By Jo Watson (ed)
PCCS Books, £21.99
Reviewed by: Caz Binstead
Drop the Disorder book cover

‘Drop the Disorder!’ is a groundbreaking book released in 2019, and compiled/edited by Jo Watson – a pioneer already in the field as the creator of the events, ‘A Disorder for Everyone!’ (and group of the same name), plus the campaign group ‘Mad in The UK’.

The diversity of contribution within the various chapters, makes the book an extremely interesting read – ranging from professionals drawing on their years of experience and knowledge, such as the likes of veteran therapist Pete Sanders (Chapter 2), to the hugely touching experiential account from a user of services, as that given by Dolly Sen (Chapter 4). The common thread that brings all the authors together, is the challenge put against the status quo practice of psychiatric diagnosis. And, an extremely convincing argument is made across the board; drawing on both deeply personal accounts and critical analysis, the whole theory of the medicalisation of psychological distress is thrown into question.

In some ways, this book felt very simple – by that I mean, extremely accessible, with a great degree of clarity for the reader. The message of the book is for me, summed up perfectly in the foreword by Paula Caplan, who herself had originally served on committees preparing the way for DSM IV (and subsequently resigned in protest): ‘What do we call emotional suffering and other problems if we are not going to give them psychiatric labels? The answer to that is easy. We listen to what people have to tell us, and how we apply to their feelings, conflicts and dilemmas the kinds of words that people used before psychiatric labels were created; words the poets and novelists….have used; words like grief, fear, shame, guilt, loneliness, alienation and anguish’ (xiii).

In Chapter 5, ‘Problems in Living: an existential perspective’ Emmy Van Deurzen presents a humble and open account of elements of her 45 years involvement in mental health. She explains vividly how she found her early experiences on different wards in a French psychiatric hospital; describing her growing internal conflicts with traditional psychiatric methods, and recounting her desire to speak to, listen to, and understand, people’s experiences through the prism of what it is to exist as a human being. Her assertion that by simply listening to people and accepting them, she learnt the invaluable lessons which helped shape her as the existential therapist she is today, is, given her reputation, an inspiring read to both new and experienced therapists.

Although this is a book that could be ‘dipped in and out of’, the quality of the contributions overall are very good, and constructed in a variety of different and unique ways – I would definitely recommend anyone interested in this subject to read cover to cover.

Overall, ‘Drop The Disorder!’ Is an absolute triumph of a book!

Caz Binstead is an Integrative therapist and supervisor. She also sits as a Divisional Executive (Private Practice) at the BACP.

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