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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Medical Model, Pathology and Pharmacology

Why, in Western psychology, have we been so focused on the dark side of human nature? Even before Freud, Western psychology was based on a medical model, and it still focuses primarily on pathology. The psychiatric profession’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which orients the work of most therapists, clinics and health care providers, is a comprehensive listing of hundreds of psychological problems and diseases. Categorizing problems helps us study them and then, it is hoped, cure them in the most scientific and economically efficient way. But often we give so much attention to our protective layers of fear, depression, confusion, and aggression that we forget who we really are.
As a teacher, I see this all the time. When a middle-aged man named Marty came to see me after a painful separation and divorce, he was caught in the repetitive cycles of unworthiness and shame that he had carried since childhood. he believed that there was something terribly wrong with him. He had forgotten his original goodness. When a young woman, Jan, came to Buddhist practice after a long struggle with anxiety and depression, she had a hard time letting go of her self-image as a broken and damaged person. For years she had seen herself only through her diagnosis and the various medications that had failed to control it.
As psychology becomes more pharmacologically oriented, this medical model is reinforced. Today, most of the millions of adults seeking mental health support are quickly put on medication. Even more troubling, hundreds of thousands of children are being prescribed powerful psychiatric drugs for conditions ranging from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to the newly popular diagnosis of childhood bipolar disorder. While these medications may be appropriate, even lifesaving, in some cases laypeople and professionals increasingly look for a pill as the answer to human confusion and suffering. It need not be so.’
Jack Kornfield