January 2011

Dr. and Mrs. Breggin Explain Their Break from Their Old Organization: Why We Left

Until now Dr. and Mrs. Breggin have refrained from discussing details of the split with the organization that Dr. Breggin founded and ran from 1971-2002.  There have been only a very few inquiries about what happened; most people seem to correctly assume the Breggins left the organization for good reasons. However, because the leaders of the old organization continue to advertise Dr. Breggin's accomplishments as if they were their own, it is time to explain the course of events that led to the break. 

From 1972 to 2002, Dr. Peter Breggin founded and led the Center for the Study of Psychiatry, informally known as the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology.  For all of these years, the organization was run from Dr. Breggin’s private practice office in Bethesda, Maryland.

Dr. Breggin’s wife Ginger joined him in the 1980s and became Executive Director in the 1990s.  For these thirty years, Dr. Breggin and then Mrs. Breggin were the only active reformers participating on a regular basis in the Center.  The Board of Directors lent their names to their reform work without participating in a direct fashion.  For example, two were U. S. Congressmen and one was a Senator.

Over the years, the center became synonymous with ethical reform in psychiatry. Dr. and Mrs. Breggin continued to attract outstanding members to the Board of Directors, created a large Advisory Council and general membership, established a Listserv and newsletter, and created founded and sponsored a peer-reviewed journal, Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry (EHPP).  In addition, they created a well-attended annual conference that became the premier psychiatric reform meeting. They continued to lead all of the center’s reform efforts. 

In 2002 Mrs. Breggin became physically ill for a time.  Before she recovered, Dr. and Mrs. Breggin decided to offer the leadership to young professionals with the understanding that they would continue the high ethical and scientific standards established by Dr. Breggin and that they would devote themselves to effective psychiatric reform. Dr. Breggin and Mrs. Breggin remained Directors Emeritus and did their best to help out the new leaders. But their offers of help and active participation were increasingly rejected.

By April 2010, Dr. and Mrs. Breggin concluded that CSP had abandoned and betrayed the legacy of high standards:  

(1) There were and continue to be questionable financial self-dealings on the Board of Directors;  

(2) Nonprofit finances were obscured from view;  

(3) The annual membership was dwindling;

(4) Traffic on the CSP website in 2009-2010 had withered away from many hundreds of  visits per day under Dr. and Mrs. Breggin to less than 10 visits per day under the new leaders;  

(5) The conferences were contracting in size and spirit;  

(6) Nearly all of the most outstanding Board Members, including the two U. S. Congressmen and the U. S. Senator, were no longer on the Board of Directors, and the board itself had begun to resemble an old boy’s club; 

(7) On two occasions Dr. and Mrs. Breggin had to rescue the scientific journal from  dwindling subscriptions and contributions.  

(8) Although Dr. Breggin remained the most frequent contributor to the journal, the new  leadership nonetheless made an unsuccessful effort to remove his name and Mrs. Breggin’s name from the masthead as Founding Editors and Consultants.

(9) Overall, during an eight year period, the new leadership created very little new, accomplished little of merit, and ran the organization into the ground. 

Despite Dr. Breggin’s continued efforts to keep the organization afloat, the new leaders openly expressed resentment of the reality that nearly everyone continued to identify the organization with Dr. Breggin. They attacked Dr. Breggin personally in order to push him further away and to make clear that he was no longer welcome to participate actively in the organization he founded.  Eventually they scrubbed Dr. Breggin’s name and legacy from the Center website while continuing to claim his accomplishments as their own, starting with his successful five-year anti-lobotomy campaign in the 1970s when not a single one of the leaders had anything to do with the organization or the campaign.   

The following list of accomplishments was recently downloaded from the website of Dr. Breggin’s old organization.  The organization that Dr. Breggin was compelled to leave continues to claim his accomplishments without associating them with his name.  Instead they are attributing Dr. Breggin's individual accomplishments to "ICSPP members."  Here’s the list taken from the website of Dr. Breggin’s old organization in January 2011, ten months after Dr. Breggin’s complete break from the group: 

Helped stop the worldwide resurgence of lobotomy and psychosurgery on children and adults, and helped stopped all psychosurgery in state and federal institutions.   

ICSPP members were instrumental in the creation of a Federal Psychosurgery Commission by Congress. 

1970's to present:   
Monitored and at times helped modify or stop unethical, hazardous experimental research on children. 

ICSPP members alerted professionals to the dangers of dementia produced by long term use of neuroleptic (anti-psychotic drugs.) 

1983 to present:     
ICSPP members alerted the profession to the dangers of tardive dyskinesia in children, caused by neuroleptic (anti-psychotic) drugs, a potentially devastating neurological disorder involving involuntary muscle movements  

ICSPP members helped push the FDA to force drug companies to put a new class warning of tardive dyskinesia on their labels for neuroleptic (anti-psychotic) drugs. 

Early 1990s:           
ICSPP members helped cause the withdrawal of a large multi-agency federal program to perform dangerous invasive experiments on inner-city kids in search of supposed genetic and biochemical causes of violence.  (Violence initiative.) 

ICSPP members helped cause the initial cancellation and later modification of a potentially racist federally sponsored conference on the hypothetical genetics of violence. 

1992 to present:      
ICSPP has helped alert the profession to the dangers of down-regulation and dangerous withdrawal reactions from the new SSRI anti-depressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil.  

ICSPP members encouraged the National Institute of Health (NIH) Consensus Development Conference on Diagnosing and Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and raised serious concerns about ADHD and stimulants for children.

The above list of achievements is claimed by Dr. Breggin’s old organization without any attribution to him.  These accomplishments are posted on their website, displayed in their newsletter and used to advertise the old organization’s conferences, again without explaining that these are the personal and professional accomplishments of Dr. Breggin achieved over forty years of reform work, including many years working with his wife.  While claiming all of Dr. Breggin's accomplishments for themselves, at no point does the organization state that they forced Dr. Breggin to leave. These same achievements are presented in greater detail on Dr. Breggin’s professional website, www.breggin.com, where they have been published for many years.

The 2008 book The Conscience of Psychiatry: The Reform Work of Peter R. Breggin, MD documents, through dozens of testimonials and innumerable media citations to sources like TimeNewsweek, the New York Times that these are Dr. Breggin and Mrs. Breggin’s personal professional accomplishments. For example, through news articles in the nation’s leading magazines and newspapers, the book documents how Dr. Breggin devoted years in his successful campaign to stop the return of the lobotomy in the 1970s.  It also documents how Dr. and Mrs. Breggin led an international effort to defeat the Federal Violence Initiative in the 1990s.  For their old organization to claim these and other accomplishments as their own is blatant identity theft. 

Most of these reform accomplishments were carried out before the current leaders or board members were even members in the organization. These accomplishments were the result of years of unpaid work scientific research and writing by Dr. Breggin, and then by his wife Ginger as well, at huge personal and financial cost to them, including every conceivable kind of attack from the vested interests that surround the Pharmaceutical Complex and organized psychiatry.  

The current leadership of Dr. Breggin’s old organization should be ashamed of expropriating these hard-won accomplishments; it reflects poorly on them that they wish to continue to hang onto Dr. Breggin’s coattails while denying that it’s his coat.    

After many months of private attempts on the Breggins’ part to resolve the various issues with the old organization’s new leadership, Dr. and Mrs. Breggin withdrew all support from CSP in April 2010.  They enthusiastically moved on to form a new and already thriving organization, the Center for the Study of Empathic Therapy.  

Dr. and Mrs. Breggin believe that reform in psychiatry could be well-served by two organizations and ordinarily they would wish their old organization well. But the leaders of that group must first stop expropriating Dr. Breggin’s accomplishments as their own. Instead, they should earn their own list of accomplishments by devoting their professional and personal lives to psychiatric reform, doing it without pay, and often under heavy attack.  Let them earn rather that expropriate their credits as psychiatric reformers.  

Many members from our old organization have joined our new reform organization and we welcome them all.  Belonging to both organizations will encourage psychiatric reform and hopefully lead in the future to a healing solution between the two groups. 

Copyright 2011 Peter R. Breggin, MD
ICSPP~ for Empathic Human Sciences and Services
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