What about the ‘hurt’ identified by the organisation of Mental Health System Survivors? Szasz saw no problem there: if people found their therapy unhelpful, they could simply select another therapist.
Szasz said some of the people he saw would have been diagnosed as ‘psychotic’. But I get no sense of him understanding these altered-state or perceptual differences that so easily land us on psychiatric wards, being treated without consent – especially at the first appearance, when we are confronted with something sudden and about which we have no prior experience.
More than this, psychotherapy is not without its critics and it is not uncontested by some survivors and service users. Jeffrey Masson’s book Against Therapy might be regarded as a kind of ‘Szasz for psychotherapy’.
I have long maintained that treatment without consent is a violation of body and self, but I am not happy with this Convention. I perceive Szasz’s influence. This is an unsettling legacy.
This preview is taken from Asylum Issue 20.1. To read the rest of this piece, subscribe to Asylum Magazine.