Family Therapy as An Alternative to Medication: An Appraisal of Pharmland

By Phoebe S. Prosky; David V. Keith | Go to book overview

Introduction to Part 4

We have moved from what Leon Eisenberg called the “brainless psychiatry” of the '60s—everything taking place in the virtual space of the psychosocial world—to a “mindless psychiatry” of the '90s—with its assumption that our knowledge of the brain functions will provide us with the golden key to understanding the world of behavior, cognition, emotions and well-being.” 1

A recent television commercial for a phamaceutical product declares, “These symptoms of depression may be caused by a chemical imbalance in your brain. Xygott works to correct this imbalance.” The question hanging in the air unasked is “What if these symptoms aren't the result of a chemical imbalance? What will this psychotropic drug do to your brain then?

Modern psychiatry together with the pharmaceutical industry would like us to accept at face value the claim that all forms of emotional distress are purely and basically biological illnesses. Indeed, many in our contemporary society have accepted this idea uncritically and are making their way regularly to their psychiatrists and medical doctors for a check-in on the “meds” that alter the biology of their brains. However, as you can read elsewhere in this book, the jury is far from in about just how conclusively it has been established that “brain chemistry” is basically responsible for all that goes wrong in our minds. While there is surely a chemical reaction associated with all mental and emotional events, this fact is far from establishing that the chemical reaction is causing the events. In fact, there is a chemical reaction corresponding to every state we experience. If someone gives us a much-desired gift and we feel happy, that happiness corresponds to a certain shift in our brain chemistry. But does that mean that the shift in our brain chemistry causes the happiness? Wasn't it the gift? Or if, while walking in the woods or attending a service for worship, we experience a sense of ecstasy that rocks our chemical balance, is this caused by that same chemical imbalance? Wasn't there an interaction with the larger world at play?

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