Course Syllabi

Jeffrey A Schaler, Ph.D.

From the website of Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D.
Department of Justice, Law and Society School of Public Affairs The American University Spring 1994 73.333 .01 – LAW, PSYCHOLOGY AND JUSTICE Tuesday and Friday at 11:20 to 12:35 p.m. Ward 6

Faculty:  Dr.  Jeffrey A. Schaler Office:  Ward 216 Telephone:  (301) 585-5664 in Silver Spring, Md. E-mail: Office hours:  (by appointment)

Course Description

“Although we may not know it, we have, in our day, witnessed the birth of the Therapeutic State.  This is perhaps the major implication of psychiatry as an institution of social control,” (Szasz, 1963).

We tend to take for granted the benevolence of psychiatry and its scientific explanations for deviant behavior.  Yet psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and other members of the “mental health” profession assert that people can be “treated” against their consent for “mental illness,” as if “mentally ill” persons have real diseases, (this despite the fact that people with “real” diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, have the right to refuse medical treatment).  Moreover, individuals are absolved of responsibility for their criminal actions based on psychiatric/psychological explanations for their behavior.  Guilty persons are treated by the state and members of the mental health profession as if they are innocent.  Other people are treated as if they are guilty of a crime, when in fact the only “crime” they have committed is to deviate in their behavior from the established norm.

Controversy regarding the scientific and constitutional legitimacy of such practices has evolved for years.  Those supporting psychiatric paternalism argue that “mentally ill” people need to be protected from themselves.  Critics contend such practices are anathema to a free society¬and have more to do with law, ethics, and politics than medicine and science.

In this course we investigate the arguments of writers most critical of the “therapeutic state.”  We do so to further our understanding  of the unholy matrimony that has developed between the mental health and legal professions.  Topics include the insanity defense, competency to stand trial, involuntary treatment and commitment procedures.  Lecture and discussion format.

Course Objectives

  1. To understand contemporary psychiatric/psychological ideas regarding abnormal behaviors, explanations for these behaviors, and treatment policies implemented on the basis of these explanations.
  2. To provide students with methods to evaluate the scientific validity of psychiatric/psychologically-based treatment for abnormal behavior.
  3. To examine the moral, ethical, and political nature of contemporary psychiatric/psychological ideas regarding abnormal behavior.
  4. To explore the ways in which psychiatric/psychological explanations for abnormal behavior are used to exculpate individuals of responsibility for their actions, and deprive individuals of their constitutional right to due process.
  5. To investigate the legal implications of a “therapeutic state.”

Required Texts and Readings
Cohen, D.  (1990).  Challenging the therapeutic state:  Critical perspectives on psychiatry and the mental health system.  The Journal of Mind and Behavior, 11 (Nos. 3 & 4).
Edwards, R.E. (1982).  Psychiatry and ethics.  Buffalo, N.Y.:  Prometheus Books.
Szasz, T.S.  (1989).  Law, liberty, and psychiatry.  Syracuse, N.Y.:  Syracuse University Press.
Szasz, T.S.  (1988).  The myth of psychotherapy.  Syracuse, N.Y.:  Syracuse University Press.

For ful list of Syllai from Schaler:



Course Goals and Expectations:

As a fourth year course, History 4800 Provides students with the opportunity to explore a specialized topic, the history of madness, in depth, both through class discussion of scholarship in the field and through advanced independent research. Students should be able to use their advanced knowledge of the field and skills in critical thinking, historical writing, historical approaches and methodologies, to research a topic in depth using primary and secondary sources, produce an original analytical argument based on the evidence, and situate it in the appropriate historiographical and theoretical contexts. Students should be able to communicate their arguments to the instructor and their peers with clarity, accuracy, and logic through major research papers and class presentations. Students on completing the course successfully should understand the conventions of historical writing, the rules of academic integrity and professionalism, the importance of personal initiative and accountability, and the evolving nature of historical knowledge, and should be able to evaluate historical writing effectively through

examinations of sources, arguments, and methodologies.

Required Texts:
 Canadian Scholars Press Course Kit, available through the publisher or at Trent Bookstore.
Most of the readings in the Course Kit are also available through Bata Library.
 Robert Whitaker, Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring
Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill, revised edition (New York: Basic Books, 2010). Available
at Trent Bookstore or on-line
 Articles and primary documents accessible through Bata Library On-line Databases, on the
Internet, or on Blackboard

Click to access Syllabus4800B.pdf





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