loan debt possibly until the day they
retire, the elite do not face this. The elite have created this system to keep people 'in their
place'. For the poor, the elite have sought to entice them with financial incentives if they
will go along with the sad debacle of having their children labeled as 'crazy' or to be
shipped off to fight the wars that the elite have created and benefit from. Some are more
than willing to submit to this system, to receive the governmental handouts and to
abdicate their freedom as well as any responsibility for themselves or their children. The
elite seeks to keep this nation ignorant and stupid. Our educational system has become
not about learning at all but rather regurgitation of information as the elite would have it.
There is no present presidential candidate or any politician for that matter that can
really save us from the mess we are in. Our only real hope is for people to flee from
ignorance and to awaken to the real situation we are in, and for there to exist a true effort
to restore social justice. Is it too late?
We must examine the inherent dynamics within families and within society where
individuals enact violence upon one another to obtain their own particular selfish
interests. This violence may be subtle and may even be said to be done because of love,
but underlying it is selfish interest and desire. People are looking to fit a particular model
of what it is to 'fit the norm'. Be it cosmetic surgery or psychiatric drugs, we are seeking
to escape the actual realities of the human condition. We seek distractions and
entertainments. We do not truly want to face the human condition. We only seek to try to
escape it. Those who do not fit to our desires are made to be scapegoats, or they are
shuffled away, or their freedom is taken away from them. We do not seek to understand
them nor do we want to understand them. In families, there can often be one child who is
designated 'the problem' and all the dysfunction and turmoil of the family is laid upon this
child. They will be the one drugged into submission or sent away so that the family can
continue to pursue their selfish interests.
Can we once again become people of compassion? Can we once again be people
of understanding? Can we accept what it means to be human? Can we be a human
When we look at those who are labeled delusional, we must realize and
understand that society itself is delusional. The difference is that in one situation the
majority has accepted the delusion whereas with the one labeled so, it is the delusion of
It is often when one faces the sense of feeling alone or being alone in this world,
of seeking to define a sense of self before realizing their existence itself, that angst arises.
Mental distress arises from not finding any point or purpose to existence and then feeling
that in this, the person stands alone. The person then must seek to define or be defined.
Being defined means to be labeled.
What ultimately is the human condition? Has psychiatry and psychology truly
answered the questions about it? Has it really offered solutions? People remain troubled
and in spite of research and studies and psychiatric inquiry, little has changed, in fact, it
has become worse. Because we have not really looked at the human condition, we have
not faced the things that would lead persons to a better existence, instead we have
developed systems based on self-interest, seeking not to understand the human condition
and do something about, but to create a sense of 'groupthink', to solely make persons
more amenable to the oppressive environments they encounter. We see it in schools,
where children are stifled and drugged if they dare not comply with the demands of a
system that has become less and less about learning and more about how to think. We see
it in the divisions between class. It is all around us.
I had the experience of encountering a young man who had been given the
diagnosis of 'schizophrenia'. He had been through years of therapy and had been through
multiple psychiatric hospitalizations. Mental health professionals spoke of him only in
clinical terms and I found this disturbing. His chart was reams and reams of paper
painting the picture of an immensely helpless and hopeless character. The school system
sought to exile him as well. I tossed aside all the clinical records, they only reported on
his behavior, not his experience. It is the experience that is the 'soul' of the person.
Psychiatrists never really spoke to the young man, they deferred to his parents, or spoke
at him, judging his behavior and assign their labels. I embarked on becoming his therapist
and in this did not want to judge his behavior, I wanted to know the person. So our
sessions involved a process of my merely listening, of connecting. I did not seek to judge
him, label him, or dismiss his experience. I only sought to join him where he was at. He
began to relate to me his pain, his feelings of isolation and aloneness. He shared with me
about the voices he heard and the beings he saw. I would converse with him about these
beings, treating them as real as he was before me. Over time, I saw that these things were
fragments of himself, they were dreams he had, hopes he envisioned, people he wanted to
meet who never arrived. He had immense fear, and I journeyed with him in
understanding the roots of this fear. I stood by him as he sought out new ways of living
and coping. I understood the circumstances which led to his 'madness' and set forth some
new possibilities, but at his pace, at his comfort level.
He has overcome a lot, and we continue to have periods of conversation though we do
not see each other as frequently. We forged a bond as two persons with very different
experiences, but each seeking to understand the human condition, each seeking to know
about this thing we call life.
There are powerful social forces which are heeped upon us. We cannot escape
them. Children are told to behave 'appropriately'. Yet, what is appropriate? What does
this mean? It is a social construct, and the most powerful of these social forces is the
family. From the earliest point, a child is taught what are the 'appropriate' responseswhen
and what to laugh at, when to cry and when not to, and often how to feel. The
family defines what is 'appropriate' but is it? One family may condone violence, another
abhor it. The dynamics of the family shape us for life. What has been the experience of
the parents may be forced upon the child to be their experience. Hence why adolescence
is often a turbulent time as the teen seeks to become autonomous and create an
experience apart from their parents experience or what they have been told to experience.
But what of those who are stifled to the point where they can experience nothing but what
the other has told them to experience? Here lies some of the root of what we may term
'insanity'. Being that each seeks a level of autonomy, each seeks to have their own
experience, when this does not arise, then the person must cast off the shackles of these
familial and social forces, often to the extreme of departing from all accepted notions of
reality or what is termed by the mainstream as 'acceptable'. Once again, what is
'acceptable'? The message can be contradictory. We may be taught through our familial
faith to not harm another, yet we are exposed to the forces of violent society, the
prevalent self centeredness and greed, and we may then ask, what is 'acceptable'? Is the
'acceptable' necessarily what we have been taught? Is it necessarily what we have
learned? What is it that we have learned? Is it possible that we may have to unlearn?
Behavior results from our experience. If a behavior is deemed by some as maladaptive, it
can only be seen in light of experience. But can we really know the experience of
another? Will we only choose to judge the experience of another by our own experience?
Will we invalidate the other because they do not share our perception of experience? Will
we force them to have 'our experience' and thus behave as we do? Are we right? Are we
wrong? Who is to say? Could there be commonality in our experiences that we can
recognize? Can we journey with each other? To find what is 'acceptable' is to find our
humanity, to find our inner being, to find those links of experience which remain in spite
of the social forces that cause us to sway this way and that, and for some tear at their core
being and identity. When we are free, we can experience the other, when we are free, we
can be ourselves. If we are free, we can reshape these social forces, and they will not be
storms, but unifying forces helping us to recapture our sense of what it means to be
human and to truly love again. How do we be free? Must be become 'mad' to be free? But
are the 'mad' really free or have they been driven to this barren place? We can only be
free once we have come to a state of unlearning, of unknowing, a rebirth where we are
not bound by blame and shame and the darkness of past traumas or of ideas we have
learned and carried forward because it is all we knew.
One of my clients, a thirteen year old boy, related to me about his prior time at a
residential treatment center. He said that many of the staff would call him and the other
children by obscene names, that he often felt bullied, degraded, and ‘like I never was a
human being.” The father of this young man told me that “you have done more for him in
a few weeks than many did in years.” This was a kind compliment and I was pleased that
I was able to make a contribution to this boy’s life but beyond that I began to think- what
exactly is different in my approach with this young man that has allowed a connection to
blossom forth and has helped him to progress in a short period whereas he had rece3ived
years of prior ‘treatments’. I found the answer to this in what I sought to create, and I
believe this is the key to any genuine emotional healing- relationship. Beyond that, I
radically tore down the barriers that would separate us. I tore down the hierarchy. I did
not bully him or seek to use my position to force or coerce. From the beginning, I
informed him that he was in a safe place to be his actual self, a place where he could feel
comfortable to express whatever he chose without judgment or hostility. It came to be
that whenever crises arose he would often seek me out. Many treatment programs today
are based on staff being in positions of power over the person and seeking to modify the
way the person thinks and feels by a system of manipulations. Those who conform to this
are said to be ‘improved’ and are discharged. But I have never seen any real progress
come from such ‘treatment’. This is because it was never based on genuineness, it was
never authentic. We know that residential treatment facilities are costly and we know that
the ‘success’ rates for such programs are very low. Why are we afraid to empower young
people? Why are we afraid to use shared energy and power? Why is it that we adults who
have created a warped society filled with wars, greed, corruption, poverty, and injustice
feel that we have more wisdom and the ability to control our young people. I find that
much of what is termed conduct problems among our young people are the result of what
they have received from adult society or is a futile and unfortunately self destructive
attempt to remove the shackles placed upon them by this corrupt society.
Residential treatment centers are like concentration camps. This indeed many be a
strong statement. But we have taken a group of youth who have often been the scapegoats
in their families and we have incarcerate them in facilities against their will, dehumanized
them, and used power, control, and force to seek to make them be as ‘us.’ Imagine if we
took the funds channeled to these residential treatment centers (which are often for-profit)
and we invested it towards alleviating poverty, for educational programs, for assistance to
mothers, for parental skill transfer, etc. We do not want to invest in these things because
it would actually make a difference, it would elevate and empower people and this would
be a huge threat to the status quo and the oligarchic system under which we operate.
Often young people come to me and will complain about the injustices of the world and
the unfairness of their lives. Sadly, the countless examples of corruption and greed seen
in adult society make them feel powerless. I think of the judges in Luzerne County,
Pennsylvania who profited from sending juveniles to detention facilities for lengthy
periods for minor offenses. When young people see and endure this, it is no wonder that
they become complacent. But their complacency is what I find most disturbing. In the
past, youth often would stand up vigilantly to defend their rights and the rights of others.
Now there is just apathy. People sit back and take the abuse from the system. They have
become disenfranchised and disillusioned. But the message I send to young people is that
yes, life can be unfair, it can be absurd, there are many unanswered questions, but
through our experiences we maintain the choice to be complacent or to press on. We can
take our painful experiences and transform ourselves and our world and those around us.
I was inspired to enter the counseling field after encountering a woman who endured
years of abuse but who made the choice to empower herself and others by creating a
place of sanctuary for those who experienced such brutality. She pulled many out of the
darkness of despair because she could journey with them, she had been through their
darkness, and she knew where they were.
This is a powerful theme- the journey with another person. To simply be with
another person, particularly when they feel alone in the world. This has a dramatic impact
on a person’s well being. But that is not how most ‘treatment’ works. Rather, ‘treatment’
seeks to ‘do’ things to you instead of being with the person. Be it psychiatric drugs,
electroshocks, or restraints, all of this is something we ‘do’ to alter the person’s
experience and to bring them to our sense of ‘normality.’ But is it good to be ‘normal’? Is
there something better about this? Laing had commented that normal people had killed
million of other normal people in this past century.
I find the Myth of Sisyphus as related by Albert Camus to be a powerful and
inspiring story. Sisyphus is condemned by the gods to roll a rock up a hill for eternity,
when he reaches the top; it falls again, only for him to have to do it all over again. This is
often a metaphor for our lives, how we feel trapped, that we must go through the same
mundane things over and over, however Sisyphus presses on because he maintains a
spirit of defiance. I believe this spirit of defiance is what helps us to continue onward and
develop new meanings. We are constantly revising our meanings; we are constantly
reviewing and revising our lives. Oppositional Defiant Disorder is a popular diagnosis for
young people who would dare to be angry ore challenge what adults tell them. Granted,
this defiant attitude can be productive or destructive, the spirit of defiance I refer to is one
that causes us to think critically and to take action, not just for our own benefit but for the
benefit of others. The example of Martin Luther King Jr. is one of this spirit of defiance
leading to radical and needed change. His was a non-violent spirit of defiance and that is
what is needed to evoke any lasting change. If it is not non-violent then we just contribute
to the cycle of misery and despair that individuals so often become entangled within.
I have known that for some of my clients they have felt as though they are trapped
in a prison. A prisoner of their own minds, haunted by visions of the past. I do not find it
helpful at times to rehash the past history of traumas. We can know what the traumas are
but a regurgitation of all the details does not bring healing or move the person forward. It
is often necessary to simply journey with the person and for them to come to a point of
patient acceptance. This means accepting things were what they were but letting go, not
inflicting more wounds upon ourselves or having a constant dialogue with ourselves of
what if or why me? This patient acceptance allows us to come to a sense of peace within
ourselves and with that around us. But when I say patient acceptance I am not stating that
we must accept being abused or oppressed in the present. Instead, we must be active
agent of our liberation and the liberation of others. This can only come about by turning
away from a victim stance and becoming empowered to transform ourselves and by our
transformation, in our small but significant way seek to bring peace and solace to others.
I believe that one role of the therapist that is basically forgotten today is to be an
activist. If we truly want to see people happy and free from mental anguish, then we must
take a role in championing the basic rights and dignity of all human beings. This activist
role has been lost because the current medical-pharmaceutical model in the mental health
system would tell us that everything is a chemical problem in the brain of the person. If
this is the case, then there is no immediate need to change our environment or the way
our society operates because it has not had no impact on the distress of the person, it is all
in the wiring of their brain. This medical model has led to stigmatization, greed, has
stifled any understanding of individual experience or the powerful social, familial, and
political processes that leads to distress.
In addition to the fraud of the medical model, religious propaganda also causes us
to lose sight of the need for us to take action in our world now. If persons are led to
believe in some future better existence and that life is merely a test or preparation for the
next better world, then what motivation do we have to change anything in our world
now? If we are led to believe that the earth will all be destroyed at some point in time
anyway, why take any action? I recall a client about nine years old whose grandfather had
died of cancer. She was terrified, anxious, having nightmares and intrusive thoughts that
her grandfather was burning in Hell. Why do we do this to our children? We often grasp
onto beliefs because it is what we are told, or what our families did, or because others
around us believe it. We have lost our ability to think critically. We have relinquished our
lives to the control of some outside power that is really only the man behind the curtain
pulling the strings. Ignore the man behind the curtain we are told and indeed we do!
The summer day arrived where the child entered this world. The mother laid
hemorrhaging, barely conscious, and the child upon birth was whisked away from the
mother to the neo-natal unit. The sounds of medical equipment, the frantic voices of the
medical staff, bright lights, and poking and prodding by invasive medical instruments
greeted the child’s entry to the world. From the hospital, the child would enter the
family’s home for the first time. Once again only to be subjected to grave brutality as on
the night he entered the home, his father intoxicated begins to savagely beat the mother.
“I told you to shut up dammit!” the father shouts and with a loud crack across the
mother’s cheek, she falls to the ground clutching the infant in her arms. And this would
continue day after day until the police one day arrived to escort the father to a long
incarceration for his violent crimes and drug possession. A few days before the arrest, the
mother leaves the home to obtain groceries for the family. She instructs the father to
bathe the child and place him in bed. The father once again becoming intoxicated places
the child in the bathtub but too sedated to realize the temperature of the water, scalds the
child, and he is left with a large burn upon the side of his head. A scar that still remains
both physically and emotionally. For the next four years, the child barely speaks. The
trauma of his world has muted him. The mother in desperation seeks for another
relationship that will ease the financial burden and maybe find her the fulfillment she has
longed for. But again, she stumbles into an abusive relationship. The new man in her life
is more a monster than the first. Day after day he subjects the child to demeaning words.
“You retard! Why can’t you do anything right?” “If you don’t get out of here, I will
smash your head in.” One night the child sees the mother and her boyfriend fighting and
shoving one another. He goes to bed only to awaken to find the mother and her boyfriend
sitting at the breakfast table casually chatting. He asks about the night before. “What are
you talking about? You must have been dreaming.” The child dazes off confused and
questioning his sense of reality. Was it a dream? The child became the scapegoat for the
family. “If we never had you around, life would be good.” “You are the one who causes
all the problems.” “Look what you have made your sister into.” Day after day, his esteem
plummets to nothing. The family continues their civil war. The demons of hopelessness
and despair overtake the child. His light is nearly extinguished. The child begins to curse
God. Where is God in this? Why must I endure this pain and turmoil. He expects to hear
God speak to him, but he hears nothing. God appears distant, or maybe dead. The child
has no voice and no relationships. No one to console him, no one to hear his cries. And
God too does not respond to his pleas. But even in this darkest night of his soul, the light
is not extinguished. The child encounters one who for the first time hears his voice, and
he begins to embark on a journey of renewal. The war around him has not ended, nor is
there a cease fire to come, but the child through this alliance begins to realize that he is
loved and that he is heard. He is encouraged to find value in himself. He looks deeply
within and finds that life is impermanent. He begins to understand the cumulative
sufferings we all endure. But in this he realizes that there is a better way. The way out
does not exist in self-destruction. Death and despair is not a better way but merely an
escape. He begins to realize that he cannot change circumstances, he cannot change