Saturday, July 11, 2009

Voluntary madness

I just read Nora Vincent's Voluntary Madness. (Side note: I actually listened to it on a book on cd which is my favorite "find" in the last year. It is awesome because I hate listening to the radio which is littered with way too many adds and stations pulling their own agenda. Plus, I always feel guilty reading for pleasure when I have so much to read for school and dissertation. Plus, the library has tons of books on cd and I could go on a whole other side note rambling about how much I love the Seattle area public library system, but I am done digressing!) She is an immersion writer who puts herself into intense situations so she can write about it. Well, her last book was called Self Made Man where she dressed like a man for a while (a year-ish?). This apparently put her into a depression and she had to be committed to "the bin" as she calls it. While in there, she came up with her next book idea, "I should commit myself to a 'loony bin' and write about it!" (please pick up on the attitude in my typing, I do not condone this idea!) Enter, Voluntary Madness...
From page 1 she shows her viewpoint on the topic of mental health, and it is not good. She goes on about the medicalization and impersonalization of the field in detail...many times through the book. This itself is a good argument for listening to it rather than reading it; you can dissociate during one of her rants if needed! She questions all the research and theories in psychology by citing the lack of objectifiable research. This is true, but also part of the field. When you are studying something as subjective as personal differences, emotions, and cognitions, objectivity is difficult. We are well aware of the research difficulties in are area. She even goes so far as to question the "reality" of psychosis! Tell that to someone who has dealt with persecetory delusions since their teenage years!
I do believe that she could have written a much better and less angry book by simply doing more research before hand. I thought to myself multiple times throughout it that she just needs to look up the difference between psychology and psychiatry and all her problems/complaints would be addressed! She mentioned many many times how she wanted to be listened to, not medicated into a stupor. And yet, she kept seeing (and bitching about) psychiatrists!! Quick lesson; psychiatrists focus on medicine, psychologists focus on emotions and cognitions (aka: we listen), she went through all of this when all she needed was to find a psychologist to talk to and a psychiatrist to get her Prozac (which by the way, she ranted often about but still consumed!)
The book is not all bad though, just overran by her own agenda which she presents as facts. The point that I took out of it was to remember to think with my interpersonal feelings as a psychologist, not with my textbooks. She had a good point about the depersonalization of psych wards and really all it would take was a moment of putting yourself in a client's shoes to take a more human perspective. I do think it is a worthwhile read as long as it is taken with a very large grain of salt and an informed critical eye. At least you have to give the woman credit for voluntarily placing herself in a position of "madness."


Anonymous said...

I can definately agree that her research was not done, as I'm aspiring to be a psychologist, and I've definately encountered my share of malinformed books.
This blog strikes me as an anything and everythng type, from day to day, to book review. Overall it's interesting.

crystal said...

Yes, another budding psychologist! Yeah, like I said; interesting with a large grain of salt :)