One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Research Paper

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Psycho Therapeutic Encounter

In the world of psychology, therapy is an important part in helping patients to accept the different issues they are dealing with. Over the years, various techniques and tactics have been used with numerous degrees of success. The film One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest is the classic example of this. It is focused on how a mental institution is run during the 1960s and the way various forms of therapy are having an effect on patients. To fully understand what is happening requires describing / analyzing the therapeutic process, important skills used by mental health professionals and their impact. Together, these different elements will show the way certain disciplines will influence the quality of care provided to patients. (Douglas & Foreman, 1975)

Background One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest

One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest is focusing on the experiences Randal McMurphy goes through. He is sent to a mental hospital from the state work farm (i.e. prison). They felt that he was unstable and needed to have further evaluation. McMurphy is using this as a way to avoid any kind of hard work until he is released (later on). During his time in the mental hospital, he experiences different forms of therapy and continues to rebel against the staff. The result is that he throws a wild party at the end. Yet, he fails to escape. This is when his plot is discovered and McMurphy lashes out by trying to kill the head nurse (Ratcheted). The staff subsequently, conducts a frontal lobotomy on him. This is to prevent McMurphy from becoming a danger to himself or others. (Neubauer, 2011) (Douglas & Foreman, 1975)

Describe and Analyze the Therapeutic Process

These different events are illustrating the various forms therapy, available in mental health during this time. The most notable include: group therapy, the use of prescription drugs, electro shock therapy and other radical forms of treatment. The combination of these factors is illustrating how there are varying degrees utilized based upon following a number of different levels. (Neubauer, 2011) (Douglas & Foreman, 1975)

Group therapy is the most common. This takes place when the nurse will listen to what the patient's issues are and then everyone will comment about them. The basic idea is to bring the problems to the surface and show the individual how they are responsible for them. This is supposed to open a channel of communication with others. In this case, the process has very limited results. This is from other members of the group using this as a way to belittle the person. The result is that the nurses do not have control over what happens. (Neubauer, 2011) (Douglas & Foreman, 1975)

After these meetings and throughout the day, everyone is provided with a combination of anti-depressants. The basic idea is to change their underlying state of mind by having them feel more balanced and in control. In the short-term, this shifts everybody's moods. However, the problem is that they are not becoming more stable. Instead, the drugs are creating tremendous amounts of highs and lows. This causes someone to feel greater swings in their attitudes between states of joy and sadness. At the same time, their addictive properties have created a codependence on these drugs. The result is that patients will see a short-term change in the behavior. Then, they will become more psychotic and unstable once the medication wears off. (Neubauer, 2011) (Douglas & Foreman, 1975)

Electro shock therapy is used in situations where the person is acting out against authority. This serves as a form of punishment by letting the individual experience greater amounts of pain. The basic idea is to use this to shape how they reacting through forcing them to change through facing the consequences of their actions. This has limited effects, with many people experiencing mild forms of brain damage. At the same time, it can harden the resolve of someone to not succumb to the authority of mental health professionals. There is also the possibility of them falling into even greater staff of depression. As a result, these practices are cruel and do nothing to help improve the underlying mental state of the patient. Instead, they make them feel greater amounts of anti-social or depressive behavior. (Neubauer, 2011) (Douglas & Foreman, 1975)

Other radical forms of treatment are when the patient will receive a frontal lobotomy. This is because they are becoming a danger to others and the facility must take radical steps to rectify the situation. In the film, this occurs when McMurphy tries to strangle nurse Ratcheted. In the next scene, he returns as a vegetable (after a frontal lobotomy). (Melo, 2007) (Douglas & Foreman, 1975)

The result is that this form of treatment is considered to be cruel and inhuman. This is because the damage can destroy the ability of the person to think for themselves. Currently, this practice is banned based upon the U.S. Supreme Court declaring it unconstitutional. This is illustrating how these techniques are considered to be very barbaric. (Melo, 2007) (Douglas & Foreman, 1975)

These different techniques are showing how mental health professionals are not treating the root causes of these patients' problems. Instead, they are using prescription drugs to control their mood. While their group therapy sessions, are not built on understanding and learning how to confront different challenges. Instead, they are emphasizing regression and humiliation to make the person want to change. The problem is that these issues do not become better. This is because these two techniques only cover up the problem or they make the person feel bad. Over the course of time, this means that the staff will be ineffective in helping to treat patients. (Neubauer, 2011) (Douglas & Foreman, 1975)

To make matters worse, anyone who does not follow the rules or lashes out about their treatment is given electro shock therapy. This is very cruel and it is inflicting undue amounts of damage on the individual for questioning authority. In extreme situations, these twisted views are taken to another level when frontal lobotomies are conducted. This is problematic, as it does not help the patient to become any better. Instead, the entire system is designed to control the activities of a person. (Neubauer, 2011) (Douglas & Foreman, 1975)

As a result, there are very little forms of effective therapy taking place at this hospital. This is because mental health professionals do not want to understand what is happening and are more concerned about control. To achieve these objectives, they will engage in practices to belittle a person, control their mind and punish them by taking their sense of who they are. In many ways, once could argue that these practices they are using are considered to be sadistic. (Neubauer, 2011) (Douglas & Foreman, 1975)

The Skills used by the Therapist / Counselor

The basic skills that are used by the therapist include: listening, questioning, repeating and offering insights. These concepts are designed to show the patient where they are having challenges and the best approaches for addressing them. It is at this point, when the staff wants to help the individual to make a change by seeing how they are the problem. This will encourage them to change their lives over the longer term. (Domino, 1983) (Douglas & Foreman, 1975)

Listening is when the mental health professional will pay attention to what the patient is saying. In many cases, they will take notes and respond by shaking their heads. This is demonstrating how they understand the patient's viewpoints. When this is utilized, it makes the individual feel a sense of ease and comfort. This occurs once they had a chance to express their emotions to others. In the movie, this is used by both the doctors and nurses to comprehend the feelings of patients. They will then, make some kind of notation about what is happening. (Domino, 1983) (Douglas & Foreman, 1975)

Questioning is when the therapist will ask the person how they felt and wonder if they handled the situation properly. In many of their group therapy sessions, Nurse Ratcheted will often inquire about why someone decided to behave a particular way. This occurs by looking at their past lives and the way this contributed to their situation. The basic objective is to utilize questions, to force the person to reevaluate themselves and their lives over the long-term. In the film, this has devastating consequence with different people embraced about what they shared. This is used a as form of humiliation, to force the person to change. (Domino, 1983) (Douglas & Foreman, 1975)

Repeating is another way of humiliating the individual. This takes place with staff at the hospital constantly talking about negative events and poor behavior. These incidents make the patient's feel as if they have no control of their lives. This creates a scene, where someone lashes out over having the nurses take away their cigarettes during a group therapy session. (Domino, 1983) (Douglas & Foreman, 1975)…

Sources Used in Documents:


Domino, G. (1983). Impact of the Film. Psychological Reports, 53, 179 -- 182.

Douglas, M. (Producer), & Forman, M. (Director). (1975). One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest [Motion Picture]. USA: United Artists.

Melo, M. (2007). Executing the Criminally Ill. Criminal Justice, 22, 30 -- 39

Neubauer, J. (2011). One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. Arcadia, 46 (11), 214- 221

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