Seven Questions for Thomas Szasz

An interview with Thomas Szasz.

From the Psychology Today blog by Ryan Howes.

Well, today Dr. Thomas Szasz talks to us, and we’re fortunate. My honored guest is a genuine maverick in the mental health field, a man who has “done more than anyone else to challenge psychiatry to abandon the destructive use of force and replace it with consent, trust, and adherence to the Hippocratic injunction to do no harm.” (G. Annas from Szasz website)

Thomas Szasz was born in Hungary in 1920, received his M.D. from the University of Cincinnati in 1944, and trained at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis. He is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the Upstate Medical University, State University of New York, Syracuse, distinguished life fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a life member of the American Psychoanalytic Association. His 33 books, hours of lecture  and innumerable articles share a similar message: biological disease and (mis)behavior aren’t the same, yet psychiatry mistakenly links the two.

imageNeedless to say, Szasz is a psychiatrist at variance with his profession. In 1961 he penned the classic The Myth of Mental Illness where he refuted the idea that mental disorders were on par with physical illness and could therefore be treated with medication. In his view, mental illness does not constitute actual disease, but rather “problems in living.” He wrote and spoke vehemently against the dominant paradigm, as he continues to this day.

Szasz is labeled an anti-psychiatrist, but this misnomer will be clarified in his forthcoming book Antipsychiatry: Quackery Squared, which Szasz described to me as: “My quixotic attempt to dissociate myself from this stigmatizing term and category.” Szasz is not an anti-psychiatrist; he supports psychiatry if it is contractual and non-coercive.

I’m thrilled to include Dr. Szasz’s iconoclastic, dissenting opinions to my project. In true form, he agreed to submit his answers with the following caveat:

My view is that there is no mental illness and hence also no “therapy/psychotherapy.” Therapy, then, is a particular kind of human relationship (arrangement, contract), aimed at helping people cope with their “problems in living.” This makes it necessary to reframe some of the questions you pose.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. When Dr. Szasz has taken the time to subvert the Seven Questions, I know I must be on to something. Enjoy these responses from a living legend in the field of mental health. (this was the intro for an interview–-read the interview here)

2 thoughts on “Seven Questions for Thomas Szasz

  1. CHECK OUT Seth Farber, and The Mad Pride Movement
    This is where spirituality meets the mental illness myth

    checkout my blog because I am going to be doing an article about this. me and Seth differ when it comes to the underlying ontology–is that the right long word…? hehe

    Ie., he is into Sri Aurobindo and I am into Monica Sjoo

    But diversity is cool I can live with it ;)))


  2. “Hippocratic injunction to do no harm.” ?????

    “Do No Harm” is NOT part of the Hippocratic Oath, either the 1964 version, or the Classical version.

    The modern version speaks of ‘respecting hard won scientific gains’ and the Classical speaks of respecting, and ‘holding confidential between Physician and Patient everything which the Physician may learn.’ Psychiatry violates Both those admonitions Wholesale.

    According to a 1993* survey of 150 U.S. and Canadian medical schools, for example, only 14 percent of modern oaths prohibit euthanasia, 11 percent hold convenant with a deity, 8 percent foreswear abortion, and a mere 3 percent forbid sexual contact with patients.


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