Radical Psychiatry:

The Second Decade

Edited by Beth Roy and Claude Steiner


Table of Contents







Beth Roy



Twenty years have passed since Radical Psychiatry began amid the hub-bub and excitement of the San Francisco Bay Area in the ‘60s. Root assumptions about life in America were being challenged from many directions. Black people's movements for civil rights had jogged people from the fearful apathy of the ‘50s. Vietnam gave questions of activism life-and-death urgency for a wide population of young people, and launched a "new left." Free speech movements spread like a sequence of joyful chain-explosions from Berkeley eastward. Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique had hit the paperback stands in the early ‘60s, and women's consciousness-raising groups were spreading deep in the subsoil of the land. Flower children declared an epoch of peace and love, and flooded toward the Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco and Telegraph Avenue across the Bay in Berkeley to establish a "space" in their own image, shocking the mainstream American towns and families from which they had escaped.

It was a melding of these various streams of rebellion that gave birth to Radical Psychiatry, stimulated especially by very practical and immediate needs among the flower children. Practicality was what they tried to leave behind. They were adventurers, eyes focused on the brave new world of the future they dared to dream. They cut loose the old ways, donned new clothes and new sexual mores. Often, though, they found themselves in a wholly new city, without money or means, alone in the crowd, bewildered and afraid. They challenged a lifestyle, but with it some shed their touchstones of self and well-being, too. Disoriented young people, in pain, lonely, unhoused, under-fed, were frequent wanderers among the spirited population on the streets.

A fine free medical clinic was organized in Berkeley, and a group of people decided to offer psychological services through its auspices as well. To meet the needs of a community for whom every sacred cow was up for re-examination, these therapists and therapy-clients realized they must similarly reinvent the wheel of psychology. What was mental health, after all, in a world where family, sexuality, work ethics, indeed the very goals of life, were up for discussion?

That early work happened in an atmosphere of intense and exciting controversy and synthesis. Hogie Wyckoff, a committed feminist, was newly discovering Marxism in a course at the University. She proposed that the new thinking start with the concept of alienation rather than the old model of illness and health. Becky Jenkins and Bob Schwebel, both children of left families, contributed a fundamentally political approach. Claude Steiner had studied with Eric Berne, a challenger of old modes of psychotherapy and a leading light of the Growth Movement. Claude taught the concrete skills he had learned as a Transactional Analyst, including a strong inclination toward group work and a facility for understanding transactions, the interpersonal, "here-and-now" realm of psychology as opposed to the internal and historical.

Several books were published in the early days, drawing on materials published in Issues in Radical Therapy (IRT), a quarterly paper edited by Claude, Hogie, Joy Marcus, and Bob (see Reading List, Appendix C). It was an intensely creative and productive period. New theory was being framed "on the hoof," in the workshops of drop-in "rap groups" and free problem-solving groups. To write it up was part of the creative process.

Since then, although much has happened, little has been written in book form. The second decade has been a more introspective one, in which we consolidated the work, became skillful practitioners, learned how to train others, grappled with some hard problems of power inequalities and of isolation. Now after ten years, we feel the time for reflection has come. Nothing tests theory more accurately than practice. Some of our ideas from the early ‘70s have fallen by the by; others have held up, changed, grown. One of our agendas in writing this book is to see which those are and where they are heading now.


Introduction 1


Part I: Theory

One: Power

Claude Steiner

Two: Loss of Power — Alienation

Beth Roy

Three: Recovery of Power — Ways of Thinking

Beth Roy, Shelby Morgan


Part II: Working Concepts

Four: Cooperation

Claude Steiner, Beth Roy


Five: Competition

JoAnn Costello, Beth Roy

Six: The Rescue Triangle

Sandy Spiker, Beth Roy


Part III: Practice of Therapy

Seven: Groups

Beth Roy

Eight: Bodywork

Sandy Spiker, Beth Roy

Nine: Combating Racism

Beth Roy


Reading List


PART 1    PART 2     PART 3      APPENDIX

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