Psychiatrist who heals with love and empathy–not meds

A beautiful article in Psychiatric Times, of all places, that discusses the power of love and consideration towards those with psychosis….and it’s deeply healing and restorative nature:

Elvin Semrad’s major contributions to the training of psychotherapists were to help us see our patients truly as human beings; to understand their psychopathology as defenses against intolerable feelings of loss or failure; and to teach us that through empathic connections with our patients, we could help them bear these feelings and thereby begin to help them heal. He often told us that “people become psychotic because they are mad, sad, or scared and cannot stand it.” He stressed that rather than getting preoccupied with treating symptoms, we need to help patients feel the feelings that have become unbearable to them and then find ways to solve the same kinds of life dilemmas with which we all struggle. He once said in response to a presentation of a psychotic woman, “There are 2 main approaches: A, do something with the problem, with the person who has the problem and help her master it; or B, stay away from the problem, from the person and do something to her.”…

…The idea that by talking and encouraging patients to experience feelings we could help such seriously impaired people seemed both incredibly exciting and humane but, at the same time, overwhelming. Trainees were stuck between those supervisors who said, “medicate these patients, get them out of the hospital as quickly as possible,” and “don’t talk to them about emotionally loaded subjects—they can’t stand that and will regress,” and Elvin Semrad who urged us (within the context of establishing an empathic relationship with the patient) to go right to those emotionally loaded subjects. He said, “In order for it to heal, it has to hurt like hell!” (read rest here)

H/T Recovery from Schizophrenia. I saw this other places as well. It’s nice that this is getting attention in a mainstream psychiatric journal.

For more stories of therapy healing and transforming the lives of people with psychosis see here. For recovery stories that may or may not include traditional psychotherapy see here.

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