On January 7, Maria Bradshaw, co-founder of CASPER, published an interesting article on Mad in America. It’s called Prescribing Rights for Psychologists, and it suggests that psychology as a profession may be falling into some of the same errors that enmire psychiatry.
Maria makes some very compelling points, and focuses particularly on the fact that psychologists have won prescribing rights in a number of jurisdictions, and are engaged in an ongoing effort to expand this aspect of their work.
The article points out that the DSM-5 Task Force comprised “nearly 100 psychiatrists and 47 psychologists,” and also expresses concern that as psychologists become more heavily involved in the prescribing of drugs, they will inevitably become targets for pharma corruption.
Maria explores the possibility that psychologists may be moving closer to psychiatry’s medical model of human problems, a model that formerly they viewed as erroneous and dangerous.
This article is timely. At present, I would guess that most psychologists are still on this side of the debate, particularly in the UK, where the medical model has always been viewed with a good measure of skepticism, and where recently the clinical division of the BPS took a major step away from this model. But there are deep-seated and disturbing trends, especially here in America. And these trends have been long in the making. For decades a significant proportion of the questions on the psychologist’s licensing exam in the US have been based on the DSM. For example, a scenario would be sketched and the examinee had to identify the “correct diagnosis” from a list of four or five. The choice: “This is an inane question” was never listed. The examining body is currently engaged in the process of integrating DSM-5 into the exam content. This is logically equivalent to asking chemistry graduates to identify the correct methods for transmuting base metals to gold.
In the May 1993 issue of the Behavior Therapist I wrote:
“Today it is not unusual to find practitioners who describe themselves as behaviorists discussing these disorders [DSM “diagnoses”] as if they had the same ontological status as diabetes or pneumonia, which of course, they don’t.”
That was 20 years ago, and I don’t think the trend has slowed.
The prescribing rights movement is, in my view, a giant step in the wrong direction, but shows no signs of losing momentum. When psychiatry’s ship finally founders in the storm of scrutiny and survivor protest, psychology, as a profession, may also be swept away, especially if it is perceived as a sister profession.
Psychology is the discipline that studies human thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and applies its findings to helping people resolve problems and find a more fulfilling and empowered lifestyle. Psychiatry is the non-science that treats non-illnesses. Strictly speaking they should have very little in common, similarity in name notwithstanding. The urgent need for psychology today is to re-find its roots, and generate distance between itself and psychiatry. Otherwise it will inevitably be tarred with the same brush.