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March 29, 2013
Pebbles, Potholes, and Perspective
The Changing Face of Psychiatric Rehabilitation
by Sarah Hancock

Until the mid 1990’s, treating psychiatric illnesses was approached from a medical model’s perspective. The medical model has a place in recovery, but slowly professionals and paraprofessionals are beginning to recognize that the medical model is not the sole approach to treating people who have mental health concerns.

Traditionally speaking, the medical model allowed doctors to categorize symptoms into illnesses and diagnose those illnesses for proper treatment of that diagnosis. For example, if a person was diagnosed with Disorder A, it meant treatment with Prescription A. It also assumed that everyone with Disorder A experienced all symptoms of Disorder A, could only be treated by Treatment A and could expect Prognosis A.

The medical model believes the only way to live with a psychiatric disorder is if all symptoms are nullified or masked. For that reason, many medications are given with the understanding that they may alter the person’s ability to live life, but so long as they alleviate symptoms, the quality of life doesn’t necessarily matter. The medical model emphasizes that doctors are experts and must be obeyed.

If you’ll allow me, I’d like to simplify the medical model to a soup can label. What’s on the label is in the can; what’s not on the label is not in the soup. Reading the soup label, you know what to expect from the soup and aren’t surprised unless there was someone asleep at the labeling machine and the mistake wasn’t corrected by quality control.

Although labels are perfect for soup cans, they aren’t perfect for people. Sure, labels can answer some questions and give relief to that nagging curiosity about what lies within that mysterious sealed can. However, what if there was more to that can?

For example, what if that can’s label was signed by a famous artist? Andy Warhol, an iconic American artist during the 1950’s and 1960s signed Campbell’s Soup can labels after creating artwork depicting the Campbell’s soup can. One such label auctioned off in 2011 for $1,553.50 (

So, let me ask you? If you had one of those labels, would you be more interested that there’s a smudge on it, covering up the ingredient list, or are you more interested in the potential of this label now that you can see its value?

In part II of this column, published in two weeks, I will tell how the Recovery Model looks at psychiatric symptoms differently. I will also show the benefits and limitations of utilizing this new post-modern model and how it can potentially bring positive change to those who embrace it.

I would liken applying the Recovery Model in my life to being resurrected. My old, worn out mind, body and life was exchanged for a new one. Although this is an imperfect comparison (I mean, I don’t have a perfect mind, body and life yet. However, today my life is a complete 180-degree change from where I was three years ago before learning about and applying this model to my life and circumstance). I can’t wait to share it with you!

May you have a blessed and rejuvenating Easter as you reflect on the perfect gift our Savior gave us to pay a debt which we could never repay ourselves.

P.S. This week, I am taking my comprehensive exam to graduate with my Masters of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling with an advanced certificate in Psychiatric Rehabilitation. Pray for me!

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