Putting Things in Context: Response-Based Approaches to “Mental Health Issues” in Psychotherapy

Will Bratt & Laura Brown

     Since their inceptions, the fields of psychology and psychiatry have sought to medicalize human suffering.  This has resulted in industries that depend upon practices that decontextualize and pathologize individuals’ expressions of emotional pain, locating the reasons for their distress within their own minds, brains, and genes.  Theoretical orientations and theories of change that promote these perspectives ultimately serve the status quo, empowering those in positions of privilege and power (such as therapists, doctors, and the medical and pharmaceutical industries), while suppressing and obscuring the knowledge and authority held by those experiencing and expressing emotional, psychological, and spiritual pain.  Within these paradigms, clients are positioned as beholden to professionals to provide explanations and treat their so-called symptoms.

     In this workshop, Will Bratt and Laura Brown will invite participants to collectively explore how response-based principles can be used to put so-called “mental health issues” in context, thereby helping people feel "sane" and that their feelings and behaviour make sense within their particular context. They will critique the practice of medicalizing and problematizing clients’ responses to difficult or oppressive circumstances through constructs like “depression”, “anxiety”, and “low self-esteem”.  They will share their own practical ways of honouring clients’ resistance, validating their responses, and putting things back in context.  Participants will be invited to share their own ways of applying response-based ideas in therapeutic contexts.