It was like any other day when I was called to the directors office to meet a clients parents. It was new admission and the parents were the first person to brief about the client. They explained in detail about various symptoms and profusely warned me about him. Finally after a long time I got to see my client Mr. A. He was a very skinny man in his late thirties with a big scar on his forehead. He looked at me with indifference. Pointing to his forehead he exclaimed I have been beaten so many times and even striped and placed in an empty room for many days without any food. I was horrified to know what he revealed was verified by his parents and their acceptances that in rehabilitation centre such practices are essential for a permanent recovery. Mr.A is not the only individual subjected to corporal punishments in a rehabilitation centre, there has been many clients referred to our centre after being physically abused, humiliated in front of many individuals.
These practices are performed by many rehabilitation centres to induce fear among the individuals to refrain from the behavior. These practices are not backed by any form of scientific studies but sadly continued to be practiced in many rehabilitation centre’s in India. The Mental Health Act and the Human rights have been stringent to avoid such practices in many rehabilitation centres. Sadly Individuals are neither informed about these laws and often families are misguided about such practices. Many administrators are still in the belief that a corporal punishment would induce fear in a individual, but this would be effective for a short duration.
Often it induces a long time hatred towards the family members for placing them in such centres and some even develop an immunity to such practices. He was asserting the fact that no matter any corporal punishments can be induced on him and he would not be perturbed. A long term psychotherapy and treating him with dignity and respect brought in some changes in his behavior that his family had not seen for many years of placing him in various rehabilitation centre. Once Mr.A understood that he was not going to be subjected to such corporal punishments he began to soften up and finally open up. Further family sessions and the rehabilitation program brought in a permanent change in Mr. A.
A very similar experience occurred with another addiction client Mr.R. I was on my normal morning rounds when he came with a worried look at my face. He had come down few days back and apologized profusely for not attending yoga that morning. I tried my best to calm him down, out of curiosity I asked him why he was worried about it. He explained that, in his previous rehabilitation centre he had overslept after many warnings from the staff. At 7 am a heavy bouncer got and sat on his chest and started punching him on his face. After which he was stripped and made to stand in his room till 11.30 am.
In the books of psychology and psychiatry there is no reference to such practices and no studies claim the effectiveness of such practices. Yet many continue to indulge in such activities. Not Adhering to the guidelines of WHO, the Mental Health Act and NHRC, several practices continued to be followed in many rehabilitation are mostly inhuman and non productive.
A client allowed to recover without the application of force or abuse have a longer chance of recovery and avoiding relapse. On the other hand treating patients with care and support, providing them with confidence that seemed to have vanished long ago in their minds and enhancing them to rebuild the self esteem would inculcate a positive change in an individual. However, it is not going to be an immediate result and such practices would require lot of time and effort from the practioners in this field of recovery. It also requires a non judgmental attitude to look at the patient and hoping to see a positive change in him. We have seen this phenomenon work wonders for the past 25 years. The positive mental health of the professionals working with the clients is the key to a successful therapeutic outcome.