Welcome

I am a current student at the University of Michigan School of Social Work (prospective licensure in 2024). I am developing the foundational knowledge, practice, and philosophy needed to become a mental health clinician. As in all things, I consider the field of "mental health" to be heavily influenced by the oppressive values of capitalism, colonialism, ableism, and racism and therefore study critical, anti-oppressive literature in order to develop my own understanding of what liberatory care and practice look like. 

My developing philosophy is detailed below and I invite all, especially "patients" and clinicians into conversation with me. 

What is "mental health"?

The Dominant, Medical Model

Mental health and mental illness are binary concepts that suggest that our moods, thoughts, behaviors, and traits can either be "healthy" or "sick." That terminology was borrowed by psychiatrists from the field of medicine, in which symptoms (a physical change or difference) can be traced back to a biological cause (e.g. an injury, a bacteria, a genetic anomaly).  Within this model, mental health is defined by experiencing emotions, moods, thoughts, traits, and behaviors that are considered "normal" or "typical" and that do not cause distress. Mental illness, then, is when we experience emotions, moods, thoughts, behaviors, and traits that cause distress to us or to others, because they are outside of the norm or cause disruption in daily activities. If we experience these abnormal and distressing mental states, then we require "treatment" to return to "health." To legitimize this model, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) developed a means of identifying "illnesses" (disorders, dysfunctions) of the mind, and categorizes them in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, from which we can be "diagnosed." Diagnosis with a mental illness is now the dominant, and often necessary requirement for anyone to access support related to distress that is considered to be "of the mind." 

 

There is no research, anywhere, that proves that there are biological or genetic causes for experiences of mental distress. Despite the language used by the APA and clinicians worldwide, there is no biological or genetic evidence of disease in the brain, which can explain changes in mood, behavior, traits, or emotions. In fact, most theories that have been explored have been disproven, such as the mythic theory that mood (such as depression) is caused by "chemical imbalance in the brain." Despite the total lack of evidence for this theory, the practice of diagnosis and the language of "mental illness" persists as the dominant and coercively enforced system of addressing distress of the mind, spirit, soul, and nervous system. Why? Because this theory provides a justification for the heavy use of prescription psychopharmaceutical drugs, from which drug companies have profited enormously despite evidence that such drugs cause significant, life-altering side effects and do not treat any biological cause for distress. And, because this theory allows us to identify the cause of distressing feelings and distressing/non-compliant behavior as an "illness," that is internal to individuals, rather than looking at the likely systemic and structural causes (see below).  

Alternative Theories

Critical theorists and clinicians in the Western world have theorized for decades that the medical model of understanding mental illness is incorrect. Further, cultures around the world have considered what we would call "mental illness" divine experiences or wounds caused by the world. Theorists argue that some mind-body-spirit distress is explained by biological causes such as genetic variation, hormone imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, and exposure to toxins. If there is a biological cause, these theorists believe such causes should be readily detectable and objectively proven through currently available testing. The treatment then is to eliminate the neglect or exposure that caused harm, not to suppress the symptoms. Further, that most genetic variation is not a disease or dysfunction but a normal diversity within the human species that is often only problematized because non-normative thoughts and behaviors are unsupported and inconvenient to a culture driven by profit-driven productivity. 

Critical theorists argue that emotional, mood, behavioral, and trait diversity are normal experiences of diversity and a complex human experience. For example, some people naturally experience high-highs and low-lows, while others have a flatter emotional/mood experience. Some people experience high sensory sensitivity, some people are less sensitive. Some people are satisfied by monotonous, routine tasks, others require more stimulation to feel a connection or motivation. These are normal variances that are commonly referred to as "neurodiversity" and are not diseases, dysfunctions, or disorders that need to be treated, cured, or prevented.

 

In regard to acute or temporary experiences of distress, such as a persistent low mood and disturbing thoughts of death or dying, or temporary experiences of hallucinations, or intrusive, upsetting thoughts: these are theorized to be our body-mind's best adaptive response to injurious or threatening circumstances. If we experience social or material neglect, violence, or threats to our safety, our body-mind tries to cope, escape, or adapt to that neglect. Sometimes these adaptations alter how we think, behave, and feel in significant ways. When these events happen early in our lives (below the age of five), they may alter how our brain develops and therefore may have lasting influence on our traits ("personality"). When facing social circumstances that are harmful, threatening, or cause injury (often referred to as "trauma"), our body-mind naturally creates defenses and those defenses don't always make obvious "sense." For example, we might experience extreme violence that our brain cannot comprehend or process and may respond by developing delusions or hallucinations or by disassociating. Critical theorists see this not as a disease of the mind, but as a survival strategy. That strategy may lead to unintended, unpredictable, and undesirable consequences, but those consequences are caused by the conditions of neglect, violence, and injury and not by something that is wrong with us

Within this model, distress is caused by imbalances in power, threats to our survival, and disconnects in making meaning of life's suffering. There is therefore no reason to diagnose a problem within us, but rather to develop an understanding of why we are distressed and then to alter the conditions that led to the distress or develop new ways of reducing distress when conditions cannot be immediately changed (see below).

What causes distress? 

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What is "treatment"? 

This is your About page. This space is a great opportunity to give a full background on who you are, what you do and what your site has to offer. Your users are genuinely interested in learning more about you, so don’t be afraid to share personal anecdotes to create a more friendly quality.

Every website has a story, and your visitors want to hear yours. This space is a great opportunity to provide any personal details you want to share with your followers. Include interesting anecdotes and facts to keep readers engaged.

 

Double click on the text box to start editing your content and make sure to add all the relevant details you want site visitors to know. If you’re a business, talk about how you started and share your professional journey. Explain your core values, your commitment to customers and how you stand out from the crowd. Add a photo, gallery or video for even more engagement.

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