Elements of Self-Destruction

Introducing a new book by Dr. Brent Potter.

By Brent Potter PhD — Director of the R.D. Laing Institute

Elements of Self-Destruction

click to view book
click to view book

“You have to diagnose her now,” my colleague said. “What? I just met with her for an hour-and-a-half. Plus, I’m off the clock in ten minutes.” The response: “It is procedure here that the assessment, diagnosis, and paperwork be completed and turned in directly after the intake session.” It was my first assessment at my first job as a clinician. I felt no sense of reassurance as I, the dutiful new employee, plopped myself down and thumbed through the DSM, the so-called diagnostic ‘Bible’ of mental health. I had 10 minutes left and, mercifully, the DSM provided highly simplistic ways to diagnose. For those without time to read—apparently I was not the only one—it had convenient little boxes with bullet points. I just had to match ‘x’ number out of ‘y’ amount of symptoms and poof, there was a person’s diagnosis. While I was doing my job as instructed and following DSM protocol I wondered, was diagnosis supposed to be this quick and easy? I remember thinking that I had spent more time deciding whether to order ‘pickles’ or ‘no pickles’ on my dollar burger for lunch. Maybe it was the burger, but I felt nauseous. Now, almost 20 years later, the feeling hasn’t left. Shouldn’t diagnosis take a little more time? Shouldn’t I meet with someone two or three times to get a better sense of things? Does an hour-and-a-half constitute a thorough assessment?

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I learned that ‘therapy’ was often constructed of 15 minute check-ins with the client, primarily to document whether or not he or she was medically compliant, suicidal, homicidal, or relatively ok, so the therapist could move on to the next person on the 80-100 client caseload. The local newspaper listed us as the eighth largest employer in the county with an employee annual turnover of 50%. That’s a lot of therapists coming and going. I found that those working for the organization were not evil people; they tended to be well-meaning newbies, like me, caught between a burgeoning bureaucracy and chronically disturbed, traumatized populations. Of the few clinicians who could not or would not leave, most of them became bitter, emotionally calloused, fried. I saw myself as standing between a sick system limping from crisis to crisis, under ever decreasing funding, and clients who were chronically disturbed and barely getting the help they required. It did not take a deep or lengthy philosophical analysis to see that the overall picture was one of plain insanity. I found these factors to be true not only at this clinic, but at most of the other settings where I worked over the two decades that followed. While working at these places, I established a private practice and continued working with the child and teen sufferers of abuse and neglect, so-called chronically mentally ill and chemically dependent populations. As I suspected, these people suffered for reasons that made perfect sense relative to the contexts of their histories. These were not psychiatrically diseased cases, they were human individuals doing the best they could to survive often impossible circumstances.

This is my first book. Perhaps it represents my own attempt to make sense of the destructive elements of the psyche as they manifest in the individual as well as in broader socio-economic contexts.  I hope to point out the ways in which we are all ‘in the soup’, as it were. We all suffer the madness of our times. Who is deemed ‘mentally ill’ and who is ‘normal’ is really a matter of who is making the decision and within what context. Our level of neurosis, or sociosis, as J.H. van den Berg aptly called it, is really just a matter of degree, but not kind.  In providing clarity of contexts to the elements of destructiveness, I present some ways out of our private and shared madness.

Beyond Meds has been (and continues to be) my favorite blog site. I am grateful for the opportunity to write this blurb. I hope you enjoy my book and I welcome all correspondence. I can be reached on my Facebook page, email, brentpotterma@yahoo.com, or by phone (818.337.9701). Thank you, Brent

BrentPotterPicBrent Potter, Ph.D., LMHC, CMHS, MMHS

Dr. Brent Potter is a psychotherapist with 20 years of direct clinical service. He is the Director for the Society for Laingian Studies and the R.D. Laing Institute. He teaches doctoral level courses at the Pacifica Graduate Institute. Brent is the author of numerous articles whose topics include: innovative and effective mental healthcare models, analytical psychology, humanistic psychology, existential-phenomenology, psychoanalysis, the psychotic register of the mind, character and personality disorders, chemical dependency and child / adolescent mental health concerns. His first book, ‘Elements of Self-Destruction’ is due out via Karnac Books in February, 2013 

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