On This Day … 23 August

People (Deaths)

  • 1974 – Roberto Assagioli, Italian psychiatrist and author (b. 1888).
  • 1989 – R. D. Laing, Scottish psychiatrist and author (b. 1927).
  • 2013 – William Glasser, American psychiatrist and author (b. 1925).

Roberto Assagioli

Roberto Assagioli (27 February 1888 to 23 August 1974) was an Italian psychiatrist and pioneer in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology.

Assagioli founded the psychological movement known as psychosynthesis, which is still being developed today by therapists and psychologists, who practice the psychological methods and techniques he developed. His work, expounded in two books and many monographs published as pamphlets, emphasized the possibility of progressive integration, or synthesis, of the personality.

R.D. Laing

Ronald David Laing (07 October 1927 to 23 August 1989), usually cited as R.D. Laing, was a Scottish psychiatrist who wrote extensively on mental illness – in particular, the experience of psychosis.

Laing’s views on the causes and treatment of psychopathological phenomena were influenced by his study of existential philosophy and ran counter to the chemical and electroshock methods that had become psychiatric orthodoxy. Taking the expressed feelings of the individual patient or client as valid descriptions of personal experience rather than simply as symptoms of mental illness, Laing regarded schizophrenia as a theory not a fact. Though associated in the public mind with anti-psychiatry he rejected the label. Politically, he was regarded as a thinker of the New Left. Laing was portrayed by David Tennant in the 2017 film Mad to Be Normal.

William Glasser

William Glasser (11 May 1925 to 23 August 2013) was an American psychiatrist.

Glasser was the developer of W. Edwards Deming’s workplace ideas, reality therapy and choice theory. His innovations for individual counselling, work environments and school, highlight personal choice, personal responsibility and personal transformation. Glasser positioned himself in opposition to conventional mainstream psychiatrists, who focus instead on classifying psychiatric syndromes as “illnesses” and prescribe psychotropic medications to treat mental disorders.

Based on his wide-ranging and consulting clinical experience, Glasser applied his theories to broader social issues, such as education, management, and marriage, to name a few. As a public advocate, Glasser warned the general public of potential detriments caused by older generations of psychiatry, wedded to traditional diagnosing of patients as having mental illnesses (brain disorders) and prescribing medications. In his view, patients simply act out their unhappiness and lack of meaningful personal connection with important people in their life. Glasser advocated educating the general public about mental health issues; offering, post-modern frameworks for finding and following healthy therapeutic direction.

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