Scream Therapy By Jason Schreurs, 268 pgs.

Jul 21, 2023

In literature, there are three subject areas I especially love reading: punk rock, self-help, and mental health memoirs. While it’s not foolproof, putting those three into one essay or book is almost a surefire way to entice me. It’s also rare. I’m happy if I can get two of those subject areas in one volume. But Jason Schreurs’s Scream Therapy might be one of the best punk rock mental health memoirs dosed with self-help material I’ve read. It’s a niche, I know, but it’s damn good.

Schreurs mixes multiple threads throughout his book. The core framework is built around a tour his improv band, Punk Jams, did in British Columbia in 2018. It’s an exhilarating ride and a train wreck as Schreurs’s mental health cascades everywhere over the eleven days of the tour. The band plays to a handful of people some nights and then for hundreds of people while opening for DOA on other dates. Schreurs’s performance as vocalist reads as something akin to GG Allin meets Darby Crash, minus the poop.

Also woven in these pages are summaries of conversations with other punk musicians about mental health, often taken from Schreurs’s podcast, Scream Therapy. There are familiar names like Justin Pearson from The Locust and Worriers’ Lauren Denitzio. But there are other punks spoken with who are working in the mental health field or are from lesser-known bands. It’s an array of people who aren’t all just white men. Schreurs then connects these conversations to his mental health transformation and his 2018 bipolar diagnosis.

There’s also insightful material regarding the role punk plays, generally speaking, in Schreurs’ life. He attended Fest multiple times and his mental health experience is explored through those trips. He regularly mentions bands he’s listened to, the effect their lyrics and music had on him, and how it related to what he was feeling.

As someone who recently graduated with a social work degree, the most important part of Scream Therapy was the practical tips and insights into how the ethos of punk can be used in clinical work with individuals with mental illness. Along with practitioners from the field, Schreurs writes clearly as to how the roots upon which punk was founded (questioning preconceived ideas, giving the individual power, recognizing the system is fucked) can be helpful ways by which to address mental health. (Major props for mentioning Urie Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model!) What is done well with this type of material is it’s shared in a non-clinical manner, so it’s accessible to any reader, not just a therapist.

Scream Therapy is one of the most straightforward and easily accessible mental health memoirs I’ve read. It excels in providing practical advice for individuals going through difficulties with their mental health. It also succeeds by challenging mental health clinician as to how to think about utilizing punk in their field. –Kurt Morris (Flex Your Head)