Throughout his long career – as a private practitioner working with Jim Bugental; as the editor of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology; as a faculty member at Saybrook, and at UCLA – Tom Greening has striven to live up to the charge of humanistic psychology: to enhance people’s ability to experience freedom and meaning in their lives.
That’s a mission he’s even applied to the “mentally ill” – a term he has come to distrust as both a bad metaphor and as a means of tuning out the idea that we should even be concerned about the need mental patients have to experience freedom and meaning.
This month that work was recognized as Tom Greening was chosen to receive the 2009 Thomas Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties – an award named after the pioneering author (and Rollo May Award winner) who championed the idea that “mental illness” is a contradiction in terms.
Greening is the recipient of this year’s “professional award,” offered by the Center for Independent Thought, “to a specialist, such as a psychiatrist, physician, psychologist, sociologist, or economist, who has made advances in civil liberties on a theoretical or practical level.”
Tom is also a great admirer of Szasz – whose work he says he routinely recommends to students.
“The Myth of Mental Illness was and is a very important book, and in it Szasz makes that obvious point: that ‘mental illness’ is an expressive metaphor,” Greening says. “Often when I see students use the term ‘mental illness’ in their writing, I make a note of it, and ask if they’ve read Szasz. I was gratified, when he won the Rollo May Award, to see what a large turnout of students we had to hear him speak.”