Places and Spaces of Psychiatry by Lauren Tenney

Environmental psychology, or a focus on transactions, interactions, and non-actions humans have with and within environments they are exposed to, was originally developed in the environments of mental institutions. Environmental psychology has consistently been ignored by the larger field of psychiatry and its public administration. Subsequently, public psychiatry has created places which eliminate “freedom of choice.”

Psychologists Harold Proshansky, William Ittleson & Leanne G. Rivlin (1970) addressed the human need for “freedom of choice”, and how it “serves as a unifying concept that can help to organize and make clear the definitions of other terms” (p. 174). This framework has inspired some of the prime areas of investigation in the work of environmental psychology through the subjects of privacy, territoriality, and crowding.

Among these issues, privacy for the psychiatric inmate is of greatest concern. If the human experience requires a person to have a sense of privacy, then we have to question whether or not psychiatric places and spaces afford people involved with them a sense of privacy and, if so, to what degree.The authors referred to FIRSTNAMENEEDEDHERE Westin’s (1967) idea of privacy, which included, “the claim of individuals, groups or institutions to determine for themselves when, how, and to what extent information about them is communicated to others” (p. 176). Proshansky, Ittleson & Rivlin go on to call attention to the deprivation of privacy as a a lack of freedom of choice. This deprivation of privacy is an obstacle that many people experience while involved with psychiatric places due to problems created by the “forced social relationship.” Sociologist Irving Goffman (1961) addressed between servicer and servicee and compared it to “rape” (p. 28). As such places that eliminate privacy, or eliminate an ability for one to possess a sense of territoriality, which leads to a sense of crowding, goes beyond a social experience and extends to a psychological state. These types of places need to be eliminated.

Places, and the possibilities which are configured inside of them, allow for spaces to be created, which meet the needs of the rules of the place. For instance, being in a place which utilizes electroshock, restraints, and seclusion can augment how free–and safe–one feels. In psychiatric places, one of these types of spaces which leads to abuse and torture is the seclusion room. While FIRSTNAMENEEDEDHERE Mendez (2013), the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Convention Against Torture, has declared the use of the psychiatric practice of seclusion as torture, it is not a newly recognized problem as the readings below attest.

In future blog posts, I will be zooming in on different aspects of the places and spaces of psychiatry from the perspective of environmental psychology. This focus on public psychiatric service systems ranges  issues of psychiatric places and spaces from people seeking assistance often being refused that assistance which they seek or given assistance without full informed consent, to people uninterested in or out-right refusing psychiatric servicing being court-ordered or coerced into compliance. Below is the beginning of a reading list on places and spaces of psychiatry. I will expand on the practices, procedures, and products of psychiatric places and the policies that gear them at great profit. The readings will show modern social control (Foucault, Szasz) by leaning on Urie Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) Ecology of Human Development, creating a picture of a multi-trillion dollar industry, with monstrous social control capabilities, which affects millions of people over time.

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