book review: Reclaiming Our Children by Peter Breggin
Book Review

Reclaiming Our Children:
A Healing Solution for a Nation in Crisis

(Perseus Books, Cambridge, Mass., 2000)

by Peter R. Breggin, M.D.

reviewed by Douglas A. Smith

      Reclaiming Our Children is a truly wonderful book about how biological psychiatry is harming children - and adults.  It is about reclaiming our children from biological psychiatry and the pseudo-experts who prescribe mind-altering drugs for young people.  It is also about doing our jobs as parents properly and wisely.  In narratives of several of Dr. Breggin's counseling or psychotherapy sessions (he uses "counseling" and "therapy" interchangeably), he shows that young people's objectionable behavior attributed by advocates of biological psychiatry to "chemical imbalances" or other abnormality of the brain are actually caused by the way they have been treated, or mistreated, by their parents or others.  He shows how he has saved children and adolescents brought to him from the administration of psychiatric drugs or a lifetime of psychiatric stigma caused by psychiatric hospitalization by identifying the real problems, which are psychological rather than biological, and persuading parents to change the way they relate to their children.  By giving the reader an understanding of children's thinking, he illustrates the stupidity of the underlying assumption of biological psychiatry, namely, that children's (and adult's) problems are caused by abnormalities of their brains, which in turn, to the ignorant, justifies the use of psychiatric drugs.
      I've said for years the reason people look for biological explanations for psychological problems is they don't understand the problem from a psychological standpoint. Once you understand behavior or emotions from a psychological standpoint, the erroneousness of the biological theories become obvious.  For example, you might assume children who become murderers do so because they have too much of a particular chemical in their brains (that could have been corrected by a psychiatric drug) before you learn they were bullied, humiliated, and ostracized by those who became their targets.
      Dr. Breggin's narratives of his counseling sessions with children and their parents brought tears to my eyes again and again.  I felt overwhelmed with sorrow by the foolishness of parents and the harm inflicted on children (and adults) by the rise of biological psychiatry.  Part of the reason for my reaction is Dr. Breggin's examples caused me to recall my own parents' overbearing stupidity and cocksure ignorance and my own victimization by psychiatry when my parents, out of not just stupidity but also lack of respect for my rights as a human being, had me involuntarily committed to the psychiatric ward of a hospital because of my refusal to participate in useless outpatient "psychotherapy" I'd tried before and found to have no value - this being their only way to force me into "therapy" they thought would be helpful.  I cried also because of two particularly charming children I know, 9 and 11 years of age, both of whom stole my heart, who, according to a neighbor or a member of their family, were later given drugs such as Ritalin or Dexadrine because of their boundless energy and exuberance.  These weren't bad children but, on the contrary, were children who I found so charming I wished they were mine.  Yet their parents drugged them to make them more docile and easier to manage.  Dr. Breggin is right when he says it is often the best and brightest children who become victims of biological psychiatry.
      The world would be a safer place for children if everyone were to read this book.

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