It’s Time for Us to Stop Being So Defensive About Criticisms of Psychiatry

This article by psychiatrist Dr. Awais Aftab has been published in the Psychiatric Times. It begins:

“I read the article “It’s Time for Us to Stop Waffling About Psychiatry2 by Daniel Morehead, MD, with great interest, particularly since it makes frequent references to some of my work in Psychiatric Times from the Conversations in Critical Psychiatry series. Dr Morehead and I agree about a lot of things: the fundamental legitimacy of psychiatry as a branch of medicine; the essential role psychiatry has to play in the treatment of mental health problems; that a defense of psychiatry is warranted against egregious and misplaced criticisms; and that the value of psychiatry must be conveyed to legislators, insurers, and the general public. Psychiatry is a profession with a rich intellectual history that exemplifies some of the best of what medicine has to offer. The tools it has at its disposal are limited, but when used appropriately, offer tremendous relief to individuals with psychiatric distress and impairment. I am proud to be a psychiatrist, consider myself privileged to do the work that I do, and would not trade it with any other medical specialty.

Despite these core agreements on the status of psychiatry, I am not entirely in agreement with Morehead’s characterization of critiques of psychiatry as destructive and harmful. My own view is different, shaped by my longstanding engagement with these critiques. Critiques of psychiatry are necessary and important, and will continue to be so, and psychiatry can only dismiss them at its own peril. It is my opinion that we need to reconceptualize psychiatry’s relationship with critique in a more productive manner.

There are understandable reasons psychiatry is scrutinized way more than other medical specialties. It, for instance, exercises social control over the lives of individuals under its care to a degree exercised by no other specialty; it is subject to more value disagreements; it has to work across multiple disciplines and perspectives that are difficult to integrate; it has a tumultuous historical legacy; the state of scientific development is still comparatively rudimentary; and it deals with conditions that are stigmatized and poorly understood, etc. …”

You can read more from here.

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