Book Review: Agnes’s Jacket

At Alison Bass’s blog, sounds like a great book. Excerpt here:

When people exhibit signs of psychosis – they hear voices, they think someone is out to get them – more often than not, they are referred to psychiatrists who immediately put them on powerful drugs like Haldol, Depakote, Abilify or Seroquel. These drugs sometimes tamp down the voices and other psychotic symptoms (and sometimes they don’t). Such medications also make many people feel like zombies and carry a plethora of severe side effects such as excessive weight gain and an increased risk of diabetes and heart problems. Too often, their benefits are short-lived, and many people experiencing psychosis end up in a vicious cycle of hospitalization and isolation – unable to hold down a productive job and stigmatized by the world at large.

In her new book, Agnes’s Jacket, Gail Hornstein, a professor of psychology at Mount Holyoke College, offers an intriguing alternative to dealing with psychosis: support groups that allow people to discuss and deal with the voices they are hearing without medication, in a caring and empathetic environment. She explores this “psychiatric survivor movement” in great depth in her book, chronicling the Hearing Voices network and other support groups that have made this movement possible. She presents vivid examples of people who were previously labeled psychotic and slapped on drugs, but who, with the help of support groups, have learned how to live with and control the voices they hear inside their heads. Some of these people have gone on to live rich, productive lives without the need for medication or hospitalization. As Hornstein writes in her book, “Sharing experiences in peer support groups has led them to a whole different way of understanding their distress…Psychiatric survivor groups teach patients that emotional difficulties, no matter how severe, can coped with.” (read the rest here)

I make a comment on the blog that this is not a new approach really. I write:

This really is not a new approach. It’s a wonderful and healing approach but not new.

You are right that it can be anyone who offers the support therapist or peers, however.

Have you see the move Take These Broken Wings?

I highly recommend it…two therapists and two severely “schizophrenic” women who recover completely from their “illness.” (trauma)

It’s a documentary. One of the women is the woman who wrote, “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.”

you can buy it here…

Daniel Mackler’s site

Also Soteria house in the 70’s practiced this sort of healing…only 3% of the people ever used drugs and 85% were healed.

That’s another book to buy
. Soteria.

This wisdom has been around a long time but has been buried under pharma’s violent hand and psychiatry’s blind eye.

I would add too that The Doctor who Hears Voices is another documentary that you should watch regarding this issue. You can watch the whole thing on youtube…totally awesome movie about real healing.

Also another really great book that I need to do a review on at some point is Alternatives Beyond Psychiatry. Lots of really wonderful healing stories.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Agnes’s Jacket

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  1. as the widow of loren mosher – soteria house – it is gratifying to see the comments referring to his work – gail has always heralded the rights of the “patient” and continues to do so in this book – let’s keep the movement going


    1. Dear Judy,
      what an honor to have you visit.
      I do my best to keep your husbands work alive and remembered. I have mentioned Soteria on this blog dozens of times—I also bring it up routinely on other people’s blogs. It’s the best documented “experiment” of how people can heal naturally without drugs with just love and respect.

      I deeply admire your late husband. Thanks so much for stopping by.

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