September 7, 2010

The Study of Empathic Therapy: Human Connection versus Psychiatric Control

By Dr. Peter Breggin

I am best known from my critiques of biological, mechanistic psychiatry with its cookie-cutter diagnoses and brain-disabling drugs and shock treatment. Establishment and institutional psychiatry can be like a dark shadow that crowds out the light. Even as we grow in awareness of the harm perpetrated by biological psychiatry, we need more focus on the light — on the life-giving principles that have moved me and so many others to take up the cause of reform in psychiatry and psychotherapy. These underlying principles try to capture what is good and important in human relationships beginning with empathy, love and respect for each individual’s unique life.

Our new organization, The Center for the Study of Empathic Therapy, has now received approval for registration as a nonprofit in New York State. I want to introduce our new Center and its basic concepts. We want to “Bring out the best in ourselves,” knowing that will help us to “Bring out the best in others.” We want to inspire and to give voice to those who seek to heal and be healed through ethical, empathic relationships.

There are many ways of looking at empathy. On I describe it this way, “Empathy recognizes, welcomes and treasures the individuality, personhood, identity, spirit or soul of the other human being in all its shared and unique aspects.” As we are repulsed by coercive psychiatry and its “solutions” that sometimes do more harm than good, we are drawn to the best in what human beings can offer each other.

Our new Center for the Study of Empathic Therapy criticizes scientism — the reduction of human life to simple-minded mechanistic principles. We will not develop a pseudoscience of our own that claims that one or another empathic therapy can be proven more “effective.” Instead, we begin with fundamentals — the truths that human beings thrive in freedom, grow through personal responsibility, and ultimately yearn to lead creative and loving lives. We believe that human beings should never be impaired in their higher capacities or in any way be imposed upon with chemical restraints prescribed for the control of behavior. We believe that every human life is sacred and to be treasured as unique and worthy of its own expression.

To join us, you don’t have to sign allegiance to any or all of these principles. We want you to know who we are and what we believe — and to welcome you to see the wonder of relating in this manner to each other as professionals, as advocates, and as persons when we offer help and when we seek help. Subscribe to our inspiring free newsletter, get to know our marvelous Advisory Council, become a member. Come to our first annual Empathy Therapy Conference in Syracuse, New York, April 8-10, 2011. The time is right for sharing and establishing what we stand for—the best of what we have to offer each other!

Originally published on The Huffington Post