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Selected Sharma Materials:
Editor's Introduction to The Medical Model of Mental Illness
Sohan L. Sharma, Ph.D.
"To Thomas Szasz,
who changed the psychiatric thinking."
Sohan Lal Sharma obtained his B.A. from Lahore (Pakistan) and his M.A. and Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He is a Diplomate in Clinical Psychology. For two decades he served as Director of Counseling Services at the California State University, Sacramento, where he has been a Professor of Psychology since 1968. He is also the former director of The Sharma Center of Psychological Services, a private clinic. Dr. Sharma has worked in mental hospitals and out-patient clinics in the United States and Canada and is currently in part- time private practice. He is the author of "The Therapeutic Dialogue: A Guide to Humane and Egalitarian Psychotherapy," (1986), now published by Jason Aronson Inc., Northvale, New Jersey.
Sohan Lal Sharma, Ph.D., Editor
(1970), Woodland, Ca 95695:
The position of psychiatry (or medical psychology) among the sciences and professions has long been uncertain and vexing: one of the reasons for such a predicament is that the field has never been clearly defined nor its subject matter demarcated. Although, generally, it has been viewed as a bio-physio-medical field, serious doubts have lurked about such a definition. Implicitly, many social scientists have raised issues about the physio-biochemical definition of the field, yet explicitly they have accepted the assumptions and the tenets of biochemical conceptions of Man. Thus, the conceptual basis of the field has remained muddled. It was thus left to Thomas Szasz to demonstrate the dimensions and limits of the field of psychiatry and clinical psychology.
Szasz has analyzed the assumptions and logic underlying modern psychiatric thinking -- a thinking and a conceptualization which has been accepted by the bulk of psychiatrists, psychologists, and social scientists. In this conceptual system, the logic and operations that are used are those of physical medicine, where Man is viewed and treated as a bio-chemical, machine-like entity. But Szasz, supported by much of the socio-historical research, has shown that psychiatry and clinical psychology deal not with medical problems of illness and health, but with the socio-ethical problems of the individual, i.e. with Man as a social being or, more simply, with Man in conflict. Thus he demonstrates the basic paradox of this field. This contradiction is so pervasive in the field that it permeates practically every facet and aspect of the field -- be it the teaching institution, mental hospital, the private practitioner, or the consultant. This paradox of the field has been one of the most important factors in generating discontent and confusion among the professionals in these fields.
The volume discusses the socio- historical background of the medical model; the conceptual development and the logical fallacy of such conceptualization; the institutions and structures constructed on the basis of such concepts and the role that such institutions play in a society. It is possible that the reader may find a certain degree of commonalty and/or repetitiousness in various chapters. This, however, is difficult to avoid for two reasons. A work which discusses various dimensions of a single issue or topic has to examine it from various aspects. Then commonalty of the various aspects may acquire a repetitive character. Second, certain dimensions of the medical model are so basic, that it has to be the starting point for various contributors.
During the past few years a dialogue with regard to the detrimental or beneficial effects of the medical model has become popular. The emerging recognition appears to be that the model has serious limitations in understanding and dealing with human conflicts and problems. Yet there are few indications that the model shows any signs of loosening its control over the (mental) institutions and the popular thinking. One reason for this is that the model is deeply entrenched, has generated a considerable vested interest, and has created for itself a power base within the society. In this volume an attempt is made to discuss some of these aspects of the model.