Studio Nine: The Sleep Room

Studio Nine: The Sleep Room

The ninth studio continues a series that focuses on different media-based images of psychotherapy. This studio addresses the assumption that mental health treatment can somehow become high destructive and ultimately inhumane. Those providing these services can be labeled “Dr. Evi” (rather than “Dr. Wonderful or “Dr. Dippy” which are the other two assumptions we will have explored in the ninth studio (Dr. Wonderful) and will explore in the studios to be scheduled later in 2022 (Dr. Dippy). We asked participants to watch the disturbing movie, “The Sleep Room” which is based on the real-life Cameron experiments conducted at the Allen Institute in Montreal Canda. . This is an archetypal portrayal of Dr. Evil. Here is a video recording of the last 15 minutes of this studio, when participants reflected on the implications of this movie for the mental health community. It is a movie that focuses not on the pathology of the patients but rather on the pathology of the mental health system. .

Several questions and comments were offered in preparation for this studio.

1. To what extent does this movie demonstrate that the quest for Status (such as occurred with Dr. Cameron) can impair clinical judgement?

2. Dr. Cameron was frustrated that he couldn’t get “results” using traditional methods. A couple of questions occur to me. First, how do you define “results”? The framing of the issue and the criteria may be more important than the actual procedure itself. Second, does frustration itself impact clinical judgement: “Heal Damned you!!!”

3. Dr. Cameron might be viewed himself as an “innovator” — yet he is still trapped in a traditional medical model. The so-called “smashed rat” model comes from biological education: in a biology class we carve up a rat (or more often a frog) and examine each of its part (this is central to the so-called “Analytic” tradition in biology). However, at the end of the day, all we have is a “smashed” rat (or frog). We can’t bring it back to life. It seems that “life” is something more than just an assembly of parts (as is the case with a machine). Dr. Camerson (like other traditional physicians) assumed that all you have to do is replace one part of the human being and it won’t impact any other part. You remove the “diseased” entity–and all will return to “normal.” In his case, the “mind” of his patients was “removed” (brain washed) and what was left was a “smashed human being.”

4, How does a family “know” (determine) if their family member is getting appropriate and healing treatment? Cameron declared “family interference.” When is it not only appropriate but critical that a family “discern” and intervene to cease inappropriate treatment? Where is mental health advocacy to be found?

5. Dr. Cameron seems to be offering “obsessive caring” — a grandiosity that is matched by the patient’s dependency. (Sadly, this dependency and perhaps the grandiosity is common in the “modern” medical hospitals of the late 20th Century). Cameron was the ultimate demonstration of and was pushing the medical model.

6. What happens when one is confronted with invalidating information? Dr. Cameron chose to escape from the current situation when confronted with dissonance.

7. Subsequent to Cameron’s abandonment of an incomplete and destructive treatment plan, the patients were left in a state of high vulnerability. They were “killed inside.”

8. There was strong sense of community among the patients — that often lingered after Cameron’s abandonment. How do we use the community within the mental hospital to serve as a source of healing? Fairweather’s Palo Alto model.

9. What’s the price for losing your mind? How much is a mind worth?

James Sherer Comments

The following comments were offered by James following the studio session:

Dr.Cameron: If he was rational, how then do rational people, who we think, or assume are smart and intelligent enough make such horrific decisions?

If highly prestigious, intelligent people cause abuse why would we assume Government Agencies, or Professional Organizations made up of said such people would be able to see abuse? Would they see abuse as important honorable scientific work not evil? The history of Psychology is tainted by many such therapies and attempts at therapy which were seen as having positive results and recognized, licensed and promoted at the time by the Professional Organizations which were later categorically dismissed and demonized (Mostly). This leads inexorably, given this is part of the history of this profession, to the conclusion; why would anybody be surprised by Dr. Cameron? To which I say, ” there but for the grace of God go I.”

A second thought is about finding therapies for war veterans and PTSD. I cannot help but think the combination of the Department of Defense, The American Psychological Society and I assume Pharmaceutical companies combining to find hallucinogenics to relieve veteran’s PTSD symptoms is already throwing up red flags. These organizations are culpable for making horrible decisions in regards to their service men, clients, or patients. None of these organizations has really ever been held to account for these decisions and now they are going to bring a workable therapy to a vulnerable, disillusioned and desperate population? Sounds like the people in Dr. Cameron’s therapy, huh.

Obviously this is not isolated to psychology as we watch world events. I wonder what are, assuming rational intelligent people, they thinking and why are they thinking in this manner? And why are institutions, professional bureaucrats, diplomats and politicians who have made horrible decisions previously, now positively viewed and upheld as experts, allowed to continue to make current decisions. It is almost like the Canadian Psychological community hearing of Dr. Cameron, experiments and agreeing “Yes, yes they were bad, evil even, but we learned you cannot erase the human mind and reprogram it, which is a good thing so we want Dr. Cameron to be the president of our professional organization.

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About the Author

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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