Robert Fancher: A Bit Off Base

This paper argues against Robert Fancher’s view of the role of science in modern psychotherapy.

This paper describes the grounds on which psychotherapy is made legitimate, with specific attention the role played by science. Robert Fancher is presented and rebuffed as a critic of this basic philosophy. The paper shows that the justification for the use of science as a means of legitimization of psychotherapy (and in effect a means to decide the fate of the mentally ill) is valid, and predicated upon documented, empirical evidence. It shows how Robert Fancher, in his book Cultures of Healing: Correcting the Image of American Mental Health Care, disagrees with this basic notion, over-exaggerating its weaknesses and debasing its strengths, but yet, offering no other system that is as universal and justifiable as science.
Life can be viewed as a never-ending series of choices. Some are welcomed, some are not, but they are all inevitable. Man takes it upon himself in most cases to exercise his ‘free will’ (or illusion of free will), to decide the course of his life. As a society, we take it upon ourselves to decide the course for others in special circumstances, such as in cases of crime or disease. For the mentally ill, it is society as a whole that makes their decisions for them. The general public abdicates this power to psychiatrists and those mental health professionals specifically trained to make these decisions, similar to the way public officials are elected to make political decisions. The qualifications of these elected psychiatrists and other professionals rest in their education and training, which ultimately rests on the shoulders of modern science. It is ultimately here that society puts its trust to ensure the proper care of its mentally ill citizens; and in our deepest fears, ourselves. It is this rationalization that Fancher attacks, harshly, and often without proper merit, in his book: Cultures of Healing: Correcting the Image of American Mental Health Care.