Camille Robcis is a Professor of History and French at Columbia University. She is the author of two books, The Law of Kinship: Anthropology, Psychoanalysis, and the Family in France, and her more recent book from 2021, Disalienation: Politics, Philosophy and Radical Psychiatry in Postwar France. Her areas of interest and expertise include European Intellectual History, with a focus on 19th and 20th Century France.

In her latest book, Disalienation, Dr. Robcis explores the highly experimental mid to late 20th Century French psychiatric efforts that, while sharing some similarities with other anti-psychiatric movements of that time, offer many novel insights into forms of psychiatry and psychotherapy that prioritize community and liberation.

Dr. Robcis offers a comprehensive account of the distinct approach to radical psychiatry known as Institutional Psychotherapy. In this interview, I had the opportunity to delve deeper into Dr. Robcis’s interest in this approach and gain insight into what sets Institutional Psychotherapy apart as a groundbreaking form of radical psychiatry within its broader European and French context.

The transcript below has been edited for length and clarity. Listen to the audio of the interview here.

Micah Ingle: Across both of your books, you have a strong interest in French politics, psychoanalysis, psychiatry, and how these things connect. Could you explain what drew you to these interests?

Camille Robcis: I was trained in Intellectual History. The goal of intellectual history is to think about the relationship between texts and their contexts. Usually, historians often read texts symptomatically, as a symptom of their contexts, and often literary critics or theorists don’t address the context at all, sort of focused on the formal quality of the text.

I think Intellectual History is, in some ways, the best of both worlds because you try to read philosophical, theoretical, and psychoanalytic texts closely but also relate them to the various contexts in which they were produced. So, both of my books really take on this approach.

I have been interested in psychoanalysis for a long time. When I was an undergraduate at Brown, I worked with someone called Carolyn Dean, who wrote about [Jacques] Lacan. That’s where I discovered it. And then, in graduate school at Cornell, I worked with Dominick LaCapra—both were historians, and they had turned to psychoanalysis to think through historical questions. They were also interested in the history of psychoanalysis as such.

My first book, which came out of my dissertation, the Law of Kinship, was my attempt to wrestle with Lacanian theory. In that book, I was interested in how the works of Claude Lévi-Strauss, the anthropologist, and Jacques Lacan, the psychoanalyst, were being used in legal and political fields in France.

This might sound surprising at first, but I was writing this during the early 2000s when there was this big controversy in France around same-sex unions called the PACS. Various experts were asked to intervene in these debates, as the French usually have a lot of cultivated experts intervening in these things.

They started to invoke all these very difficult notions by Lévi-Strauss and Lacan—things like the incest prohibition, the law, the symbolic order, castration—to argue that if gay unions were recognized by the law, the prohibition of incest would fall apart, or that if children grew up with same-sex parents, they were more likely to be psychotic because they would be missing the name of the Father. So, a literalization of certain Lacanian and Lévi-Straussian ideas.

I was interested in reading these authors and understanding what these concepts meant, what these authors said about them in their work, but also how they had traveled from academic circles to politics.

It’s in the context of this first book that I heard about Institutional Psychotherapy because one of the chapters of the book was focused on critiques of what I call the structuralist social contract of Lévi-Strauss and Lacan, specifically the ways in which their structuralist theories are really anchored on sexual difference.

Some of the authors that criticize this model were Deleuze and Guattari in Anti-Oedipus as well as some feminists that I write about, like Luce Irigaray. It was in the context of writing the chapter on Anti-Oedipus that I first heard about La Borde [the French psychiatric clinic]. That took me to Saint-Alban, and then that took me to Tosquelles, and this is basically how Disalienation began.

I thought Disalienation was just going to be a small chapter on Anti-Oedipus, and then I happened to be in Barcelona and wondered if this case has any archives. That’s how I discovered the POUM [Party of Marxist Unification] organization, the Leftist organization where Tosquelles was active in his youth.

Then I traveled to Reus, which was the first hospital where Tosquelles began his medical career. Eventually, a few years after, I went to La Borde, to Saint-Alban, and to the various hospitals that I mentioned in the book.

I was influenced by having access to the archives of these hospitals, but more importantly, getting a feel for the place, especially at La Borde, which was still a clinic with psychotic patients. Having lunch with them, hanging out, and really living there was important for how I ended up thinking about this project.


Ingle: Your book, Disalienation: Politics, Philosophy, and Radical Psychiatry in Postwar France, gives a comprehensive overview of radical psychiatric currents of thought and practice going on at the time. You cover figures associated with Institutional Psychotherapy: Frantz Fanon, Félix Guattari, François Tosquelles, Jean Oury, and Jacques Lacan.
First, why the name Institutional Psychotherapy?

Robcis:  They go through different names. Institutional Psychotherapy is the one that was most common, but in the work of Fanon, it was socialthérapie. Institutional Psychotherapy was premised on the analysis of or the study of institutions, meaning hospitals, but also schools, political parties, unions, and families even. The idea here was that institutions were very important vectors for alienation. They were part of why people felt unhappy, but they could also help to cure this alienation if they were rethought and treated with care.

There are both theoretical and practical assumptions that go behind this movement. Theoretically, the psychiatrists who developed Institutional Psychotherapy believed that madness or psychosis was always psychic and social at the same time. They played on this idea, especially of the French term, aliéné, alienated—which means mad but also estranged, foreign, and removed.

They were psychiatrists trained in medicine, but they all thought that it was absurd to try to locate madness in the brain. But it was also absurd to pretend that madness was simply a kind of angry reaction against the social and cultural forces that drive a society to deny its medical specificity.

So, the challenge of Institutional Psychotherapy was really to hold both sides at once, to take into account the medical/neurological aspect of madness, but to also really think about the social, cultural, and familial causes or origins that helped to shape a particular illness. This is where psychoanalysis came in because they all read a lot of Freud.

Very quickly, they also move to Lacan, especially the early 1930s Lacan. For Freud and Lacan, the subject is always a subject that is formed by conscious and unconscious relationships with other people. You could say that the social is really at the heart of the subjective for a kind of Freudian psychoanalytic framework. The subject is always surrounded by people and formed and shaped by these people.

For Institutional Psychotherapy, it wasn’t just that psychiatry needed to include psychoanalysis and its treatment, but rather that psychiatry needed to anchor itself in a Freudian understanding of the subject and of the unconscious. That’s why they spent so much time thinking with psychoanalysis, about psychoanalysis, at the same time as they were practicing doctors.

This leads me to your question on disalienation. If alienation was always psychic and social at once, then disalienation needed to proceed on these two levels. This is why Tosquelles called Marx and Freud the two legs of Institutional Psychotherapy. The idea being if one walked, the other had to follow.

What does this mean practically? If we go back to this question of institutions, the problem is not so much that institutions exist because, again, we need these structures to organize our social and psychic lives.

The problem is that all of these institutions have this tendency to become, the word they use all the time is “concentrationist”—authoritarian, oppressive, hierarchical, stagnant, from the hospital to the schools to the family.

So, the question that they were all struggling with is, how can we avoid this? The main challenge for Institutional Psychotherapy was an attempt to imagine, within the limited confines of the hospital, a philosophy, a social theory, but also clinical practice that could prevent the chronic reappearance of these political and psychic concentrationisms.

Theory and practice were intimately linked. Any practical exercise that they devised had a theoretical purpose, and all the theory was really anchored in the practice as well.


Ingle: That’s one of the things that I’ve been really interested in when it comes to Institutional Psychotherapy, the reflexive element where we’re analyzing the institution itself rather than what tends to happen, where you only analyze the individual patient.
Can you talk about some of the practices that they were doing at these clinics?

Robcis:  Let me start with the theory and then get to the practice. If we go back for a second to what we were talking about before, this idea that Institutional Psychotherapy needed to ground itself in Freudian psychoanalysis. What did this mean exactly? It was a kind of revolutionary statement, both for the field of psychoanalysis and for the field of psychiatry.

It was revolutionary for psychiatry because mainstream psychiatry at the beginning of the century, or even after the Second World War, was very conservative, closed, and mostly focused at the time on brain localization. It had very little interest in the humanities and the social sciences, even psychoanalysis and philosophy.

So, a lot of these doctors came out of medical school frustrated with the limits of psychiatry. Using psychoanalysis to think about psychiatry was also quite revolutionary within the field of psychoanalysis because when Freud discovered or invented psychoanalysis, he was very clear about the fact that he thought that this would work primarily for neurotic patients.

This was not necessarily true for psychotic patients, partly because the basis of the Freudian analytic technique is known as transference, and that happens through language, through what Freud calls the talking cure.

So, the problem with psychotics is that they have a different understanding of language, a different understanding of [what Jacques Lacan called] the symbolic. For a long time, the idea was that psychotics couldn’t have transferential relations because they couldn’t have the same kind of inter-subjective relations that neurotic patients had.

Freud kind of gave up on psychoanalysis for psychotics. He wrote about it in his famous case of Schreber, but you didn’t really work with a lot of psychotic patients.

Lacan begins his work thinking about how you can use psychoanalysis with psychotic patients—that’s what his doctoral thesis was about. Institutional Psychotherapy runs with it because they’re much more hands-on in terms of practice.

They start to come up with techniques to try to think about how you can use these psychoanalytic insights with psychotic patients, even if they have a different relationship to the symbolic and a different relationship to transference.

What they say is, from a clinical perspective: in psychosis, it’s not that there is no transference; it’s just that it’s not inter-subjective. It’s not one-on-one. It’s not like you and your analyst in the office where you say something, and the analyst says something back.

They describe psychosis as a dissociated, “collective burst” is the word they use, transference. You could have transference in a group, but also with an object, with a door, with a telephone—it doesn’t have to be this kind of back and forth that you would have in a doctor’s office.

This is the theoretical hypothesis that guided everyday life at psychiatric hospitals like Saint-Alban and Blida-Joinville. How can this hospital become a space of psychic healing and of renewed communal bonds? How can you make it a healing collective? How can you go from concentrationism to this healing collective?

The answer was not just theoretical. It was very practical. You needed to develop structures to literally produce or institute this new social, a new social that would facilitate these collective transferential relations.

That was the principle that guided all of the activities of the hospital. They had a lot of theater, music performances, art, pottery, woodworking, and gardening. If you look at their schedules, you have things you can do things pretty much every hour. There are a ton of meetings, and meetings are open to the entire hospital community. If you had an idea, you could literally just get up and talk: discuss a problem, propose a new club, a new activity.

Rethinking the hospital had to do with rethinking everyday life, but also rethinking at the level of the architecture. One of the first things they did at Saint-Alban was to tumble the walls of the hospital to allow it to be integrated with the community, with the village as a whole.

They had no medical blouses, so you don’t know who was a doctor and who was a patient. It’s a practical thing, but it’s also a theoretical idea because it forces you to explode fixed roles. You’re not too comfortable in your position as a doctor or as a patient. You’re constantly rethinking who’s who. You all have lunch together.

I witnessed this when I went there: you eat with the patients, and it’s not like the doctors are sitting in a separate room. It’s a communal lifestyle.

So, the challenge was to figure out not just how to set up these institutions that would facilitate the emergence of this psychotic transference but also how can you put in place preventions so that these institutions would not become concentrationist.

How can you prevent these activities from becoming small kingdoms: I’m the cook, or I’m the nurse, or I’m the one who does the dishes? Because that obviously leads to particular structures of power.

So, at Saint-Alban and at La Borde, all of the activities were coordinated by a structure called the club. You can think of the club as a self-managed union that the patients were in charge of. They were in charge of the actual organization and rotation of these activities, and it switched around. So again, it would prevent this kind of reification.

The person who thought about this most was probably Guattari. One of my favorite activities that he comes up with, or I don’t know if it’s an activity but a mechanism, is called the Grid. It’s a double-entry chart. I have a picture in the book, but it’s a double-entry chart with a timetable and the names of all of the staff members, the patients, and the work that was assigned to him or her every day, and that would rotate.

You wouldn’t get too comfortable doing the dishes or doing the laundry, or giving out the medicine. You wouldn’t get too “ego-ized,” is what they said. Guattari called the Grid an instrument of disorganization to avoid the passivity generated by the bureaucratic routine.

The minute you get too comfortable in something, you have to rethink it. The way Jean Oury put it is also beautiful. He said, “ne pas laisser en passer une” – “to never let one go by.” Anytime you think you’re disalienated, you have to rethink it because the traces of alienation will come back.


Ingle: I assume a lot of this is in response to Stalinism and failed attempts at communism, where there was a large degree of concentrationism.

Robcis:  Definitely. The historical context for all this was extremely important. They were all coming from a leftist perspective but very much anti-Stalinist. Stalinism was, for them, a perfect example of politics gone concentrationist: what happens when you are not careful, when you let the bureaucratic routine take over.


Ingle: Do you have insight into why these unique views, practices, and political convictions arose at this particular time in France?

Robcis: We can talk more about the historical context here. I think it’s absolutely central to understanding the origins of Institutional Psychotherapy and the shape that it took. So, Institutional Psychotherapy was born, originally in Saint-Alban, which was a small and remote central village in central France, in Lozère.

It was born during the Second World War. It was the product of this cast of characters that happened to be at this one castle during the war, and it was this encounter that gave birth to Institutional Psychotherapy. These were doctors, nurses, and medical staff, but they also included political exiles, people who were escaping or fighting fascism, philosophers, poets, and artists.

To go back to the case of Tosquelles, for example, he was a Spanish refugee who had been active in leftist politics and the POUM in Barcelona during the interwar years. He had fought on the side of the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War, and then when Franco eventually wins the decisive battle, he crosses the Pyrenees for France.

There, he’s placed in one of the various concentration camps that the French government had built for Spanish refugees. The experience of the camp was really important for Tosquelles to realize how these institutions could become oppressive—how something like a concentration camp could have all these, not just social effects, but psychic effects.

This is when you start to have these illnesses, like barbed wire disease. Obviously, PTSD doesn’t have that name yet, but all of this “camp psychosis.”

One of the things Tosquelles does during his time at the camp is set up a medical service. Because of this, he realizes two things: first of all, that you can practice psychiatry anywhere, that you don’t really need trained staff because he recruits his other political refugee buddies to help him out. He also realizes that even though institutions can be alienating, they can also be disalienating, and he takes this knowledge to Saint-Alban.

It’s when he’s at the camp that Tosquelles eventually comes to the attention of Balvet, who’s the director of Saint-Alban during the war, and Balvet arranges for Tosquelles to leave the camp and come work at the hospital.

When he gets there, he notices similarities between the concentration camp and the hospitals, which are in deplorable shape. At Saint-Alban, Tosquelles is presented with yet another form of fascism; because Nazi Germany is occupying France, there’s Vichy [the French State at the time], collaboration.

More specifically, in the field of psychiatry, there’s something extremely important that I haven’t mentioned yet, but it is really at the roots of Institutional Psychotherapy: the humanitarian disaster that is happening in psychiatric hospitals. In French clinics, there are about 40,000 patients who died during the Second World War. Patients were basically left to die in the cold or of hunger. It’s not an explicitly exterminationist policy, but it’s neglect.

Of course, then you do have the Nazi regime that explicitly embraced eugenics and the forced euthanasia of those that the regime deemed as the incurably sick, what’s known as Aktion T4, resulting in 70,000 official deaths, while the unofficial number is closer to 200,000.

When you’re a psychiatrist in World War Two and on the left, this is kind of the context that you’re dealing with. So, for the doctors at Saint-Alban, the first mission is literally to survive the war and to feed their patients with the help of the local population. This is why they set up all these gardens as well as having animals, cultivation, etc., to just survive the war.

This is what brings together people like Tosquelles but also other leftist communist doctors like Lucien Bonnafé, who was a member of the Communist Party.

The historian of science [Georges] Canguilhem ends up at Saint-Alban as well, and Canguilhem is writing about the relationship between the normal and the pathological. You can see how that concept makes its way into Institutional Psychotherapy.

There’s also a bunch of artists, most famously perhaps the poet Paul Éluard, as well as people doing Art Brut—what’s known as outsider art. So, there are interesting artistic circles converging in this one hospital.

The main point here is that World War II and France, in this particular conjunction, makes two things clear to them. The first one is that psychiatry can no longer claim a position of detachment, objectivity, or pure science but that it needs to reckon with its intrinsically political nature. Secondly, the political and the psychic are intimately linked.

Fascism for Tosquelles and for his friends is a perfect example of how collaboration requires a particular state of mind. It’s not just a social condition. So that means when you treat a patient, you need to treat his or her social environment. It also means that you need to treat the hospital or cure the hospital at the same time as you cure the patient. The community as a whole.


Ingle: I think a lot of our listeners are probably more familiar with people like Laing, Szasz, Basaglia, and these other anti-psychiatric figures. Could you say anything more about what distinguishes the work of Tosquelles, Guattari, and these others?

Robcis: The best way to answer this is to go back to Institutional Psychotherapy’s understanding of mental illness as both neurological and social. Institutional Psychotherapy has a lot in common with anti-psychiatry—both point to the importance of the political or the political nature of psychiatry, but also the political and social genesis of a lot of mental illness.

They converge in many ways, but they also differ because, according to Institutional Psychotherapy, anti-psychiatry tended to see mental illness as an angry and justified reaction against, say, the heterosexual bourgeois family or the oppressive political environment. This is very much Laing and Cooper, and so they miss the medical specificity of psychosis. Institutional Psychotherapists were very clear about the fact that there was a kind of medical condition that needed to be treated.

It’s also worth pointing out that they were very comfortable with medical treatments. In other words, they used drugs, neuroleptics, and even electroshock and insulin cures—so it’s not like they were against all these techniques. The point was to use them in a way where they wouldn’t become what Jean Oury called veterinary medicine, not to numb down the patient, but to use them. For example, Fanon was also very interested in electroshock as a kind of shaking up, and then the work of reconstruction could begin.

That’s one big difference. The second is around this question of institutions. Someone like Basaglia fought tirelessly to close down hospitals, whereas Institutional Psychotherapy wanted to use them and preserve them as healing tools. So, there’s a real disagreement about whether you can cure institutions and whether they can be disalienated and disalienating.

One last thing you could say is also that the psychoanalytic reference point was less present in some of this British, American, or Italian anti-psychiatric work than it was in Institutional Psychotherapy. Institutional Psychotherapy was really entangled with Freud and Lacan. I’m not an expert on Laing at all, but from what I’ve read, he was much more interested in existentialism and phenomenology.

Jean Oury spent all his career going to Lacan’s seminars, thinking about this, using the tools of psychoanalysis as the primary cure. There were interesting overlaps, and someone like Guattari, for example, was much more open to having conversations with people like Laing and Cooper. But the older generation, someone like Jean Oury, was always very critical of anti-psychiatry as a kind of naive romanticization of mental illness.


Ingle: You mentioned visiting La Borde, so it’s still going?

Robcis: It was. I was there one of the last years that Jean Oury was alive. He died two or three years after. It was still going at the time. He’s died since, and it’s been kind of in shambles. Unfortunately, nobody really knows what’s happening. If anything, they’ve been closing down. They just closed down the Cheverny, another important clinical institution that had Institutional Psychotherapy. It’s not looking that good for Institutional Psychotherapy in France these days.


Ingle: What lessons, if any, can we draw from these psychiatric and political experiments? Especially in relation to the contemporary mental health field.

Robcis:  That’s a great question and something I thought about a lot when I was finishing the book, partly because I was finishing it during the COVID lockdown, so public health and mental health were omnipresent in my mind. I think pointing to the connection between the social and the psychic is a highlight that we can very much use today. For example, the psychic effects of racism, which is something that Fanon wrote about extensively. We haven’t talked about him so much, but he’s one of the figures that is also quite central in the book.

Fanon was a medical resident at Saint-Alban in ‘52 and ‘53 after he completed medical school. He had already written Black Skin, White Masks at that point, but what’s interesting about his encounter with Institutional Psychotherapy is that it confirmed many of the philosophical hypotheses that he had put forth in his more theoretical work on the psychological effects of race and racism.

Fanon’s relationship with Institutional Psychotherapy is really fascinating. I think it was probably my favorite discovery in this book. We all knew that Fanon was a psychiatrist, but I didn’t realize how much he had thought about Institutional Psychotherapy, how much he had practiced it, and how he was forced to rethink it when he moved to Algeria. He realized that some of the techniques that were developed for French patients were not working in a colonial setting.

His psychiatric writings, but also his political works—something like The Wretched of the Earth that he’s writing as he’s seeing patients—really force us to wrestle with what an anti-racist mental health practice would look like. For example, how alienation always operates on both the social and the psychic levels.

Nobody gives you an exact definition of what disalienation looks like, but they certainly give us tools to think about what the path toward a kind of disalienated medical practice might look like and what the path toward a disalienated society looks like. It would be one that would take into account the psychic remnants of something like racism, I think.

Let’s say a provisional lesson would be to think about some of the tools that Institutional Psychotherapy gave us to think about common life, the common spaces, and social interactions, but really foregrounding the role of the unconscious in all group formations.

All groups have a kind of unconscious, but also the collective dimension of all individual subjective development.

I think these two sides make Institutional Psychotherapy really exciting because you realize that the unconscious is not just something that you add to the theory but is really the basis of the transferential process, the vector through which individuals and collectives can explore fantasies, conflicts, desires—and those things are good, right?

The point is not to ignore them. The point is to explore them and figure out a way to work with them so that they’re not so destructive. The unconscious is ultimately the means by which the group can avoid closing in on itself. I think you really can use that.

It’s something I use to think about politics today, to think about the role of the unconscious in politics: to pay attention to the libidinal, the phantasmatic, the emotional, and the desire for domination or redemptive violence.

I think Institutional Psychotherapy can help us diagnose politics but also open up new political horizons if you return to what they mean by disalienation.


Ingle: Do you see any principles or practices from Institutional Psychotherapy as having had a lasting influence? I was thinking earlier, when you were talking about the link between the social and the psychic, that the United Nations has recently come out and emphasized the importance of things like poverty and other social issues in relation to mental health.
I don’t think it’s been emphasized enough. But I am curious if you have seen these principles or practices.

Robcis: The United Nations case is a very good example; some of these ideas have entered the mainstream. At the same time, Institutional Psychotherapy is not exactly booming. As I was saying, most of the clinics or hospitals that function as the epicenters of Institutional Psychotherapy in France are struggling financially, politically, and intellectually. A lot of them have given up Institutional Psychotherapy. At Saint-Alban, we’re back to tying patients down and things like that.

As a field, psychiatry—aside from very few innovative departments or cities—seems to be closer to neurology, more reliant on pharmacology and pills than psychoanalysis. The psyche is more talked about in terms of cognitive behavioral therapies. It’s not exactly like we’re seeing a revitalization of the unconscious anywhere.

So that’s the kind of bad news, but at the same time, I’ve been excited to meet various young doctors, psychiatrists, but also psychoanalysts who are returning to Institutional Psychotherapy in their clinical work.

It’s been really fun to have these conversations with them, to try to understand the techniques better: how they can use them with psychotic patients and what they find. Not as a kind of hagiography or idealization of Institutional Psychotherapy; I don’t think we should see this movement as all incredible.

This is where I like Fanon. Fanon was able to say that you could use certain things and you could revise other things. Institutional Psychotherapy has a lot of limits. They were mostly white doctors; they were mostly male doctors. The question is still: how can you use that basis to rethink some of its own limits?

At the end of the day, despite all of the obsession of psychiatry to find either a gene or a place in the brain for schizophrenia, and actually most mental issues, they still can’t fix it. Medicine can help, but no pill can fix it.

I think the medical field—and I think that the pandemic played a huge role in this—needs to highlight the constitutive role of the social, the political, the economic, and the cultural. It needs to try to see how these intersect with the medical and the neurological, instead of taking these fields apart, really trying to bring them together.

Also, one of the things I would say is, Institutional Psychotherapy really took the Canguilhem model of rethinking what is the pathological in relationship to the normal seriously. It wasn’t a romanticization of psychosis.

There was a kind of attention to the suffering that goes with it, but the idea was to just treat it as another form of life, not necessarily as something that needed to be cured because there is no cure as such. If you take up a strictly Lacanian understanding of psychosis, the [personality] structure, you’re not going to not be psychotic. The question is, can you live in a social setting that makes you less alienated, less alone?

Through the defamiliarization of normalness, you end up studying subjectivity as a whole, not just psychosis. What does the normal subject look like, and how can other forms of life accommodate these different variations of mental health?


Ingle: Concluding, what’s on the horizon for you?

Robcis:  I’m working on something that’s not really related to psychiatry, but in the field of psychiatry, I have been thinking again a lot about the question of the commons. Post-COVID, there have been really interesting conversations around the feminist commons and the anti-racist commons, and I’ve been trying to enter this conversation with the tools of Institutional Psychotherapy.

There’s also been a lot of interest a lot of sudden interest in Tosquelles because there was a great exhibit around his work in Institutional Psychotherapy in Art Brut. It was in Toulouse first and then in Barcelona; it’s in Madrid now, I think, and it’s going to come to New York. I think it’s a great exhibit that shows the historical roots of some of these movements but also the intersections with art.

There’s been a lot of attention right now to prison art, to hospital art, so I think that’s another space in which Institutional Psychotherapy still has relevance. I’m looking forward to reading some of the new work that has come out in those fields.



MIA Reports are supported, in part, by a grant from The Thomas Jobe Fund.

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Micah Ingle, PhD
Micah is part-time faculty in psychology at Point Park University. He holds a Ph.D. in Psychology: Consciousness and Society from the University of West Georgia. His interests include humanistic, critical, and liberation psychologies. He has published work on empathy, individualism, group therapy, and critical masculinities. Micah has served on the executive boards of Division 32 of the American Psychological Association (Society for Humanistic Psychology) as well as Division 24 (Society for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology). His current research focuses on critiques of the western individualizing medical model, as well as cultivating alternatives via humanities-oriented group and community work.


  1. Intellectualism, as opposed to psychosis, is just another way to dissociate from intolerable feelings. And it’s long been a refuge for the intellectually pompous, i.e. “psychiatry” and it’s chronically confused cousin better known as “psychology”.

    There is such a thing as thinking too much. People need to get out of their heads and into their hearts.

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  2. There’s nothing more “disalienating” than listening to people (be they men OR women) unconsciously guided by chauvinistic attitudes.

    Definition for Chauvinistic: displaying excessive or prejudiced support for one’s own cause or group; the irrational belief in the superiority or dominance of one’s own group or people

    And there’s nothing more chauvinistic than psychiatry and its self-satisfied offshoot called “psychotherapy”, as both are based on gratifying the egos of their practitioners.

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  3. Thanks for the great article. I wish you’d do move reviews like this one.

    “[…] according to Institutional Psychotherapy, anti-psychiatry tended to see mental illness as an angry and justified reaction against, say, the heterosexual bourgeois family or the oppressive political environment. This is very much Laing and Cooper, and so they miss the medical specificity of psychosis.”

    I think the above quote misrepresents Laing’s opinions on psychosis. I am an ordinary person and have very limited knowledge about this issue but I found an article on this website who discusses Laing at length. Comments section is also very enlightening.

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