Mindfulness and the myth of mental illness: Implications for theory and practice

Hyland, Terry (2012) Mindfulness and the myth of mental illness: Implications for theory and practice. Contemporary Buddhism, 13 (2). pp. 177-192. ISSN 1476-7953

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Over the past 60 years Thomas Szasz (1960, 1961, 2008) has forcefully argued that mental illnesses are mythical since all medical diseases are located in the body and, thus, have somatic causes. This has been accompanied by a scathing and coruscating critique of the whole mental health profession-particularly, those psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists who collude in and exploit the alleged mythology of counterfeit mental disorders and often (unwittingly or deliberately) justify coercion, oppression and pharmacological manipulation of so-called 'mental patients' in the name of 'treatments'. Since mindfulness practitioners-perhaps especially teachers of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction and related programmes-may, by association, be partially implicated in Szasz's allegations, this article seeks to explore and examine the implications for theory and practice in the field. It will be suggested that the strong foundational, theoretical, research and teaching bases of mindfulness-based interventions offer practitioners a solid defence against the general critique offered by Szasz, and more specific challenges advanced by critics such as Boysen (2007) and Whitaker (2010). However, there may still be potential pitfalls for those mindfulness-based interventions which are too closely allied to the psychiatric/pscychotheraputic establishment, and some suggestions for avoiding such obstacles will be offered through recommendations for maintaining connections between mindfulness and its Buddhist origins.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an electronic version of the article published in Contemporary Buddhism, 2012, 13(2). Contemporary Buddhism is available online at Taylor & Francis Online at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14639947.2012.716705.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Szasz, myth of mental illness, MBCT, neuroscience, mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs), Buddhist origins of mindfulness
Divisions: School of Education and Psychology > Education
Depositing User: Scott Wilson
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2013 12:53
Last Modified: 15 Apr 2016 11:11
Identification Number: 10.1080/14639947.2012.716705
URI: http://ubir.bolton.ac.uk/id/eprint/591

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