Power Threat Meaning Framework

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Martin Seager:

"Many psychologists question the wisdom of the DSM diagnostic system, and would like to see it replaced or modified to something more ‘human’. The fact that the Power Threat Meaning Framework (PTMF) is an alternative model makes it immediately appealing to some, but closer inspection reveals that the PTMF contains within it a highly questionable view of the male gender.

The PTMF is a vast document of 400 pages with the grand aim of replacing a psychiatric categorisation system for mental health with an equivalent psycho-social system. It is written using a narrow band of evidence by a small clique of clinical psychologists who don’t speak for many others even among our own profession. One problem with the PTMF is that it is emotionally driven by a (perhaps understandable) resentment of psychiatric culture.

However taking an anti-psychiatric stance can too easily become an anti-biology / pro social constructionist stance, therefore becoming naive in relation to the biological and embodied aspects of the human condition. In essence we are splitting mind from body and simply swapping biological determinism for social determinism. Leaving out the “bio” in “bio-psycho-social” is no better than leaving out the “psycho-social”.

In no area of human science is naïve social constructionism more dangerous and misleading than in the field of human sex and gender. Through such a constructionist lens, the evolution of human beings as a mammalian species becomes totally and arrogantly disregarded. Biological sex is presumed to have no direct bearing on psychological gender. Body and mind are naively split.

In the PTMF there are 3 pages devoted to men and masculinity. Nestled in a 400 page document, these 3 pages might be easily overlooked, but they represent a sad indictment of current post-feminist attitudes to the male gender based on untested political theories and prejudices rather than empirical bio-psycho-social science and empathic humanity. For a profession that claims to be rooted in values of science and compassion for human suffering, these unexamined and lazy prejudices towards the male gender represent a complete failure to meet core standards. In essence, the PTMF takes a judgmental and a negative stance towards the male gender. All psychologists, therapists and counsellors should know that being “judgmental” or “negative” is the worst starting point for helping any group of people and can only undermine empathy and scientific understanding.

The primary presumption made by the PTMF is that being of the male gender somehow confers a “dominant” status. This vague notion of male power is simply accepted without proper definition, self-reflection or question. In a framework that is all about “power” and “threat”, the implication here then is clear that men are presumed to be more “powerful and threatening” than women. Nowhere, however, in a supposedly serious scientific document, is the concept of power adequately defined or measured. "