Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Recovery Model


I was just reading Kate K.'s blog entry about E. Fuller Torrey's book, Surviving Schizophrenia where he maintains: "The problem with the 'recovery model' is that it places unrealistic expectations on individuals and their families. If the person does not recover, then it must be because they are not trying hard enough."

He has connected two unrelated dots that are as far away from each other as Russia and Africa. Nobody working in the recovery movement would dare suggest somebody failed because they didn't try hard enough. He has a narrow view of the definition of recovery and assumes that most people don't recover when in fact long-term studies have proved up to 60 percent of the people diagnosed with schizophrenia recover fully or significantly improve.

Courtenay Harding's famous "Vermont study" tracked patients released from a state hospital in the 1950s up through the 1980s and most had no signs or symptoms of the illness they were diagnosed with. The anti-psychiatry contingent loves this study because a fair number of the participants stopped taking their medication and were able to function just fine.

E. Fuller Torrey is in no position to criticize a movement he will never be a part because he has no inside track on how it works.

You see: my definition of recovery encompasses multiple differing versions of how people live their lives. E. Fuller Torrey seems to buy into the myth that if you're not the CEO of a corporation you haven't recovered.

That's not how it works Fuller boy. Plenty of people can and do recover and it is by their own yardstick that they measure their success, not yours.

What part of the "help" in self-help does this guy not get?

Interesting: nowhere in my second book do I extol the power of positive thinking. I do mention that a healthy dose of ambition is not a sin. However nowhere do I presume to tell anyone they are not trying hard enough.

The esteemed Torrey forgets that when it comes to schizophrenia the severity of the illness is often determined by the luck of the draw. So it is possible that some people will not recover to the level that other people recover. Yet no one in the recovery movement itself would claim this was a personal failing.

My book is aimed at the great number of people who want to recover and are capable of recovering.

I read the original Surviving Schizophrenia in 1987 after I came out of the hospital and was not impressed.

My Twitter says it all: Here's the playing field. Please join in.

E. Fuller Torrey does a great disservice with his reverse stigma: he is actually projecting onto other people his own belief that recovery is not possible. I always felt that if a line were drawn in the sand I would stand on the side of everyone who had been locked up regardless of their level of functioning. I see no difference between back wards patients and me except that I was on the lucky end of the luck of the draw. And I'm not proud that I recovered whereas a great number of people do not. I don't consider myself to be a special person either. I'm only grateful that God gave me a talent to use to help make the world a better place for people living with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

Torrey claims only 25 percent of the people diagnosed with schizophrenia completely recover which is another lie. Define completely. Define recovery. He paints things in broad brush strokes as if you're either institutionalized or some kind of wonder kid. The far more accurate picture is that most people live in the middle and there's no shame in that.

OK. I will stop. You understand. What I'm trying to say.

Now I will go sign off and wind down for the night.


1 comment:

Wanderer62 said...

Hi Chris,

I think what bothers me most is that Mr. E. Fuller Torrey and his book may be influencing those involved directly and indirectly with the illness to turn away from a belief that recovery is possible, even for those most severely affected.

Luckily, he is coming across some resistance according to the Wikipedia article on him, though NAMI is still too indebted to him.

I do think that because of the internet, more and more "consumers" are able to speak up and share their stories of recovery. There is nothing Mr. Torrey can do to stem the tide of this. He cannot control the internet. So his influence may not be as great as I think.

It is those that chronically remain in hospitals that really need to be reached with this message of hope.

Personally, though my psychosis was severe for approximately three years, I was only in a hospital for an overnight stay in 1998. I'm convinced that the reasons why I stayed out of the hospital had to do with the financial support of my family, early intervention (I went to see a therapist almost right away and my voices made me go to support groups though they were not related to psychotic disorders) and my own personal, creative spirit.
But, in truth, I was too isolated throughout all of it. A temporary hospital stay might have been beneficial to me as long as I could be released into my community and have access to transportation, mental health support groups, therapy, medication, food and shelter.

I need to do more research on this subject because I am quite ignorant about those that are considered too sick to live outside of a hospital. I confess that a part of me believes that with the right kind of support system in place, most people should be able to live outside the hospital, returning only when things get overwhelming from time to time.

Well, I've gone on long enough,

Thanks for this blog entry and take care,