Professor Richard Bentall and Dr Duncan Douglas addressed the CPJA annual Conference ” Cure or Contain? Challenging the Medical Model “

At the Annual CPJA Conference on the 14 th October, Chair Andy Cottom said of GP s and Psychiatrists in general, ” why does no one ask me what am I feeling instead of what s wrong with me ? ”  This summed up the short-comings of the medical -model which the two speakers , Richard Bentall and Duncan Douglas , a psychologist and a psychiatrist, challenged.

The Newly appointed Professor of Clinical Psychology at Sheffield University , and well-known researcher, Richard Bentall stressed the importance of trauma therapy at the Annual CPJA Conference in London on 14th October. Addressing the meeting of psychoanalytic /psychodynamic psychotherapists , he said that the more severe the trauma, the more likelihood of experiencing a mental illness.

Challenging the traditional view of psychiatry that mental illness is a brain disorder, he emphasised the importance of social, environmental and psychological factors in triggering mental illness. Professor Bentall said research shows there is no specific gene that causes mental disorder but only that there is a general risk of psychosis in the general population. He blamed the media and fake news for pedalling such ideas . By outlining research to support his thesis and pointing out the flaws in the research cited by proponents of the medical model of psychiatry , he made a compelling case .

He cited a list of precipitating factors for mental ill health such as : – migration, childhood poverty , abuse and trauma , urban living, bullying inequality and parent communication deviance ( vague speech from carer to child ) and explained why this was the case.

Asking why bad things continue to happen later in adulthood to those vulnerable to these socio/psychological factors, he said that research has shown that there are specific associations between specific kinds of adversity . Certain kinds of symptoms had been explored such as in the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey which looked at paranoid symptoms and auditory/visual hallucinations, ( Bentall et al 2007 ) They found that people who experienced rape or childhood sexual abuse and trauma, tended to develop hallucinations whereas those experiencing residential and institutional care such as prisoners, tended to exhibit symptoms of paranoia .

Summing up , he said that ” the evidence is rock solid for environmental factors ” and that ” if you want to make the world a mentally healthy place , you ve got to change the world ”

Dr Duncan , a leading member of Critical Psychiatry and a psychologist and psychiatrist, outlined the history of mental illness , emphasising that by reducing mental problems to brain disorders had led to coercion and abuse of patient rights . Bio-medical interventions had been counterproductive and he went on to show that Randomised Controlled Trials , the so -called ” gold standard ” failed to address their own inbuilt  biases . He continued to show how such studies ignored the negative outcomes, preferring to publish those that over-emphasised the effectiveness of treatment.

Challenging the type of research  supported by  Professor David Clark, Oxford University and Professor Layard from the LSE , Dr Duncan said that they were very influential in gaining the ” political clout” that led to the Government’s IAPT programme. He  called IAPT the  ” political explanation of psychological quackery ” . Furthermore , he demonstrated how this research overstated the effectiveness of treatment and called for wider measures within the research because at present it shows that 50% of IAPT clients do not get better and relapse rates in short-term therapy are high whilst control data over the longer-term therapy are hard to collect .

“We need to be honest about the aims of therapy ” he told the audience, and citing the work of Rosemary  Rizq ( the speaker at last year s conference ) who has written  that IAPT amounts  to ” a perversion of care ” ,  he retorted ,  ” saying IAPT is a marvellous treatment has to stop .”  Both speakers  called for the collaboration between psychotherapists and clinical psychologists to work together to challenge this dominant medical-model schema .

Rhoda Dorndorf

October 17th 2017

Dates of CPJA College meetings and events in 2018

College meetings will take place on the following dates:

20 January 2018
14 April 2018
23 June 2018 
20 October 2018 Conference and AGM