RC Policy and Psychiatric Drugs

Janet Foner - International Liberation Reference Person for “Mental Health” Liberation

Psychiatric drug use has become widespread worldwide. The “mental health” system, under pressure from the pharmaceutical industries, has come to rely increasingly on psychiatric drugs to treat what it calls “mental illness.” Most people seeking counseling can expect to have drugs recommended to them. Not surprisingly, an increasing number of these people are applying for RC fundamentals classes or are taking psychiatric drugs after they begin RC. My hope is that all RC teachers will be able to think well about these individuals.

An RC policy on psychiatric drugs was adopted at the 1997 World Conference of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities and was strengthened at the 2001 and 2005 World Conferences. Since then, increasing work has been done on the topic. More people are contacting me and asking how to help people get off psychiatric drugs. “Mental health” system survivors in RC classes are finding that they can now talk about the drugs they are taking and can set things up so that they can stop taking them—rather than feeling like they can’t bring up the subject.

Here are the questions I am most often asked:

1) How do you think about whether or not to accept into an RC class someone who is taking psychiatric drugs?

2) What are the best ways to counsel people who are taking psychiatric drugs?

3) How do you decide if you, as a Co-Counselor or RC teacher, want to help someone get off psychiatric drugs?

4) How do you help people consider and discharge about getting off psychiatric drugs?

5) What are things to think and Co-Counsel about when trying to help someone get off psychiatric drugs?

6) What are things to think about in teaching a class in which someone is on psychiatric drugs or is coming off them?

Here are my answers:

1) How do you think about whether or not to accept into an RC class someone who is taking psychiatric drugs?

When someone who is taking psychiatric drugs asks to be in an RC class, the teacher should apply to that person the same criteria that he or she would apply to anyone wanting to be in the class. He or she should assess the person’s ability to learn the basics of Co-Counseling, to counsel someone else, to participate in a Co-Counseling group without disrupting it, and to function as a Co-Counselor within a relatively short period of time. Other criteria would include the person agreeing to have Co-Counseling sessions outside of class each week, to read the assigned literature, to follow the no-socializing policy,1 and to not use alcohol or “street drugs” at least twenty-four to forty-eight hours before a class or a Co-Counseling session.

The teacher should neither exclude someone solely because he or she is taking psychiatric drugs nor take someone into the class in order to “save” him or her. (The latter is especially relevant if the teacher has a “helping” pattern.) The RC Community is not set up for people who are barely surviving. I always do a mini-session with a potential class member to find out if he or she can give good attention. I also ask people whether they use alcohol, cigarettes, or any drugs that affect mental processes and explain that these substances affect discharge and re-evaluation and the ability to participate in class and counsel others.

Prospective class members who are taking psychiatric drugs need to be informed of the RC policy on psychiatric drugs, including “that a decision to stop using psychiatric drugs can only be made by the person using them.” (See the Guidelines for the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities.) The teacher should make clear that, in general, people are not excluded from RC classes for being on psychiatric drugs but that their drug use will limit the benefit they receive from RC and that if they continue participating in RC beyond the beginning classes, they will be encouraged to get off the drugs in order to discharge the hurts that the drugs have been holding in place.

Prospective students should also know that our experience in RC with discharge and re-evaluation has led us to the conclusion that “mental illness” does not exist; that the struggles and “symptoms” the “mental health” system calls “mental illness” are caused by distress recordings (and/or, rarely, by physical damage to the brain, which is usually treated by neurologists, not psychiatrists); that distress recordings can be completely discharged; and that psychiatric drugs may mask the “symptoms” caused by distress recordings, do not address the underlying distresses, and interfere with the discharge and re-evaluation process. I tell people that psychiatric drugs reduce the benefits received from participating in an RC class; that their use is inconsistent with RC theory and practice; and that in RC, rather than drugs we encourage full use of the discharge process.

A teacher who accepts someone on psychiatric drugs into his or her RC fundamentals class is not obligated to organize the resource that person needs to be able to quit taking the drugs (if that person decides to do so). However, the teacher does need to keep holding out to the person the expectation that he or she will get off the drugs. (Otherwise the person will experience RC only on a superficial level and not be helped to actually re-emerge from his or her distresses.)

2) What are the best ways to counsel people who are taking psychiatric drugs?

Our experience in RC is that taking psychiatric drugs interferes with the discharge and re-evaluation process. However, people taking psychiatric drugs can discharge and do seem to re-evaluate some, and Co-Counseling sessions will be useful to them.

To be good counselors for people on psychiatric drugs, Co-Counselors need to discharge on their own “mental health” experiences (including experiences with, or times they heard about, “mental patients,” relatives in the “mental health” system, therapy, and so on), any drugs they have taken (including prescription drugs, anesthesia, and “street” drugs, as well as psychiatric drugs), and the RC policy on psychiatric drugs.

Re-evaluation Counseling teachers need to learn about “mental health” oppression and explain it to their class. The class as a whole needs to discharge on “normality” and on trying to be “normal.” Recovery and Re-emergence (the RC journal about “mental health” liberation) and the pamphlet What’s Wrong with the “Mental Health” System and What Can Be Done About It are good resources. Sometimes just a few sessions along with information about “mental health” oppression and psychiatric drugs are enough for a person to decide to stop taking drugs.

From the beginning, the person who is taking psychiatric drugs needs encouragement to get her or his attention onto present time. Confidence in the person is crucial. Not considering him or her “less than” or “damaged” is also important. Urgency is not helpful; a relaxed attitude is. Counselors should not be put off2 if the person shows heavy distresses. They need to be clear that it is possible to discharge any distress.

3) How do you decide if you, as a Co-Counselor or RC teacher, want to help someone get off psychiatric drugs?

Some RCers and RC Communities may not have the resources needed to handle a particular person’s struggles in getting off drugs. The person’s Area Reference Person and RC teacher should be consulted as to whether or not the project should be taken on.3 (Of course, an individual RCer can always decide to put his or her resource wherever he or she chooses.)

Re-evaluation Counseling teachers need to decide whether it makes sense for someone to try to get off drugs while in their class. They have to decide how much resource they are willing to put into the effort and whether or not they will be able to see the person through the process.

Are the other class members ready to help? Do they want to be a resource for this? People have the best chance of getting off drugs when they have built solid RC relationships and have access to people who are personally committed to them, and who have some sense of what it will be like for them as they’re getting off the drugs.

It is not a good idea to quit taking drugs “cold turkey”4 in order to attend an RC workshop. Because workshops tend to bring up extra feelings (due to the additional resource, and time for sessions), a person attending a workshop shouldn’t be struggling with having just gotten off drugs, and the leader of the workshop shouldn’t be expected to handle that person feeling a larger than usual amount of distress.

Counselors for someone getting off psychiatric drugs should be committed to that person’s re-emergence and should decide, and let the person know, what kind of time commitment they can make. Getting off drugs may be difficult for some people. For others it may not be so difficult. I know at least twenty people who in the last few years have gotten off psychiatric drugs by gradually decreasing them over six months’ to a year’s time, with lots of Co-Counseling sessions. Some of them are now leading on this topic. Some people, in and out of RC, have simply stopped.

People quitting drugs may benefit from one-way counseling for a period of time (either because they are temporarily unable to return the counseling or because they need so many sessions that one-way counseling temporarily makes sense). We are primarily Co-Counselors, and people needing attention beyond regular Co-Counseling sessions and classes need to organize the extra attention for themselves. Many of us can benefit from additional attention for a period of time, and people with whom we have relationships are often eager to lend us a hand.5 However, no Co-Counselor is required to give one-way counseling, and anyone involved in it will need to discharge on providing (or receiving) it so that his or her relationships stay clear of restimulations.

A recipient of one-way time should be encouraged to begin giving time back as soon as possible. (He or she can start with giving back ten minutes after receiving a half hour, or some other unequal arrangement.) This is important, even if the person cannot give very good attention, in order to contradict the heavy dependency patterns often created by involvement in the “mental health” system. Nothing pulls a person’s attention out like giving attention to someone else, and few other activities lead to as clear a sense of being powerful, in charge, and a good, capable person.

4) How do you help people consider and discharge about getting off psychiatric drugs?

Discuss with them the RC policy on psychiatric drugs. Do this in a Co-Counseling session so that they can fully question and discharge about it. Acknowledge their struggles and that taking drugs has been the best they could do in their situation. Hold out that they can be free of the drugs and live a full, good life by discharging and re-evaluating. Assure them that their minds are intact and able to function well without drugs. Inform them that the drugs cause harm to the mind and interfere with mental processes, including discharge and re-evaluation. Remind them that the drugs are not healing past hurts but only suppressing the feelings, and that past traumatic events can be looked at, discharged on, and fully recovered from.

Help them to accurately assess the resources (inside and outside of RC) that will be available to assist them as they quit taking drugs. They may need to build relationships and get a support structure in place before they try to quit. Many people who take drugs do have the resources to quit, and you, as their counselor, can ask them to look at the possibility of quitting and then to discharge their feelings as they struggle to make a decision. You may need to hold out for them, over an extended period of time, the possibility of quitting.

How difficult it is for people to decide to quit depends on them, their relationship to RC and the RC Community, their relationship to the “mental health” system, and the amount and type of drugs they are taking. Again, although people do not discharge and re-evaluate nearly as well on psychiatric drugs as they do off of them, some people have discharged and re-evaluated enough while on drugs to be able to make the decision to quit.

5) What are things to do, and think and Co-Counsel about, when trying to help someone get off psychiatric drugs?

People quitting drugs should discharge enough to make their own firm decision to get off them. If they don’t, they may not be able to resist fiercely enough the pull to get back on them. It has to be their decision, not someone else’s. People often need many sessions on deciding to get off drugs before they can actually make the decision for real. Some may have to struggle to quit over a considerable period of time, and their remembering that they have made a firm decision to stop will be important.

Before beginning the project, set up a support team for yourself and the other counselors involved. Then assist the person getting off drugs to set up his or her own support team (with a different group of people).

Contradict and help the person discharge any fears that may be keeping him or her from deciding to get off the drugs, such as fear that the old distress will be “too overwhelming.” Early fears, showing now as fear of stopping the drugs, are often what led the person to take the drugs in the first place.

You could ask, “What will you have to face and discharge in order to stop taking drugs permanently?” and/or, “What happened before and during the time you started taking the drugs?” A useful direction: “ I decide to stop taking psychiatric drugs, and this means . . .” If the person used street drugs and/or alcohol prior to the psychiatric drugs, it would be useful for him or her to discharge about that, too.

As a counselor, develop a light, completely present attitude by thoroughly discharging on “mental health” oppression,” “mental illness,” and so on. Be friendly, kind, and open, not moralistic or tense, and be firm against the patterns (not against the person). Acquire and communicate the perspective that drugs are not useful and that using RC fully can free people from the hurts that led them to take the drugs (or that put them in the position of being forced to take them). Remind the person that drugs are used as a substitute for the attention people need and that with attention people can discharge any distress.

Discharge anything in the way of being able to show hopefulness and confidence that the person will be able to stop taking the drugs. Being hopeful is a great contradiction to the misinformation in the wide world. Because of that misinformation, many people feel terrified that someone will “go crazy” once he or she gets off psychiatric drugs, that doctors know best and therefore shouldn’t be questioned about what they have prescribed, that RCers can’t provide the resource needed to handle heavy distresses, and so on. These feelings are just fears and can be discharged. However, this does not mean that everyone in RC is prepared to help someone get off drugs.

People getting off psychiatric drugs (as well as their counselors) need to consistently work on getting and staying in present time. (See Recovery and Re-emergence No. 5, page 36, for my suggestions for doing this.) They should be aware that feelings will come up (often a lot of them) and that they will need to keep deciding to continue the project in the face of the many fearful feelings, and keep having lots of sessions. People getting off drugs should discharge as much as possible with attention on reality rather than on the distressed feelings, especially when discharging on “heavy” material.6 (They will need many sessions on the big distresses underlying the drug use and/or their entry into the “mental health” system.)

People getting off drugs sometimes get stuck in “heavy” recordings and have trouble keeping their attention out between sessions. They may need to postpone working on early distresses until they can consistently keep their attention out. In fact, getting attention out may need to be the primary focus of their sessions for a while.

It helps if the family and friends of the person getting off drugs can learn at least a little RC and cooperate in the effort. An RC ally could offer to meet with them—to answer their questions about RC, teach them some RC, and listen to their fears and concerns.

If a person who is taking psychiatric drugs completes fundamentals and wishes to be part of an ongoing class, the teacher needs to consider whether that person is committed to using RC long-term (this criteria should be applied to anyone wanting to be in an ongoing class) and whether he or she can consider eventually getting off the drugs. The person should understand that in RC we challenge and discharge on all behavior that is based in distress, including the taking of psychiatric drugs, and that he or she will be asked to discharge about quitting the drugs.

6) What are things to think about in teaching a class in which someone is on psychiatric drugs or is coming off them?

RC teachers who have someone on psychiatric drugs in their class should teach a class (or several classes) on “mental health” liberation (suggestions for doing so are on page 80 of Recovery and Re-emergence No. 5). They could try light ways of getting people discharging on the topic: skits, random unpleasant memories of drugs, “surveys” of drugs people have taken, and so on. The class needs to read and discharge on the RC policy on psychiatric drugs found in the current Guidelines for the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities.

RC teachers need to get close to the person who is on drugs, show awareness of “mental health” issues, and be flexible rather than rigid in regard to the drugs.

Teachers should learn and teach about psychiatric drugs. Here are some key points:

  • Besides suppressing discharge and re-evaluation, recent research has shown that psychiatric drugs may cause damage to the brain. (Tardive dyskinesia, a motor disease, can be caused by neuroleptic drugs such as Thorazine, Haldol, and Seroquel. The longer these drugs are taken, the more likely it is they will cause tardive dyskinesia, which has no known cure.)

Many psychiatric drugs, such as anti-depressants, are highly addictive and therefore hard to stop taking. Psychiatric drugs can also cause difficulty in thinking, slowed-down motor responses, drowsiness, weight gain, heart conditions, diabetes, and many other physical difficulties.

  • The medical system promotes drugs as “the answer.” Non-drug treatment, such as talk therapy, is hard to access in the “mental health” system because drugs have been promoted as the only “viable” treatment. Some “mental health” workers have had their licenses challenged because they have not given out psychiatric drugs. Family doctors are increasingly prescribing psychiatric drugs, and they are routinely given to cancer patients and to people who are about to have surgery.
  • The drug industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry, and in the United States there is no limit to the amount of money drug companies can make. They are among the biggest, richest corporations in the world. Psychiatric drugs shut off discharge and re-evaluation and thereby deplete people’s resources for recovering from emotional hurts. The more the drugs are used, the more damage is done and the more people’s problems are exacerbated. There is an expanding market for the drugs because many of the problems they cause are regarded as “mental illness,” requiring more drugs.
  • Because producing and selling psychiatric drugs is extremely profitable, they are being used in many places that were not formerly considered part of the “mental health” system—such as nursing homes, family medicine clinics, schools, preschools, and within the adoption and foster-care system. “Mental health” oppression is thus increasingly pervasive. Advanced capitalism puts more and more pressure on people to perform its tasks. The pressure to function on the job and keep working makes it virtually impossible for people to get extra attention by staying home and being cared for there.
  • People of color (in the United States especially African-heritage people in inner cities and Native American people on reservations and in schools) are particularly targeted by promoters of psychiatric drugs. Psychiatric drugs are frequently given to elderly people in nursing homes, to control them. The drug industry has most recently been targeting children—taking advantage of their parents’ worries and concerns. Young students are increasingly coerced into taking psychiatric drugs. And non-Western countries are becoming the next market.

You can read about RCers’ experiences with psychiatric drugs and getting off them in Recovery and Re-emergence numbers 4, 5, and 6 and in Present Time, particularly in the last five years.

As we work to stop the use of psychiatric drugs and to combat “mental health” oppression, we will spread awareness about the importance of discharge and create opportunities for it to be more widely accepted and used.

Reprinted from the
October 2007 Present Time

1 The no-socializing policy of the RC Communities states that Co-Counselors should not set up any relationships, other than Co-Counseling, with other Co-Counselors or with people whom they first meet in a Co-Counseling context.
2 Put off means repelled.
3 Taken on means undertaken.
4 “Cold turkey” means suddenly and completely.
5 Lend us a hand means give us some help.
6 Material means distress.

Last modified: 2023-04-15 09:24:12+00