Our latest interview, as we continue research and story development about the treatment options for mental disorders, was with Daniel B. Fisher. Dr. Fisher has an M.D., Ph.D., is the Executive Director of the National Empowerment Center and a member of the President’s Commission on Mental Illness.  He is one of the few psychiatrists in the country who openly discusses his recovery from mental illness.  He is a role model for others who are struggling to recover and his life dispels the myth that people do not recover from mental illness.

While in medical school Dr. Fisher was diagnosed with schizophrenia and hospitalized several times. Even after graduating with Ph.D in biochemistry at 24, he learned from his own experience that mental health conditions are more interpersonal than neurological.

Dr. Fisher, along with a team of others with ‘lived experience’, has developed a program called Emotional CPR that utilizes many of the same principles as Open Dialogue.  He spoke to us about the medical model for treating mental disorders versus the alternative approaches that eCPR and Open Dialogue offer. He also mentions the political, economic and cultural barriers that these alternative treatment programs are facing.  Here he describes how some of his views on mental illness differ from the well known psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey.

Do you feel that eCPR and Open Dialogue are viable alternatives to the western medical treatment model?

9 Responses to “Interview with Daniel Fisher and his Lived Experience”

  1. Georgia Cammann

    I SO appreciate you opening the dialogue on mental health in this way Phil! I have been strongly pushed for the last several years to do my own part in creating a shift in the way mental health is viewed and treated because I’ve clearly seen the damage that misinformation and “professional treatment” have caused. What I initially saw as a trickle of this information is becoming a flow. As a shamanic healer and writer I’ve been dedicated to finding new, natural ways to view and treat mental health. I’ve learned greatly from practicing the principles and studying the research of some visionaries in this field such as Dr. John Weir, Dr. Derrick Klinghart, Dr. Malidoma Some’, Dr. Rebecca Yardley, Micheal Meade and many others. They all understand that truly healing anything requires getting to the root cause and not just putting a “band-aid” on it with drugs and that many things don’t need “healing” because their not afflictions but rather very personal, spiritual experiences that need to be supported and given a safe space to play out. Our lack of connection in modern society to the Natural World and rituals on personal and community levels have played a huge part in why so many are suffering with their mental health in increasing numbers. It’s a disconnect with ancient wisdom really.

  2. Vivian Fulk

    Connecting to that ancient wisdom starts with going deep inside ourself. It is painful but so rewarding. I myself have used several of the modern modalities Phil has discovered to go deeper. My quest is as a Climate Reality Project leader and mentor trying to figure out human kinds mass psychosis with valuing money over the planet. The feminine archetype of valuing harmony, compassion, empathy and happiness in ourself and others are missing from our metrics. One progressive example is the happiness index versus the GDP. Gaging what we value is one key to societal change. The other is incorporating divinity back into the conversation. Just make everything divine and have it over with is my humble opinion. Keep going Phil! Fascinating stuff for me coming from a family with two diagnosed mentally ill brothers. At 54 now, I made the choice not to have children because of my genes. Mental illness affects all of us.

  3. Marilyn Welton

    Yes! Thank you Dr. Fisher. I’ve been asking for this for years. Please bring this to Oklahoma. Please.

  4. Grace M. Druzba

    They say birds of a feather tend to flock together, and that could be a bad or good thing depending on situations. Why not all the animals of the forest mingle and live together harmoniously? Well, there are predators and prey, like the hawks and the mice, or the wolves and the caribou. The fittest have been known to victimize the weak in the real world. Perhaps our job is to bring some communication and understanding to the conversation. If you can visualize how this parallels with humankind and how the world of the healthy or “normal” ignore, hide, or punish those that develop natural differences in their emotions or behaviors, such as differences in how they view the world (but not a lack of knowing), then you’ll understand the crippling part of feeling as though not belonging – not being a part of the whole – of being an outcast. Peter Gabriel once sang, “How can we be in if there is no outside?” The medical model is a decent pursuit of trying to “fix things”, and I feel Emotional CPR is a good suggestion to add to help aid people in recovery from mental conditions. All too often, the emotions are punished rather than discussed and remedied. I believe in medicine, but I also feel it can be overused sometimes. The conditions of mentally different people are VERY real, although some people may not need pills, others can’t function well without some. Thanks for the input, Phil, Georgia, and Vivian. Thanks to people like you and Dr. Daniel Fisher for bringing up the topics. They truly need to be talked about more. As someone who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the mid-1990s, who has struggled with cigarette cessation, and who has searched my whole life for a world of more compassion, I am not looking for undue pity. I just want to survive in this strange mix of humans somehow with a full life even though many in the mix would rather not pay attention.

  5. Alain

    Hi Phil, I’m curious to the current status of Daniel Fisher. Is he still alive ? (yes he’s very much alive I heard just now by means of telepathy) than rests me the question : Is he still working as a advisor for the president ?
    I know he has written articles for mad in america but hasn’t published any since 2012 or 13.
    On a other note ; I saw your documentary and it had almost no real impact on me because I had seen your ted-talk a couple of times. Your ted-talk is ingraved on my spine but almost nothing tangible (as in possible advise for others) has remained of the documentary.
    (my comment saddens me since you’ve put an odd 20 years into your overall research and your documentary should have/ could have struck gold)
    I do however still advice/promote your documentary to any ‘newcommer’ with psychiarty so even if this movie doesn’t appeal to me, I hope it still can enlighten others)
    Perhaps, it can be possible to make another ted-talk (which you did, I saw it) or documentary wich tells the (your) whole story.
    I wish you the best and lots of love
    Alain (netherlands)

    ps. perhaps you could write a ‘perfect’ article for mad in america ?-)



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