Believe it or not there is a statement from the director of the National Institute of Mental Health (Thomas Insel) (see for ex: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/director/index.shtml) who seems to think that everything is wrong with psychiatry. He thinks there is no science of psychotherapy and little validity to the new DSM, diagnostic manual which he says, is not a bible of psychiatry but a dictionary; listing symptoms and not getting below them. He’s right. I wrote him a letter about our work and its validity but I doubt if I will get an answer. At least I wrote to the previous directors and never had the courtesy of a reply. So we’ll see. He is right about what’s wrong but I am not sure he knows what to do about it. I think he wants to get into brain function and genetics; and those will never get him there. As I said in my last article, the brain cannot feel pain but the mind does. If we go on reducing it all to brain function we will never succeed. If we delve into the works of the mind and its relationship to the brain, then we will succeed. The mind has to relate to how the brain functions so we don’t erect theories that fly in the face of brain science.
It cannot be either or; when it is you get theories of therapy by brain scientists, and I could mention several well known neurologists, who miss the mark completely.They have never done a day of psychotherapy and they extrapolate from the brain about how therapy should be practiced. I have written to them with no answer and that includes Antonio Damasio. They are too busy lecturing to see how therapy can work. You know what an expert is? Someone from out of town. I would change that to someone out in space because they are not grounded and do not see daily, anxious and depressed patients. It is not that something is wrong with their brains; they grew up neglected, abandoned and unloved. We won’t find that in the brain………ever. We will find it in their history. Neurons contain history but we cannot see it, and they won’t give up their secrets freely. I have an idea. How about talking to the patient? How about not drugging him but delving into his or her past? How about listening? That is hard to do when you take 8 patients a day. We don’t.
Insel admits that there is no science here and no proper theory to guide therapy for addiction, for example. Rates of mental illness are mounting rapidly. Let us hope they hear but why am I so pessimistic? Because I have sent at least 50 letters to the powers that be without response. It seems that many scientists are putting their hopes into president Obama’s new initiative, pouring millions into mapping the brain. Yes that is wonderful but it won’t solve the problem of mental illness; unless we think it really lies in brain dysfunction or in genetics. And now there is so much focus on the brain that we have missed out on the mind which speaks for the brain.
Let me tell you a story. When I was young and naïve I asked the NIMH to come investigate and see our work. Three men in ties came and watched a session. The patient, a woman, was screaming in agony; her ass was in the air. One of the men turned to me and without commenting on her pain said,” Why is her ass in the air? Is she being provocative?” Right then I knew the jig was up. There was no chance. Here was a horny guy who saw no pain. He had no empathic reaction. My heart sank.