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Trauma’s Destructive Effects – Bob Johnson’s new podcast

Trauma’s Destructive Effects – Bob Johnson’s new podcast

Dr. Bob Johnson's podcast offers one simple explanation for intractable psychological disturbances – traumatic origins are deeply buried. The sufferer cannot recall them without their frontal lobes becoming "blocked" – so however diligent and persistent the doctor is, the more they press these sufferers, the more tightly do they become obscure. If you don’t know what you're doing, you get nowhere. No wonder too many doctors have concluded that ’nothing works’. They then come to blame the patient, rather than their ignorance of the impact of trauma on speech centre and frontal lobes (see Bessel van der Kolk’s brainscan work).

In 1991, Dr Bob Johnson began work as a psychiatrist, in a Special Unit inside a maximum security prison. This Unit was located in the UK’s then flagship prison, Parkhurst, on the Isle of Wight. The Unit was for prisoners regarded as too dangerous for Broadmoor, the pre-eminent UK high-security prison hospital. Over a five year period, he set out to persuade these violent men, including a number of known serial killers, that however horrendous their childhoods had been, they were now adult, so could let all their ‘nursery nightmares’ slide into the past, where they belonged.

In this podcast, he discusses with his wife Sue, how they came to move there, how the men reacted, and, as an introduction, what one of the more notorious UK prisoners thought of the whole affair. Charlie Bronson has made a name for himself in the media – here his heart-felt letter to Dr Bob gives a whole new slant on both himself, and on the work undertaken. Sue has written a graphic account of what it was like from her point of view. Happy viewing.

Winners of the 2023 ISEPP Awards!

Winners of the 2023 ISEPP Awards!


During our 25th annual conference October 28-29, 2023, ISEPP announced the winners of its three awards:

ISEPP Lifetime Achievement Award - for recognition of sustained and dedicated efforts made throughout one’s career in the struggle to overturn the medical model of human distress. Presented to David Edward Walker, PhD. Click the link below to read the citation.

Lifetime Achievement Award

ISEPP Special Achievement Award -  For recognition of specific projects and programs developed as alternatives to the orthodox mental health system. Presented to Rachel Flanigan, PhD. Click the link below to read the citation.

Special Achievement Award

Mary Karon Memorial Award for Humanitarian Concerns - Named in honor of Mary Karon, wife of the late Bert Karon, who had been a lifelong activist psychologist and member of ISEPP. Mary and Bert were in a serious car accident in 2007, leaving Bert in need of constant and daily care. Mary provided that care with the hope of giving Bert the ability to continue in his fight against medicalized psychiatry. Mary died a few years later, making Bert promise that he would continue his work. This award is given to those who show a similar dedication to supporting the ISEPP mission. Presented to Sue Parry. Click the link below to read the citation.

Mary Karon Memorial Award

Report on Improving Mental Health Outcomes

Report on Improving Mental Health Outcomes


A new Report on Improving Mental Health Outcomes, a collaboration of scholars, activists, and survivors (James Gottstein, Esq, Peter C. Gøtzsche, MD, David Cohen, PhD, Chuck Ruby, PhD, and Faith Myers) argues that the mental health system's standard interventions (especially overreliance on drugs and incarceration into psychiatric facilities) are harmful, counter-productive, and forced on unwilling patients. These standard interventions turn upside down known facts about what helps people in distress while they violate principles of international law. The authors argue that People (relationships), Place (safe places to live), and Purpose (meaningful activities), alongside hope, all within a voluntary system of services, should be made broadly available via public and private programs. The authors describe over a dozen currently available approaches embodying these principles, which they suggest would both dramatically improve treatment outcomes and reduce treatment harms.

25th Annual ISEPP Conference!

25th Annual ISEPP Conference!

Don't delay. Register for the 25th Annual ISEPP Conference (Virtual) October 28-29, 2023. We have a stellar lineup.

Long-Term Effects of Benzodiazepines

Long-Term Effects of Benzodiazepines

The third paper from the benzodiazepine experience survey was released recently, reporting some of the long-term symptoms and life effects attributed by respondents to benzodiazepines. It also proposes a name for these enduring symptoms that many have experienced: benzodiazepine-induced neurological dysfunction (BIND).


Benzodiazepine use associated with brain injury, job loss, and suicide

PORTLAND, Oregon, June 29, 2023 (eReleases) –

Benzodiazepine use and discontinuation is associated with nervous system injury and negative life effects that continue after discontinuation, according to an article published 06/29/2023 in the open access journal PLOS ONE.

“Despite the fact that benzodiazepines have been widely prescribed for decades, this survey presents significant new evidence that a subset of patients experience long-term neurological complications,” stated first author Alexis Ritvo, M.D. “This should change how we think about benzodiazepines and how they are prescribed.”

Previous studies had described this injury with various terminologies, perhaps the most well-known being protracted withdrawal.  As part of the PLOS ONE study, a scientific review board unified these names under the term benzodiazepine-induced neurological dysfunction (BIND) to more accurately describe the condition.

To better characterize BIND, Dr. Ritvo and colleagues analyzed data from a previously published survey of current and former benzodiazepine users that asked about their symptoms and adverse life effects attributed to benzodiazepine use. The survey of 1,207 benzodiazepine users from benzodiazepine support groups and health/wellness sites is the largest of its kind. Respondents included those taking benzodiazepines (63.2%), in the process of tapering (24.4%), or fully discontinued (11.3%). Nearly all respondents had a prescription for benzodiazepines (98.6%) and 91% took them definitely or mostly as prescribed.

Symptoms were long-lasting, with 76.6% of all affirmative answers to symptom questions reporting symptom duration to be months or over one year. The following ten symptoms (out of a possible 23) persisted over a year in greater than half of respondents: low energy, difficulty focusing, memory loss, anxiety, insomnia, sensitivity to light and sounds, digestive problems, symptoms triggered by food and drink, muscle weakness, and body pain. Particularly alarming, these symptoms were often reported as new and distinct from the symptoms for which benzodiazepines were originally prescribed. In addition, a majority of respondents reported prolonged negative life impacts in all areas, such as significantly damaged relationships, job loss, and increased medical costs. Notably, 54.4% of the respondents reported suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide.

BIND is thought to be a result of brain changes resulting from benzodiazepine exposure. A general review of the literature suggests that it occurs in roughly 1 in 5 long-term users. The risk factors for BIND are not known, and more research is needed to further define the condition, along with treatment options.

Christy Huff, M.D., one of the co-authors, said, “Patients have been reporting long-term effects from benzodiazepines for over 60 years. I am one of those patients. Even though I took my medication as prescribed, I still experience symptoms on a daily basis at four years off benzodiazepines. Our survey and the new term BIND give a voice to the patient experience and point to the need for further investigations.”

The survey was a collaborative effort between CU Anschutz, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and several patient-led advocacy organizations that educate on benzodiazepine harms. Several members of the research team have lived experience with benzodiazepines, which informed the survey questions.


Primary Media Contact
Bernard Silvernail, President
Alliance for Benzodiazepine Best Practices

Alternate Media Contact
Dr. Christy Huff, Director
Benzodiazepine Information Coalition

Research article:
"Long-term consequences of benzodiazepine-induced neurological dysfunction: A survey”

ISEPP Webinar: Violence and Psychiatric Drugs: Hope or Horror?

ISEPP Webinar: Violence and Psychiatric Drugs: Hope or Horror?

ISEPP announces its Spring 2023 webinar. Join us in the discussion!

Violence and Psychiatric Drugs:
Hope or Horror?

April 28, 2023
3-5pm Eastern
2-4pm Central
1-3pm Mountain
12-2pm Pacific

Webinar recording available $20

(No CEU credit for the recording)

Bruce Levine Points Out Psychiatry’s Failure

Bruce Levine Points Out Psychiatry’s Failure

Our ISEPP colleague Bruce Levine, Ph.D., gives an interview on the Corbett Report podcast, Finding Mental Health. It summarizes Bruce's ideas in his book A Profession Without Reason in particular, and in general his ideas about how psychiatry and the medicalization of human life has been a failure. At around the 29:10 time mark, he mentions ISEPP as one of the many organizations dedicated to exposing this failure. Keep up the great work Bruce!

Critical Psychology/Psychiatry Series released in paperback!

Critical Psychology/Psychiatry Series released in paperback!

The Ethics International Press Critical Psychiatry and Critical Psychology Series was created by creativity coach and lead editor Eric Maisel, Ph.D. He is assisted in this project by his co-editor, psychologist Chuck Ruby, Ph.D. The books in this series are for everyone who would like to understand what’s wrong with the current “mental disorder” system, especially how chemicals are employed to deal with life’s problems.


The first two volumes in the series,

Critiquing the Psychiatric Model and Humane Alternatives to the Psychiatric Model, have just come out in a lower-cost paperback (the hardback, for institutions, was pricey) and the publisher is offering an additional 20% off the paperback price. Just employ the code MORALS20 at checkout. These books will provide you with a picture—maybe even a life-changing picture—that you will not get in the mainstream media, which is dominated by the power of Big Pharma.

Come take a look. You will be very happy that you did!


In Memoriam – Fred A. Baughman, Jr., M.D. (1932-2022)

In Memoriam – Fred A. Baughman, Jr., M.D. (1932-2022)

We are saddened to hear about the death of a legend in the critical psychiatry and psychology fight. Fred Baughman, M.D., died last October, peacefully at his home in El Cajon, California. Fred was a giant in the field and accomplished an incredible amount in his profession and well as creating a wonderful family environment at home. One of his many accomplishments was the publication of his 2006 book, The ADHD Fraud: How Psychiatry Makes Patients Out of Normal Children. The world will not be the same without him.

You can read in detail about his life here.

In Memory of Jacqueline Sparks, Ph.D. (1950 – 2022)

In Memory of Jacqueline Sparks, Ph.D. (1950 – 2022)


by Barry Duncan, Psy.D.

Dr. Jacqueline A. Sparks, social justice advocate, critical thinker extraordinaire, beloved university professor, ISEPP journal Editor-in-Chief, gifted therapist, and my best friend, died November 3rd after a lengthy illness. The world is not quite as good without her. Behind her voluminous publications, impeccable scholarship, and amazing writing abilities, Dr. Sparks championed two ideals in her work throughout her career. First and foremost, she was driven to transform systems of care to privilege the service user, especially their goals for service and how those goals are approached—to include consumers in all decisions that affect their care. Deeply embedded in her unyielding drive for client privilege was a call for cultural responsiveness and the promotion of social justice. Jacqueline operationalized this ideal in the Partners for Change Outcome Management System or PCOMS, a method that levels the hierarchy in therapy and honors service user views of benefit and relationship. Ten randomized clinical trials and four editions of the PCOMS manual later, this ideal has become manifest. Dr. Sparks was not only a great thinker, she also got things done.

The second ideal was an unwavering commitment to challenge the status quo, to question presumed mental health authority and ask the hard questions. But this was not just rebellious talk to her, it emerged from a deep dive into research and exposing the science, or rather the science fiction masquerading as science, regarding psychiatric diagnoses and psychotropic medication. Our 2000 article in the Psychotherapy Networker, “The Myth of the Magic Pill,” called attention to the flawed science and the financial web of deceit of the pharmaceutical industry. This article was recognized by Project Censored as one of the “Top Ten Under-Reported Stories of 2000.” It also received the “The Networker 20thAnniversary All Time Top Ten Award” as one of the most influential features in magazine history. Since then, Dr. Sparks continued to question the “taken for granted,” exposing the bankrupt science and corruption that permeates psychiatric diagnosis and medication in multiple articles in top tier journals, uncovering the methodological tricks of drug company research and building the case for psychotherapy as a first line intervention for both every day and catastrophic problems that humans face. For this enormous body of work, Jacqueline received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society of Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry.

Pictured below is Jackie smiling broadly holding the Psychotherapy Networker issue containing our award-winning article.

On a personal note, Jackie was also my closest friend, my ally through thick and thin. I counted on her keen analyses and insightful perceptions of any situation, personal or professional, and I knew I could always expect her unyielding support. Knowing this made me stronger and knowing her made me a better person.

Jackie was diagnosed last summer, and she courageously faced and endured everything that might prolong her life. Simultaneously she squeezed every ounce of enjoyment out of each day, playing her violin (she was a brilliant musician), decorating her new house, and traveling with her partner, Martin, and her sister and brother-in-law (Trish and John). Just a couple of weeks before she died, although not able to eat, she travelled to New York and profusely enjoyed a concert (Tedeschi Trucks Band) at the Beacon Theater and a Broadway musical (Six). She excitedly gave me a detailed description of the trip in our last conversation before she was hospitalized.

But treatment did not stop the aggressive spread of the cancer. Suddenly, months left became weeks left, and then days left—the end came unexpectedly rapidly. Our plan for her and Martin to escape the cold and stay with Barbara and I in January was not going to happen. With her death imminent, I flew to Rhode Island to give my last goodbye to my best friend. It was devastating, yet beautiful and inspirational. When Jackie awakened and saw me, she cried and we shared 25 years of love expressed in joyful tears. Unbelievably, in her weakened state, she asked the nurse to help sit her up, with her legs over the side of the bed so she could face me. Her body barely there and her voice but a whisper, we talked until she couldn’t anymore. We discussed our work, our history, our relationship—we laughed and cried, and said everything that needed to be said.

After an emotionally soothing dinner with her fantastic partner, Martin, also a lifelong social justice advocate, I laid awake that night in my hotel feeling the brunt of my grief. Because I couldn’t accept that I wouldn’t see her or talk to her again, I planned to stop at the hospital and see her one last time on the way to the airport. I summoned  a car on a familiar service and waited…and waited until I got the message that no cars were available. I had never experienced this before, but this was a small town, not like the cities I usually frequented. I was frantic. I called other local services but only got recordings. When I was about at my wits end, the front desk person, Stacy, said she would get back to me. I told her I would gladly pay $20 (the cost of the service) for the ride if anyone there could do it. The manager okayed it, and Lucas, a young man of no more than 19 took me to South County Hospital where my friend lay in a Hospice bed.  Lucas, who I noticed was not wearing trendy clothes or expensive sneakers or anything even remotely new, asked me about my friend and told me of his grandma’s battle with cancer. We enjoyed a quiet, empathic, and melancholic ride, our shared experience making an unspoken connection in minutes, if not seconds. There was a wonderful, comforting kindness to this young man that provided some solace to my grief. When we arrived after our brief trip, I pulled out my wallet to give him the twenty, and he told me he couldn’t accept any money from me. I asked if he was sure as it was clear he could use it, but he declined and wished me the best.

I was disappointed because Jackie did not regain consciousness for my final visit. In fact, she didn’t regain consciousness after I left her the night before. I felt fortunate and gratified that I had said everything I wanted to say the day before. But I still said everything I wanted to say, again. Jackie died later that day. But as I experienced my grief about the loss of this stunningly compassionate, brilliant human being, I realized that Lucas somehow personified Jackie’s kindness and integrity. In this world of vitriol and hatred, there are those who care about the plight of others, and act to ease their burden in small but meaningful ways. Thank you, Lucas, for showing the spirit of Jackie, and continuing my faith in the human species.

And thank you, Jackie, for being in my life, enriching me personally and professionally, and being the friend who everyone should be fortunate to have. I love you. I miss you—along with many others whose lives you touched.