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Stelzer, J. (1995). On demoralization: the epistemological, administrative, and emotional obstacles. Free Associations, 5(3):289-302.

(1995). Free Associations, 5(3):289-302


On demoralization: the epistemological, administrative, and emotional obstacles

Joseph Stelzer

‘The unpublished secret is that Bion was sacked from Northfield.’

(Main, 1983, p. 205)


The Northfield experiment, an attempt at working differently in the mental health field during the Second World War, a pioneer experience in the history of community therapy, has already been analyzed by different authors (Bridger, 1982; Main, 1983). During thirty years and in different countries, I have participated in similar attempts at changing the patterns of activities in mental health. As it is known, these attempts always encounter resistance that is more or less openly violent, according to the nature of the regimes that oppose these changes. Because I am convinced that the need for change in our field is as important at present as in the past, I consider that it is a relevant task to analyze the processes of resistance to change.

I will compare my experience and those of my colleagues in two settings: under the military persecution of mental health workers in Argentina and the conflicts sustained by some professionals with the administrative establishment in North America, specifically in Canada. According to my interchange of information with colleagues practicing in some European countries, the descriptions of the North American setting could also be applied, to some extent, to the European one. The more open and violent ways of resistance to change, performed by a dictatorial regime in Argentina, have been widely analyzed and published (Langer, 1989).

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