Archive for the ‘Feminist therapy’ Category

She shouts for a reckoning with entire mouth and unspoilt heart. My friend Poodle (“Ursula”) from Christchurch NZ declares her joy, in love with these times. (rule for radicals: that’s why she’s a teacher and you’re not)

so thats me in the corner-thats me over there–was a hard arse interview 2 do-my dyslexia gets in the way some-times-just bear with it and it will show its beauty

Living With the Scars of Abuse

Source: Press, The Christchurch, New Zealand
Posted on: Wednesday, 1 October 2008, 15:00 CDT

New Zealand’s mental health system has a dark history, with hundreds of former patients alleging abuse in state hospitals. Kim Thomas tells the story of one woman who suffered abuse and explores what former patients are doing to try and take back their lives.

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Ursula spent her 22nd birthday huddling near naked in the corner of a bare room at Christchurch’s Sunnyside Hospital.

She was incarcerated at the now defunct mental-health hospital for slicing her arms from wrist to armpit with razors.

During her year-long stay at Sunnyside, Ursula (not her real name) was abused and humiliated.

For at least two months she was housed in an isolation room where she was stripped, sometimes by male nurses, and dressed in a thick woollen smock as punishment for her rowdy behaviour.

Her underpants and bra were taken from her and she was forced to use a pot as her toilet, in a room visible to staff and other patients.

More than 20 years later the scars of Ursula’s Sunnyside experience are still as visible as the razor marks lacing her arms. She is not alone.

Scores of former Sunnyside patients have disclosed abuse during their stay at the Gothic-style institution.

Nationwide, about 300 former patients claim abuse in mental hospitals during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Many were sent to psychiatric institutions because of behavioural difficulties but then treated as if they had serious psychiatric illnesses. Some were as young as eight.

Allegations include physical and sexual abuse, long periods of solitary confinement and the use of electro-convulsive (electric shock) therapy (ECT) as punishment.

In 2004, Attorney-General Margaret Wilson announced the establishment of a confidential forum where former patients, their families and hospital staff could tell their stories.

It recently announced a new forum, called the Listening and Assistance Service, for people who allege abuse or neglect during their time in state care in the health, child welfare or residential special education sector before 1992.

Justice and compensation is also being pursued in the law courts.

Wellington lawyer Sonia Cooper represents about 200 of 300 former psychiatric patients, including Ursula, seeking compensation for abuse.

They filed their first claims for compensation in 2004 but the matter remains unresolved. Cooper says she tried to negotiate with the Government out of court but failed.

In the latest chapter of this long running legal process, the Court of Appeal recently passed a judgment saying the Government had to prove that the actions former patients say was abuse was actually treatment, Cooper says.

“We want an acknowledgement that this abuse happened and an apology. If the Crown had been willing to deal with this out of the courts we wouldn’t be pursuing legal action,” Cooper says.

The Government has already made one large settlement to former psychiatric patients; in 2001, 183 former patients of Lake Alice’s adolescent unit received an apology and a share of $10.7 million compensation for claims including receiving ECT and injections as punishment, sexual abuse, ECT on the genitals in several cases, and one of being locked in a cage with a deranged adult.

About 240 civil cases are still pending.

A Crown Law office spokeswoman says it is reading the very complicated Crown Law judgement to decide what steps to take next.

Ursula says she would be dead had she stayed longer in Sunnyside. She sought legal counsel and had herself checked out of the hospital.

Ursula has a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. She says 20 years ago the disorder was poorly understood.

As a result, treatment for her self-harm and erratic behaviour involved being put into an isolation cell as punishment. Good behaviour was rewarded with treats such as winning her underwear back.

For a sexual abuse victim such as Ursula, being stripped was the ultimate in humiliation.

“I saw it as an extension of the brutality I had already had forced on me.”

She says she cannot believe the way people such as herself were treated in an environment that was supposed to be therapeutic.

Sunnyside was demolished last year. But even after its demise it holds a significant and sinister place in Christchurch’s collective conscience.

Christchurch theatre director Tony McCaffrey has recently secured Creative New Zealand funding to develop a play based on the goings on in the former mental-health hospital, which he hopes to open the stage curtains on next year.

As part of his research McCaffrey visited the ruins of the old hospital and pored over patient log books and photographs.

He also interviewed former nurses, superintendents and patients.

“I believe it’s important to acknowledge the huge role Sunnyside played in Christchurch’s history and craft a memorial to that,” McCaffrey says.

“Since I started this project almost everyone I talk to has some connection to the place, whether they knew someone who worked there or stayed there. Everyone has a story.”

McCaffrey says Sunnyside housed people from all walks of life and the way they were treated is an insight into the community’s psyche over the past century.

Sunnyside’s history also provides a window into the dark history of Christchurch because of some of the inhumane acts that happened there.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Judi Clements said abuse that occurred in institutions is a crying shame.

She says many staff from those times still feel ill at the things that went on.

However, they were often only doing what they were told or what was best practice at the time, Clements says. In time, people will probably look back at certain practices which occur in the mental health sector now, such as electric shock therapy, and condemn them as cruel or unnecessary.


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Doop doop I’m putting together that follow-up post as mentioned, can’t sleep while they’re filming FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS in my backyard and they’ll go til 4 AM again, no sleep and just got home from my 4th day in training and I couldn’t concentrate because of the clip in my head the last 2 days, which happens to be the first one added to Writher, the writhe safely rock-n-roll VODPOD, from which I’ll highlight a video every week, and make like a format. A show. A production, a playground, slightly twee but highly exacting. My task is to get you interested, this is still in my blood, and don’t it make you wanna get right back home. Remember, if you click the video two times it takes you to youtube where you can access the full-screen. Guess I should mention this is probably not safe for work, and that breaks my heart too.

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Our sensitive overlords at the National Center for Trauma-Informed Care are holding a conference this weekend; their 3rd in a series spanning two decades. I must be in pretty bad shape to consider this good news, but beneath the layers of shmooze and self-congratulation must lie some potential toward changing hearts and minds in the bureaucracies they toy with. That’s what I tell myself, looking over the program schedule (PDF), which kicks off July 10 with a private all-day Consumer/Survivor/ Peer/Expert Meeting to develop a National Consensus Statement on Trauma-Informed Care. Heaven knows it is time for that or something like it.

From the pink flower-embossed, healing brochure:

The Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) has been sponsoring conferences that have defined the agenda of what needs to be done to recognize, understand, spark, and speed the healing and recovery process from violence and trauma.

From Dare to Vision in 1994, to Dare to Act in 2004, and now Dare to Transform in 2008 we are moving closer to real action for positive and lasting change. Our Goal: Revolutionizing Human Services with Trauma-Informed Care.

Trauma-informed programs and services represent the revolutionary transformation as the “new generation” of mental health and allied human services organizations and programs that serve people with histories of violence and trauma. Trauma survivors and consumers in these programs and services are likely to have histories of physical and sexual abuse as well as other types of trauma-inducing experiences.

These adverse experiences often lead to mental health and other types of co-occurring disorders such as health issues, substance abuse, eating disorders, HIV/AIDS, and contact with the criminal justice system. Unrecognized trauma also may lead to misdiagnosis or mistreatment of consumers and survivors.

When a human service program becomes trauma-informed, every part of its organization, management, and service delivery system is assessed and potentially modified to include a basic understanding of how trauma impacts the life of the individual seeking services. Trauma-informed organizations, programs, and services are based on an understanding of the trauma survivor’s vulnerabilities, which traditional service delivery approaches may inadvertently exacerbate and, as a result, cause re-traumatization.

This shift marks the change from a place that merely
carries out services to one that becomes a safe place of healing for the people it aims to serve. It is from this place of understanding that we have come together at Dare to Transform – a starting point for revolutionizing our systems of care.

Program highlights:


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“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness — and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.” Arundhati Roy

I’m deeply perplexed by this video making the rounds. Target: Women is an amusing poke at the marketing campaigns that attempt to manipulate modern women to ingest yogurt, yes, I said yogurt.

You know what else out there deserves our similarly sarcastic cultural criticism with or without alliteration? Crickets, you say. Yup. I’ve established cordial relations with the big feminist bloggers by stepping lightly in their comment threads, but I am enervated by the taboo on smacking down the PhRMA agenda as it pertains to women. If I had the wit and the skilz of the crew at Shakesville, Feministe or Pandagon I would do more than marvel at the opportunities missed, talent gone to waste, all the beautiful heads in the sand because it’s one thing to ridicule the merchandizinig of yogurt that makes women poop but to mock the marketing of female madness? Over the line, sparky!

Yogurt is very safe, antipsychotics are not. Truly not. And that’s the point. Maybe we just need a little inspiration.

(Rolling stone insert, originally uploaded at Soulful Sepulcher.)

Still think this is not a feminist issue?

The Academy:

One explanation offered is that physicians are influenced by gender stereotyping in pharmaceutical drug advertisements. It is argued that if drug ads display disproportionately more women than men, or if they portray women only as helpless, depressed, and incompetent, cultural stereotypes are reinforced, so that physicians may be likely to diagnose and treat women differently from men in sex biased ways.

The Pitch:

Abilify is the medicine that brings you to your senses.Purchase Abilify from understanding international online pharmacies and licensed US pharmacies at savings of up to 85% off of retail and cheap prices with no prior prescription needed. Using our complete online form you can Purchase Abilify through our online foreign pharmacy. Let us fill your prescription with our lower cost online prescription drugs and receive high quality medications.

These are not anti-depressants. They’re heavy-hitter atypical neuroleptics designed to treat psychosis; the manufacturers are merely expanding their market in an unrelenting campaign against insecure, anxious nailbiting women with garden variety moodswings and subclinical neuroses.

That’s the allure, isn’t it.

Hold on Hanna, see here. This is a typical atypical patient insert (typically unread), that your doctor won’t have time to go over with you:

“ABILIFY (aripiprazole) is indicated for the treatment of


Tell your healthcare professional right away if you have any conditions or side effects, including the following:

  • An increased risk of stroke and ministroke
  • Very high fever, rigid muscles, shaking, confusion, sweating, or increased heart rate and blood pressure. These may be signs of a condition called neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS), a rare but serious side effect which could be fatal
  • Abnormal or uncontrollable movements. These may be signs of a serious condition called tardive dyskinesia (TD), which may be permanent
  • Diabetes, Increases in blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia), in some cases serious and associated with coma or death
  • Lightheadedness or faintness caused by a sudden change in heart rate and blood pressure when rising quickly .
  • Elderly patients who are treated with atypical antipsychotic medicines includingABILIFY, are at an increased risk of death when compared to patients who are treated with a placebo (sugar pill).

Medicines like ABILIFY (antipsychotics) can affect your judgment, thinking, or motor skills. You should not drive or operate hazardous machinery.

Since medicines like ABILIFY (antipsychotics) can impact your body’s ability to reduce body temperature, you should avoid overheating and dehydration.

Medicines like ABILIFY (antipsychotics) have been associated with swallowing problems (dysphagia). If you had or have swallowing problems, you should tell your healthcare professional.

If you have suicidal thoughts, you should tell your healthcare professional right away.”

Dangerous, disabling, permanent and beckoning. Inescapable really and we’re riffing on yogurt.

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Apologies to regular readers about the light posting, I spent the week running down opportunities for real life volunteer work and I have to learn about homelessness, so am back to the Internet for the goal-direction and learning tools.

I remember when getting off the streets meant you can walk into a 24 hour drop in center at 2 AM, upset, hysterical, crying, and a nice social worker would take you in and make you a sandwich. Sit next to you on the couch and listen to your problems, then give you a blanket and squeeze your shoulder and tell you it will be all right. And when you wake up on your own schedule, the social worker pours you a cup of fresh coffee, offers you a cigarette and asks how you slept. The two of you sit at the kitchen table with a telephone and rolodex, which the social worker matter-of-factly refers to as “resources”, and starts dialing numbers, flipping through the cards. Food stamps, clothing, housing, transportation, employment. There is a sense of purpose and a real clear focus. None of it on a broken brain, all of it on essential needs, a walk up Maslow’s ladder, step-by-step, nothing more and nothing less. Reality based. Problem solving. At the end of the day you have 3 appointments, you’re still sad, but you believe in the things you have to believe if you’re going to go on. People will help, problems can be solved, I don’t have to fall off the radar, I can get attention and still be safe.

Thirty years ago this was how it went for me the 3 times I had no place to go, because dignity, boundaries and empathy were built into the model. What the hell happened? There was no psychiatric assessment, no “behavioral health” component, no substance abuse checklist, no prefabricated codes of conduct. There were offerings that relate to mental health, yes, presented without emphasis, because they must have rightly understood that to go beyond offering resources, with a punitive, coercive and paternal process would add to my degradation, which has to lessen if a person is going to tap into their will, which doesn’t just pop up automatically once it’s defeated. Homelessness is defeating. The helper’s role is to inspire hope, so you can stand up, square your shoulders and go forward.

I just don’t get it. This week I’ve been talking to homeless people, because it’s cold and they’re just standing around. It’s not that they’d rather go it alone, it’s that they are meant to go it alone, to die. I know this because a few years ago you could hand your food stamps out to a homeless woman and she could walk into the store and get something to eat for herself and her child for the first time all day. Human Services went to debit cards in order to stop that practice. The message is clear, play by our rules or they can die.

The one thing that keeps me from being homeless is my house. Tis a gift to be simple, folks.

I’ve lived in my own mobile home for ten years, and the most stabilizing thing in my life is my mortgage. I’ve had one episode of major depression in the last five years, didn’t leave the house for 2 months, til the threat of losing my roof sent me to the psych clinic for the Effexor. Which I took until I got better, and discontinued after 3 months because I was allowed to, because I no longer needed to, because I am not in the system, where an un-medicated brain is seen as better off dead, according to all the latest scientific research genocidal maniacs.

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Hello and much love to every ounce of your entire being, percolating here, Ama got me thinking about doing a post on identity politics, and getting that whole canna worms out of the way, but seems to me fighting for social justice means doing identity politics, you can’t get it out of the way. Parodox! This may require serious typing but it’s probably time to try to organize my thoughts. In sum, identity politics was a good theory that in practice brings out the worst in people, centering around toxic interpersonal conflict, an unintended consequence that is so destructive folks like me want to throw it over altogether and start afresh. But that means more typing, and I’m all about the laziness, so in the spirit of the moment will leave you this old post by belledame at fetch me my ax, a creative malcontent who plays with the possibilities hidden in the bad patterns. Is this something great here or am I particularly impressionable at present?

Some fleeting thoughts on “civil” discourse

To me:

It’s not about ideology, particularly. It’s not about never swearing or never getting passionate or even never personally insulting anybody.

It’s about: can you, ever, in any circumstances, meet the other person halfway? A quarter of the way? A tenth of the way?

Are you capable of grasping nuance, even a little bit?

Can you, even partially, even grudgingly, ever admit, in any circumstances, that you were wrong? About anything?

Would you, once in a great while, be willing to put aside your overwhelming need to have the last word?

Can you concede, even ungraciously, that even a loathed enemy might have a point, if you can see that sie does?

Are you aware that conversations take place over time, that they’re about 90% about relationships, even of the most superficial sort?

Have you ever changed your mind? About anything? Do you think it’s possible you might conceivably ever change it again? About anything?

Maybe that’s not anyone else’s definition of civil discourse. But those are (among) the criteria I use to determine whether or not I’m going to continue bothering to talk to someone.

She’s defining cognitive flexibility, nice work if you can do it, not a virtue, just makes life better. What do you do when you deal with someone who can’t manage this? I drive them nuts.

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My first time, hooray, by Dr. Violet Socks. It’s that book thing going around, and I’ve been secretly wishing it would happen to me so I can pay proper homage to the one I been reading.

The rules:
1. Go to the nearest book in your reach and turn to page 123.
2. Go to the fifth sentence of the book.
3. Copy the next three sentences, then tag 3 people.

“The simple answer is that feminist therapy, in order to be genuinely feminist, and not simply dressed in metaphoric Birkenstocks, must continually trace the path back from the personal to the political, basing its interpretations and understandings on feminist political analysis and feminist strategies for action. A feminist therapist must ask herself how and if the course being taken in therapy will advance the goal of subverting patriarchy in the client’s life, even in the most minute of ways. While therapy may, and in many cases must, attend for a time to the specific and sometimes emergent individual details of a client’s life, therapy fails as feminism when the therapist does not draw, for herself and her client, the linkages between the client’s unique experience and the shared realities of others that are shaped by social and political forces.”

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThat bloodless quote is not representative of the spirit in this classic and influential text, and it might leave the impression that this is a therapy beholden more to an ideology than the client, but that couldn’t be farther off the mark.

It was a feminist therapist who opened my heart, showed me love, taught me the value of connection, gave me strength to live as a woman and made me accept that I had a right and responsibility to live, and now 22 years later I’m re-visiting her, so to speak, Diane, that genius I bawled out on a daily basis and beginning to see the light in the theory that underpinned her practice. I’ll say it’s thrilling to *see* her again, and the insights in this text are helping me all over to the point I have to pause, put the book down and putter around quietly absorbing the thoughts. I will come back to my experience of this reading, for now too bad I don’t know any bloggers well enough to tag with the meme, which is a story in itself, so will invite 3 shy readers to delurk and self-select. Come on now, don’t leave us hanging.

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