When I first heard the term liberation theology (in opposition to a theol­ogy that fosters compliance with the status quo), I thought there should also be a liberation psychology—a psychology that doesn’t equate a lack of adjustment with mental illness, but instead promotes constructive rebel­lion against dehumanizing institutions, and which also provides strategies to build a genuinely democratic society.

libera­tion psychology is about looking at the world from the point of view of the dominated instead of the dominators.

Whether they realize it or not, mental health professionals who narrowly treat their clients in a way that encourages compliance with the status quo are acting politically. Similarly, validating a client’s challenging of these undemocratic hierarchical modes is also a political act. I believe that mental health professionals have an obligation to recognize the broader issues that form a context for their clients’ mental well-being, and to be honest with their clientele about which side of this issue they are on.

A minority of the anti-authoritarian kids I have worked with are aware of anarchism and identify themselves as anarchists, perhaps having T-shirts with a circle drawn around an A. However, even among those adolescents who know nothing of the political significance of the term anarchism, I cannot remember one who didn’t become excited to discover that there is an actual political ideology that encompasses their point of view. They immediately became more whole after they discovered that answering “yes” to the following questions does not mean that they suffer from a mental disorder but that they have a certain political philosophy:

  • Do you hate coercion? Do you love freedom?
  • Are you willing to risk punishments to gain freedom?
  • Do you distrust large, impersonal, and distant authorities?
  • Do you reject centralized authority and believe in participa­tory democracy?
  • Do you hate powerful bigness of any kind?
  • Do you hate laws and rules that benefit the people at the top and make life miserable for people at the bottom?

Source: Toward a Liberation Psychology

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