Liberatory Psychiatry: Philosophy, Politics and Mental Health

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Psychiatry can help free persons from social, physical and psychological oppression, and it can assist persons to lead free self-directed lives. And, because social realities impact on mental well-being, psychiatry has a critical role to play in social struggles that further liberation. These are the basic foundations of liberatory psychiatry. In recent years, dramatic transformations in social and political structures worldwide have increased the problems of domination, alienation, consumerism, class, gender, religion, race and ethnicity. Confronting the psychological impact of these changes, and exploring new ideas to help develop the liberatory potential of psychiatry, this book should be read by mental health practitioners from the widest range of disciplines and those interested in social theory and political science.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is a fascinating and provocative book. It challenges the idea of the medical model of psychiatry and raises some interesting questions about the practice of modern psychiatry."
—Doody's Review Service

"The book ranges through philosophy, science, historical perspectives on modernism and postmodernism, Dilthey's concept of hermeneutics, and the unconscious as a factor in subjugation as well as the topics of liberations, economics, and multiculturalism....[I am] sympathetic to [this book's] ideals and admire its breath and sophistication."
—Contemporary Psychology

"An excellent series of essays which I enjoyed reading and will pass on to my students."

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Brett C. Plyler, M.D.(Northwestern Memorial Hospital)
Description: This book discusses the liberation potential of psychiatry and how to cope with the social/cultural issues that patients encounter in modern society.
Purpose: The purpose is to examine the liberatory aspect of psychiatry — "free to" instead of "free from" — and new ideas that can help realize that potential.
Audience: It is intended for a wide audience, including mental health practitioners, social theorists, political scientists, and philosophers.
Features: The book covers a wide variety of sociopolitical theory and its application to modern psychiatry. The liberatory aspect refers to the "freedom to," i.e. helping patients achieve more for themselves, rather than just focusing on the "freedom from," i.e. treating the symptoms of mental illness only. The authors basically contend that modern psychiatry fails to adequately address the problems of alienation, domination, class, etc., with the primary emphasis on the fact that the medical model is an inappropriate way of treating patients in psychiatry. Each chapter then discusses the ramifications of this and how psychiatry should be changed. There is also the implication that modern psychiatry may actually be colluding with the powers that be by labeling civil discontent in the underprivileged as mental illness.
Assessment: This is a fascinating and provocative book. It challenges the idea of the medical model of psychiatry and raises some interesting questions about the practice of modern psychiatry. Although I think that the recent emphasis on the biopsychosocial model is beginning to address this, the authors make little mention of this. Primarily, they seem to focus on how inadequate psychiatry is and on the possibility that the field may actually be a tool of certain sociopolitical elements involved in keeping disadvantaged populations medicated instead of addressing the societal wrongs that are affecting them. Some of these theories are far fetched, but the book did challenge me to think about the history and modern practice of psychiatry and how it could be improved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521689816
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 6/8/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 306
  • Product dimensions: 6.85 (w) x 9.72 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Meet the Author

Carl I. Cohen is a Professor of Psychiatry at SUNY Health Science Center in Brooklyn. He is also Director of the Division of Geriatric Psychiatry and Alzheimer's Disease Assistance Center.

Sami Timimi is a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist in the National Health Service in Lincolnshire, UK and a Visiting Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Lincoln University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction. Carl I. Cohen and Sami B. Timimi; 1. Working towards a liberatory psychiatry? Radicalizing the science of human psychology and behaviour Carl I. Cohen; 2. Power, freedom and mental health: a postpsychiatry perspective Philip Thomas and Pat Bracken; 3. Challenging risk: a critique of defensive practice Duncan Double; 4. Democracy in psychiatry: or why psychiatry needs a new constitution Bradley Lewis; 5. German critical psychology as emancipatory psychology Charles W. Tolman; 6. Psychopolitical validity in the helping professions: applications to research, interventions, case conceptualization and therapy Isaac Prilleltensky, Ora Prilleltensky and Courte W. Voorhees; 7. Class exploitation and psychiatric disorders: from status syndrome to capitalist syndrome Carles Muntaner, Haejoo Chung, Carme Borrell and Joan Benach; 8. Ecological. Individual. Ecological? Moving public health psychiatry into a new era Kwame McKenzie; 9. Children's mental health and the global market: an ecological analysis Sami B. Timimi; 10. Postcolonial psychiatry: the Empire strikes back? Or, the untapped promise of multiculturalism Begum Maitra; 11. A new psychiatry for a new world: postcolonialism, postmodernism, and the integration of premodern thought into psychiatry Amjad Hindi, Ramotse Saunders and Ipsit Vahia; 12. Neoliberalism and biopsychiatry: a marriage of convenience Joanna Moncrieff; 13. Psychoanalysis and social change: the Latin American experience Astrid Rusquellas; 14. A new psychiatry? Carl I. Cohen, Sami B. Timimi and Kenneth S. Thompson.

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