San Diego Law Review

The Child As Involuntary Mental Patient: The Threat of Child Therapy to the Child's Dignity, Privacy, and Self-Esteem


Thomas Szasz

Document Type



"Stone walls," in Richard Lovelace's immortal phrase, "do not a prison make." What makes a prison-or a space of social confinement, if one wishes to speak less metaphorically-is any invidious and incapacitating class, caste, or category into which individuals or groups may be placed involuntarily, and from which they cannot escape. Childhood is one such category. Mental patienthood is another. It follows, then, that a child assigned to the role of mental patient is doubly incriminated and incapacitated: as a minor, and as mad.

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