Schizophrenia: a different approach – according to Dr. Clarence D. McKenzie

Schizophrenia: a different approach – according to Dr. Clarence D. McKenzie

In this youtube video, Dr. McKenzie, a US based psychiatrist, discusses his approach to treating schizophrenia.

The dominant approach so far has been to use major tranquiliser/ anti-psychotic medications like Risperidone and Haloperidol, and to research underlying neurological /biological factors in the disorder. The only real psychological interventions advocated by the status quo is the use of social skills training for negative symptoms, like social skills deficits often inherent in the disorder. Some studies show that cognitive behavioural treatment can be helpful, such as reorienting 'voices' or auditory hallucinations as rather internal thoughts falsely attributed to an external source, but this approach has not really held popular ground.

Conversely, McKenzie advocates for the use of psychotherapy after researching a large sample of patients with schizophrenia and finding that the vast majority experience trauma (even mild) in their infancy. He also found that the vast majority of patients had siblings of certain ages and he explored this accordingly.The 'trauma' isn't necessarily anything too profound; often just being separated from the major attachment parent - the mother, for a short period of time. This usually occurred when the mother went to hospital for treatment, or even to give birth to another baby. He found that this initial trauma is 'symptom defining' based on the age of neurological, cognitive and social development at the time of mother separation, where the separation anxiety interfered with neuro-psychological development.  This event then 'hibernates' in the child until late adolescent/adulthood until a similar trauma is experienced, e.g. separation from a girlfriend or boyfriend, which he called 'symptom precipitating' trauma.

I am not totally convinced about this approach, but it makes for an interesting angle on understanding schizophrenia psychologically, or more accurately psychoanalytically (exploring the unconscious mind and repressed latent material therein which manifests as psychological/health symptoms, needing analysis to interpret and make conscious such underlying issues for the patient). I still think that there would need to be a genetic basis for the 'two-shoe contract' of symptom defining to symptom precipitating trauma, as many people would go through this trauma and not develop schizophrenia. I would also be hesitant about calling separation from the mother for a week or so 'traumatic'. However, we could bear this in mind and understand that children need their mothers around them a lot and consistently when they are young, especially before the age of 3. If day care or kindergarten or baby sitting is utilised, this must be for discreet/ short periods of time. Time feels much longer for children, so if at all possible it should be explained to them that any separation will be only for a short period of time so they don't have to worry. I think the growing trend of mothers returning to work when their children are very young is of concern. Whilst often necessary, given the socio-economic reality, we need to bear in mind the impact upon the child of hardly seeing his/her mother, e.g. if she is working full time, especially if McKenzie is only talking about separation of a week or so.  A counter trend of maternity leave as well as work-place creches so parents can regularly visit their children whilst at work, is a very promising emergence. It goes to show how vulnerable human beings are, especially in the first few years of life.

Don't be alarmed however, remember that as I said earlier, there would need to be a genetic predisposition for something like schizophrenia to emerge when given an environmental trigger such as separation from the mother. And yes, we are emphasising mothers here as mothers are the primary attachment figure for children, associated with the mother having the womb the child came from as well as breast milk for feeding. The tenderness, relatively speaking, of a mother for an infant is often something that a father cannot replace. Whilst a father can do a very good job at being maternal if this is required and the infant can be fine, this is probably sub-optimal, comparatively speaking, when compared to a mother's love and tenderness. In my opinion fathers are just as important as mothers, but we just have a different role and often this comes in to play moreso when the child is slightly older. For example, we see a lot of boys/adolescent who are 'under-fathered' and do not receive adequate gender-modelling to prepare them for the world of men, and a lack of discipline as well as hands-on father-time skill development and 'rough and tumble play' which mothers are often not favourable toward. Likewise, mothers can fill this roll, but I don't think a mother can exactly replicate a father. Put simply, children need both parents or role models from both sexes in their growing up, in order to become balanced human beings. I have had some feminists tell me that they think fathers are redundant. I do not agree with this. Even speaking from experience I heavily relied on my father, step father and male role models in my own development as a boy towards manhood. But I especially needed my mother when I was very little. Again, this is all about balance and doing the best we can with what we have got.

(by the way, I think there is a very necessary place for feminism in the world as well).

Ben Bruce.


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