Zoe Williams article: ‘Is misused neuroscience defining early years and child protection policy?‘ in The Guardian 26 April 2014.
We are now used to seeing images of areas of the brain ‘lighting up’ on an MRI scanner – but what if MRI scans tell us much less than we think?
“Neuroscience is huge in early years policy. This week, in what’s been characterised as the largest shake-up of family law in a generation, the 26-week time limit for adoption proceedings has come into force, much of it justified by the now-or-never urgency of this set of beliefs, that the first three years (or sometimes first 18 months) hardwire a baby’s brain, either give it or deny it the capacity for a full life. This is the engine of what is known as the First Three Years movement, which has transfixed politicians from across the spectrum. Allen and Duncan Smith’s report opened with an illustration of the “normal child’s” large brain and the shrivelled, walnut brain of the neglected child.”
“The child protection changes are the most extreme end of the policy shaped by neurosciences, but it’s visible across all early-years policy; it can justify the removal of children who have been exposed to domestic violence or even children who may be hypothetically exposed, the mother having been abused before.”
“Here’s the thing: what if it’s over-baked? What if the claims made for neuroscience are so extreme that most neuroscientists would disown them? What if the constant references to “brain scans of neglected children” actually just meant one brain scan, from one highly contested study?”
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It seems to me that clinical psychology in Scotland does the bidding of psychiatry. Is tied to the apron strings. Has embraced the labels and constraints of the mental illness mantra. And cannot break free for fear of the unknown. Or of being consigned to oblivion, having no identity except for being under the authority of its master.
How then can their talking therapies do the real business of helping a person find release when they are bound by the same constraints? Are they not just colluding with an oppressive system to keep the converts quiet and under control?
Is it the label “clinical” that ties them in to a system-centred way of thinking rather than a person-centred way of acting? Two years ago our request for CBT was ignored and mindfulness given. Our agency was disregarded and our voices not listened to. You might describe it as being silenced.
What use therapists who are not putting their clients and patients first? But maybe a clinical psychologist is not a therapist first and foremost. Maybe they are clinical team members before anything else. Their loyalty lies with the doctor, the psychiatrist, the clinical lead in the health board area.
And this loyalty will likely translate into psychiatric system thinking. Deciding what is best for a patient, regardless of what the patient wants. Reading the psychiatric notes and taking what’s written as gospel truth. Believing the opinions of clinical staff before the voices and stories of the patients and carers.
That’s been my family’s experience over many years. Slanderous opinions written as fact then believed by clinical psychologists, passed on to their trainees. Reputations destroyed by the stroke of a pen. Stories unheard and voices silenced.
What then can universities do to shift the perspective of practising clinical psychologists in health board areas who are handmaidens of psychiatry? Are they prepared to do anything or are they happy with the status quo, with psychiatric labelling, declarations of incapacity and badmouthing of character, based on nothing more than psychiatric opinion?
If they’re not up for improving the situation for patients and carers, for providing person-centred talking therapies and for meaningfully involving people with lived experience in their training of clinical psychologists then what is the point of their endeavours? It’s just another tokenistic, tick-box exercise in the scheme of things.
Nothing to be proud of.
Just got sent this (meant to be) 2 page information leaflet from SPSP-MH – Scottish patient safety programme in mental health – for carers, patients, services users, called ‘Safety First – It’s all in the detail’, which has no detail:
What is the point of writing a leaflet for folk like me that has nothing of real detail in it?
Here’s my Email just sent to Dr David Hall, SPSP-MH lead and his colleagues from HIS – healthcare Improvement Scotland – Johnathan McLennan et al, copied to NHS Fife mental health leads Graham Monteith et al, asking for more detail:
Psychiatric Bulletin, Perspectives, Profile: James Davies (author of Cracked) interviewed by Neil Armstrong:
“Your recent book, Cracked, has provoked a lot of interest and comment. For those who haven’t read it, how would you summarise the argument?
In a nutshell, I argue that psychiatry over the past 40 years, under the dominance of the medical or ‘technological’ model, has done a lot of harm in the name of helping vulnerable people. Not intentionally, I hasten to add, but as an outcome of taking the medical model too far. Your readers will be familiar with the arguments: psychiatry has medicalised more and more natural, albeit painful, responses to the difficulties of living; it has become wedded to medications of questionable value (for many people) and whose long-term effects are still uncertain; it has allowed itself to be compromised by pharmaceutical ties; it has stigmatised people through labels and has sold itself as closer to the rest of medicine than it is. All this has led to a situation in which the integrity and efficacy of the profession is now under serious scrutiny.
What led you to write the book?
My experience of working with people in the NHS who had been adversely affected by psychiatric diagnoses and drugs that were, in my view, often entirely unnecessary. It takes relatively little time to assign a descriptive label, but it takes many months to really understand a person and why they suffer. Yet most psychiatrists have little time for the latter, which is why I’d so often encounter understandable human experience, even necessary experience, being medicalised and medicated to the detriment of the patient. In many cases the diagnoses were leading to little other than the illusion of understanding, for doctors, and stigma and selfstigma for patients. The medications themselves, although helpful for some of the more severely distressed in the short term, ended up confusing us all: what experience was drug induced and what the product of the ‘person’ or the ‘condition’? After some time nobody would really know any more, patient, psychologist or doctor.
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Learning from social reporting at #seeme14 by Judith Robertson, seemenow programme director
“Judith thanks for giving your take on the SeeMe event from the perspective of the overseer.