A Review of Rossa Forbes’s The Scenic Route: A Way through Madness
by Laurna Tallman
Rossa Forbes writes about her son’s schizophrenia with the clarity of an investigative reporter. She describes Chris’s symptoms as she observed and learned about them, including a very interesting perspective on his childhood for anyone alert to symptoms of early ear dysfunction. She faces with ruthless honesty the psychiatric and pharmaceutical establishments in her country of origin, Canada, and in Switzerland where the family was living. If she had been treated with equal candour and willingness to learn, she would have had a better grasp of Chris’s weak self-control, fragile grip on reality, fatigue, altered learning abilities, and other personality changes, as well as with the effects of medication on his former capabilities. Instead, like so many parents and caregivers, she had to learn about those characteristics of schizophrenia and of psychoactive drugs through trial and error. Like any parent whose child has been committed to an institutional setting for his or her protection, and the protection of others, she gradually learned that the medical/psychiatric profession strategies and medications do not heal, only control. At the same time, she noticed that vague hopes and promises of improvement came with those strategies and that they were proving false.
After three years of co-operating with this misleading medicalized paradigm, Forbes decided to explore other possibilities. She conceded the need for some medication, but she withdrew her son and the family from group therapy
and she contested the authority of the prescribing physician. She also was inspired to enter into those adventures in alternative therapies with Chris on his “hero’s journey.” The Scenic Route has a peculiar value as a record of those primarily “non-medical” interventions and of how Forbes experienced them, as well as how she evaluated her son’s reactions to them.
I view those alternative therapies from the perspective of a parent who healed her son’s schizophrenia by strengthening his right ear with an innovative music therapy on three separate occasions. I derived a neurological paradigm based on my observations and research. I have counselled people using music therapies for a decade. My personal experiences with singing, humming, ambient music, the Tomatis Method, Bérard’s Audio Integration Training (AIT), and my personal use of headphones binaurally and right-ear only (“focused listening”) give me a strongly biased view of Chris’s progress through his various adventures. I note that some of the interventions he and his mother used involved types of sound I would consider damaging. His travels often subjected him to the noxious sound of jet engines that can be devastating to weak ears, which may have contributed to his first psychotic break. I note that Chris took singing lessons and often participated in performances using his singing and speaking voice for many years, activities that I think could have offset some of the potentially negative effects of other therapies. Forbes gives the Tomatis Method less credit than I think it deserves and slightly misrepresents it or was misinformed by its practitioners. While the Tomatis Method only rarely is applied for long enough to heal severe integration disorder, at the very least, Chris’s exposure to that music therapy helped to repair some of the damage his ongoing use of medication surely caused to his ears.
Forbes does not claim scientific methodology in the hero’s journey she guides. The overlapping of one therapy with another frequently confounds results. Her complete disclosure allows the reader to examine alternative therapies and to draw personal conclusions. Consistent with her transparent honesty, Forbes discusses her beliefs, her openness to alternative beliefs, and her willingness to experiment whether or not she invests belief in the therapy. Driven by hope and determination, Forbes soldiers on with admirable courage and unflagging optimism to find healing for her son. For that reason alone, anyone seeking healing for a loved one will find The Scenic Route: A Way through Madness an inspiring read.
Laurna Tallman is the author of Listening for the Light: A New Perspective on Integration Disorder, Hemispheric Integration and the Ears: A Scientific and Inclusive Paradigm of Human Behaviour, Ear Function in SSRI Withdrawal: A Comparison with Symptoms of Other Ear-Related Syndromes, and Awakening Normal: How Focused Listening to Music Heals Mental Illness. She blogs at https://www.northernlightbooks.ca/MentalHealththroughMusic.