Book Review: “For Their Own Good”

I missed the book review last month. The book I had planned to review wasn’t as good as I hoped and I had issues finding another one and finishing it in time.

I like reading about old psychiatric facilities and what happened to them, even though I know it wasn’t the best treatment. I’m well aware that patients were not always treated humanely, and in some cases, this continues today in the face of many rules and regulations. This idea, quite frankly, makes me sick.

When I worked with patients, I tried my best to be empathetic and follow the things I was taught both in college, life and by the facilities I worked for. Those things go a very long way. Even if patients aren’t verbal, they can and do remember how people treat them. They can feel fear and joy towards certain people that treat them well or not so well. Patients that repeatedly return do remember how you treated them the last time (or maybe the last ten times) they were there.


In this book, Bradette Michel tells the story of a young psychiatrist, Dr. Adam Fletcher, set in 1857. He is the new medical director of Illinois State Hospital for the Insane. When he gets there, he is not entirely sure what to expect but is not entirely happy with what he sees. Dr. McFarland is his new boss, and along with the Matron, walks him through the facility. There are three “wards”, each housing patients depending on the severity of their illness.

In Ward Three, the patients are held in restraint chairs- five points, to be exact. That means four for arms and legs, one for the patient’s head, which would make this illegal today. There was a hole in the chair for the patient to be able to use the bathroom, which would also be illegal today. (There are very strict regulations on this according to age and other factors.) Dr. Fletcher was very disturbed to see a patient in this chair, but yet, kept walking. How? He did not feel that he could say anything. He was new.

Dr. McFarland was very punitive-based, as many were during this time. He punished one patient by depriving her contact with her daughter simply because she was refusing her breakfast. Maybe she just didn’t like the food? Maybe she wasn’t hungry? Not everyone is a breakfast person. None of these were thought or mattered to him, he just wanted to be in charge of everyone and everything at this facility. He told the patient that they would start “bleeding” her if she did not comply with his order. He was much more doctor-based than patient-based. This might have been in 1857, but it was still very wrong.

Dr. Fletcher began to see the very hurtful things that were going on with the patients and how his boss really saw them and realized that he wanted to help them. He wanted to do more for them than what his boss imagined doing. Will, it cost him his job?

You will have to read the book to find out!

My series with Bonnie continues. Broken Wings Part 3: What Your Child Thinks About Your Divorce If you missed anything so far, you can read Part One and Part Two


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