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Mary Barnes: Two Accounts of a Journey Through Madness

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In 1966, Mary Barnes was a schizophrenic with no hope of relief from her condition, and Joseph Berke was a young doctor rebelling against the restrictions of the American psychiatric profession. When Berke moved to England to work with radical psychologist R. D. Laing, he met Mary, a patient at Laing's experimental therapeutic community at Kingsley Hall. Their account of t In 1966, Mary Barnes was a schizophrenic with no hope of relief from her condition, and Joseph Berke was a young doctor rebelling against the restrictions of the American psychiatric profession. When Berke moved to England to work with radical psychologist R. D. Laing, he met Mary, a patient at Laing's experimental therapeutic community at Kingsley Hall. Their account of their different perspectives on Mary's illness and treatment is both a critique of conventional approaches to therapy, and the story of a remarkable friendship. This new edition of a classic of psychotherapy is now expanded to include new epilogues from both authors.


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In 1966, Mary Barnes was a schizophrenic with no hope of relief from her condition, and Joseph Berke was a young doctor rebelling against the restrictions of the American psychiatric profession. When Berke moved to England to work with radical psychologist R. D. Laing, he met Mary, a patient at Laing's experimental therapeutic community at Kingsley Hall. Their account of t In 1966, Mary Barnes was a schizophrenic with no hope of relief from her condition, and Joseph Berke was a young doctor rebelling against the restrictions of the American psychiatric profession. When Berke moved to England to work with radical psychologist R. D. Laing, he met Mary, a patient at Laing's experimental therapeutic community at Kingsley Hall. Their account of their different perspectives on Mary's illness and treatment is both a critique of conventional approaches to therapy, and the story of a remarkable friendship. This new edition of a classic of psychotherapy is now expanded to include new epilogues from both authors.

53 review for Mary Barnes: Two Accounts of a Journey Through Madness

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kressel Housman

    I was deeply into the anti-psychiatry writings of R.D. Laing when I was in college, and since I’m working on my memoir of that period, I’m now researching his work again. I started with the recent biopic “Mad to Be Normal,” (available on Hulu), which depicts the home he ran for psychiatric patients, Kingsley Hall. That got me curious about more historical sources, and I was quickly led to Kingsley Hall’s most famous resident, Mary Barnes. She co-authored this book with her therapist, Dr. Joseph I was deeply into the anti-psychiatry writings of R.D. Laing when I was in college, and since I’m working on my memoir of that period, I’m now researching his work again. I started with the recent biopic “Mad to Be Normal,” (available on Hulu), which depicts the home he ran for psychiatric patients, Kingsley Hall. That got me curious about more historical sources, and I was quickly led to Kingsley Hall’s most famous resident, Mary Barnes. She co-authored this book with her therapist, Dr. Joseph Berke. My research gave me an extra interest in him: he became a baal teshuva and is a frum Yid today. Mary does not begin the book with her time at Kingsley Hall, but her early childhood, which draws the picture of how she became a schizophrenic. It was filled with the mixed messages that Laing said were typical: shaming the child for behaviors beyond her control, or permitting them at random times, in contradiction to that shaming. All that inconsistency, plus a belief that “the doctors” have the answers, is what leads up to diagnosis. But Mary had read about Laing, and she wanted to try his “alternative” therapy. I must say that this early section of the book was disjointed and tough to read. When I reached Dr. Berke’s first section, it was a relief. But in the end, which concludes with Mary in her recovered state, I saw how well she crafted those earlier chapters. She really captured her voice from her more troubled state. Dr. Berke’s first section describes how he became disillusioned with psychiatry in his training in the U.S. He explains the label “schizophrenia” much in the way Laing does. It’s not a disease; it’s a “career.” Launching on that career requires a doctor, a patient, and usually some family members to persuade and/or coerce the patient into it. The patient is usually the smartest or most sensitive member of the family and is responding to some negative family dynamic affecting everybody. But if the family can pin him or her with the label of mental illness, then they can say it’s the patient’s problem alone, and they can go on believing there’s nothing wrong with them. This can happen in the power relations between doctors and patients, too. They impose their own neuroses and control trips on the patients. Dr. Berke cites some specific incidents in hospitals he worked at, but like Mary, he discovered R.D. Laing’s work. He left the U.S. for the U.K. so that he could train with someone whose approach he respected. We then return to Mary’s perspective. Laing’s theory is that psychosis just has to play itself out, like a bad acid trip or a nightmare. If treated with kindness and indulgence, as opposed to controlling methods like drugs and electric shock, patients go through tremendous but temporary pain and come out stronger for it. Mary read about this and set out to try. She wasn’t the only one, but nobody else went quite as far. She regressed into infancy, playing with her feces and requiring Joe (Dr. Berke) and others to bathe and bottle-feed her. She was in her 40’s! Joe then recounts the very same events Mary describes, but from his own perspective, adding details that give a much clearer historical picture of Kingsley Hall. But Mary in her “up” years gets the last word. Partial as I am to Joe, you can’t help but be uplifted by her conclusion. She talks about being there for other patients through their “downs.” She talks about painting, which became her outlet for self-expression. She even got famous for it, and Joe attests that she greeted guests at her gallery shows gracefully, not at all like someone who’d once barely been able to leave the safety of her own bed. But the final page is the best of all. She writes about the fine line between spirituality and madness, which is one of my most cherished subjects. Mary was deeply religious, and I can’t help but wonder if her relationship to her religion is what inspired Joe to reconnect to his. If you have any interest in “abnormal” psychology, I recommend this book. R.D. Laing has a mixed legacy. Some people I respect very much consider him irresponsible in the extreme. I understand why, but he still had valid things to say. Reading the words of his “disciple,” Dr. Berke, was a refreshing perspective because he was someone who took from Laing’s teachings yet moderated them. G-d willing, I’ll be reading more of his books soon. Above all, read the book for Mary. She gives us a unique and deeply personal glimpse into madness. You won’t find writing like hers anywhere else.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Velvetink

    I have the original edition published in the 1970's I have the original edition published in the 1970's

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ana Guardia

    Una historia que narra la experiencia de Mary Barnes, escritora y pintora, con la anti-psicología como medio de tratamiento a sus trastornos mentales. Narrada en primera persona, es una historia bastante diferente, pero a ratos puede ser repetitiva.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ryō Nagafuji

    A thoroughly interesting account on someone living with severe schizophrenia, during a time period when psychological advances were really taking leaps and bounds experimentally. While it is good to do research from the clinical side of a mental disorder, I really think that valuable information and insight can be gained from first-person accounts, which, in the case of this book, is also helped with the outside perspective of psychologist Dr Joseph Berke. A lovely, exhilarating read, made even A thoroughly interesting account on someone living with severe schizophrenia, during a time period when psychological advances were really taking leaps and bounds experimentally. While it is good to do research from the clinical side of a mental disorder, I really think that valuable information and insight can be gained from first-person accounts, which, in the case of this book, is also helped with the outside perspective of psychologist Dr Joseph Berke. A lovely, exhilarating read, made even more exciting by the very personal style that Mary Barnes uses to convey her thoughts and feelings at a given stage of her life. Definitely would recommend to those who are interested in researching or informing themselves about schizophrenia!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Leigh

    Not sure how I feel about all the theories, but a fascinating read anyway.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I just can't force myself to read anymore. I am doing something I've never done...not finish a book. I just can't waste another minute. I just can't force myself to read anymore. I am doing something I've never done...not finish a book. I just can't waste another minute.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lizeth

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    Rachel Díaz

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    Cindy

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    Angela

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    Roy Hall

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    Anthony

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    Alejandra Lara

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    Aki

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    Kelly McCoy

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    anne phillips

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    Ajsm53

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    bdm

  53. 5 out of 5

    Ria

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