According to The New York Times,
“Of all medical specialties, psychiatrists are the least religious, a survey has found, and the most religious doctors are the least likely to refer their patients to psychiatrists.”1
But an article by Rob Whitley, of Dartmouth Psychiatric Center, suggests that perhaps psychiatry is a religion unto itself.
Dr. Whitley makes the following observations under a section labeled “Psychiatric Proselytization:”
“Mainstream religions have often demarcated the populace into two neatly distinct categories that could be crudely labeled as believers and non-believers. Much effort was expanded on ensuring that believers are kept within the fold while non-believers are recruited into the faith’s welcoming arms. This involved mission work at home and abroad.
Dr. Whitley continues:
“It could be argued that psychiatry and clinical psychology are characterized by a somewhat similar Manichean [A dualistic philosophy that divided the world into essentially good and essentially evil –definition from the Web] attitude, as both endeavors involve large amounts of ‘outreach’ work to people not currently encompassed within its loving embrace. Like religious mission, this occurs at home and abroad. This is often conceptualized in the language of ‘untreated illness’ or ‘unmet need’. Large campaigns are organized to make people aware that they or their loved ones may need to consult psychiatrists. Literature is distributed, advertisements are put in the media, and seminars are held. People may even be contacted unannounced and asked to discuss psychiatry, in the same manner that some of the oft-ridiculed religious missionaries will ‘doorstep’ people to discuss matters theological. These efforts often attempt to persuade the uninitiated heathen to believe in the central doctrines of psychiatry.”2
What about a religious text, akin to the Bible?
Oh yes, psychiatry has a couple of those. Here is more from Whitley’s article:
“… these are DSM-IV17and ICD-10, specifically the mental and behavioral disorders section V.18 These texts, in existence for decades, guide both psychiatrists, and to a lesser extent the lay public, in thought and deed. Like more overtly religious texts, these are organized into chapter and verse (i.e. codes) that can be quoted and debated between professionals and interested public. “
And does psychiatry engage in any ritualistic practice, akin to weekly church-going or communion in the Catholic church?
Dr. Whitley finds a parallel there as well.
“… As religious leaders en- courage weekly visits to their house of worship, some psychiatrists and psychologists encourage weekly visits from their patients. Therein, patients are expected to reveal intimate details of their day-to-day life to the clinician. The clinician may refer to their text or training to dispense advice that may be behavioral and/or moral in nature.
“… For example, Christian ministers may advise a supplicant to engage in Holy Communion. In theological terms, this is a transformative experience that involves the sacred consumption of a small white host, in whose substance God is deemed to be (symbolically or literally) present. Psychiatrists may advise their patients to engage in another somewhat ritualistic behaviour, that is the consumption of a small white tablet in whose substance efficacious agents of change are deemed to be present.”
Do you think Rob Whitley is onto something? Since the separation of Church and State is generally an agreed upon concept, perhaps the religion of psychiatry should be immediately removed from our schools, our government and our daily lives.