• ADHD books published by NorthEast Books & Publishing, by Association for Youth, Children and Natural Psychology
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A History of Psychiatry: From the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Prozac Edward Shorter

200 years of psychiatric history, compressed.

Beyond the Disease Model of Mental Disorders by Donald Kiesler

Kiesler's Beyond the Disease Model of Mental Disorder goes beyond recent volumes which argue that psychotropic medications are being overused and abused in contemporary mental health settings.

After a comprehensive review of the relevant scientific evidence, Kiesler concludes that henceforth the study of mental disorders must be guided by multicausal theories and research that systematically include an array of biological, psychological, and sociocultural causal factors. Kiesler adds that, in order for this to be accomplished, the mental health field and the public at large must first abandon the invalid monocausal biomedical (disease) model of mental disorder.

Blaming the Brain: The Truth About Drugs and Mental Health, by Elliot Valenstein

Another good scholarly resource with a similar theme from a non-biased university professor / teacher of psychology. Valenstein is an emeritus professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Michigan. He argues that people should be highly suspicious of the claim that all mental illness is primarily a biochemical disorder.

Valenstein does not argue that drugs never work or that patients should discontinue taking medication. His central point is that drugs do not attack the real cause of a disorder, since biochemical theories are an unproven hypothesis and probably a false one.

Page updated: November 22, 2015

What is Psychiatry?

Where modern mainstream psychiatry falls short

Belgian child psychiatrist Peter Adriaenssens who worked with abused children.

Psychiatry is described as the branch of the medical profession that is concerned with the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of metal disorders. The term psychiatry is derived from two Greek words meaning "mind healing". Until the 18th century, mental illness of disorder was most often seen as demonic possession, but it gradually came to be considered as a sickness requiring treatment. By the 19th century, research, classification, and treatment of disorders had gained momentum.

Psychotherapy evolved from its origins in spiritual healing.

Child Psychiatrist Peter Adriaenssens, Belgian, (left) represents, perhaps, a different type of modern psychiatrist, and not the mainstream psychiatric profession in countries such as the U.S. Photo: Steven Fruitsmaak

[While prior to the 19th century and into the 19th and 20th centuries, persons with mental disorders were often treated cruelly in institutionalized settings, there have been various reform movements since the 19th century on, in the field of mental health, which has led to more humane conditions in most modern countries, though certainly not universally, towards the mentally ill.]

Many psychiatrists conduct research, have proposed theories and provided much insight into the human psyche, and into both adults and children with mental health needs. For the majority of psychiatrists today, unlike the child psychiatrist in this illustration, identifying disorders, and administering drugs has become the most common method of treatment, with other considerations secondary.

The psychoanalytic theory of Sigmund Freud and his followers dominated the field for many years and did not receive a serious theoretical challenge until behaviour therapy and therapies deriving from humanistic psychology were developed in the mid-20th century, [Gestalt Therapy being one major school of thought to emerge in the mid-20th century, which greatly influenced and has become a part of most branches of psychology.].

Insight therapies such as psychoanalysis, which pursue greater awareness of the patient's internal conflicts, are still practiced in psychiatry [and in psychology. Psychoanalysis, while it was dominant in the earlier decades of the 20th century, is not the most dominant form of psychiatry of psychology today. However, there are many psychiatrists which still practice more or less traditional psychoanalysis in their treatment of clients with mental health disorders and anxieties. It continues to be a branch of psychiatry in modern day practice.]

The trained psychiatrist, has completed medical school and a psychiatric residency [which a psychologist has not.] [A psychiatrist] commonly employs medical treatments in addition to psychotherapy. [Today that usually consists of psychopharmacology, with use of psychotropic drugs. Psychotropic drugs are drugs which alter the mind. Psychiatrists are licensed to administer these drugs in the United States, but psychologists are not. If a psychologist feels that a client needs psychiatric drugs, then a psychiatrist or a medical doctor needs to prescribe these drugs. In the case of a child, a pediatrician will often prescribe psychotropic drugs].

Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT),or shock therapy, continues to be used for severe depressions and certain forms of psychosis. [However, it is not as dramatic as it used to be, and clients are sedated, safe and secure during shock therapy sessions. Often times, sessions are scheduled at regular intervals of 10-30 sessions. It is not the case of one or two treatments. Clients often experience temporary relief from depression through this method, but recurrence of the depression is common, and a client might return for another and another series of shock therapy sessions.]

The medical technique which is by far the most widely used is drug therapy (psychopharmacology). The advent in the 1950s of psychotropic drugs revolutionized treatment of the mental patient. Like other medical techniques drug therapy has sometimes been abused in pursuit of patient "management" [e.g. chemical straightjackets].

The role of the psychiatrist, psychologist and social worker, members of the treatment team, are not necessarily clearly delineated, and there exists an uneasy balance between the treatment team in their respective roles.

Above information adapted from article, Psychiatry. Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol 9. (1988). Chicago: University of Chicago. p. 761.

In a practical setting today, the majority of psychiatrist, but not all, practice primarily, first, the role of identifying the symptoms, and labeling a mental health disorder. Appropriate medications (psychotropic drugs) are then prescribed.

Therapies, most often Interpersonal and Group Therapy, are sometimes also utilized in conjunction with mainstream psychiatry. Therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy are also effective, but often underutilized when mainstream psychiatric treatment is employed.

The dominant model for mental health treatment in psychiatry today is usually based on the medical model. In its strictest sense, the medical model considers biological and genetic approaches to mental health disorders, while largely ignoring other factors. Despite conclusive evidence from all sources that the medical model of treatment is woefully inadequate and inaccurate, it persists as the dominant force in psychiatry.

Other factors that need to be considered are sociological, environmental and spiritual. While some environmental factors may be beyond an individual or families' control, many factors can be controlled and modified.

Some of the reasons that the medical model has become the focus and foundation for mental health treatment in mainstream psychiatry, especially in the United States are,

1. It is convenient and simple.

2. It is not time consuming.

3. It sedates and effectively controls clients who may be disorderly or have a tendency towards violence, behavioral control.

4. It is highly profitable.
Pharmaceutical companies have lobbied and advertised heavily over the past decades, very successfully, thus influencing both the medical community [some might say, buying out the medical community] and the general population. We have become a pill-happy society, where popping pills for a small headache, cold, anxiety, depression, or any other mental health disorder, is quite acceptable and easy.

Other models for mental health such as Uri Bronfenbrenner's Bioecological Model are much more complete in identifying the various dynamics of mental health.

See the book, Beyond the Disease Model of Mental Disorders, by psychology professor Donald J. Kiesler, for a complete and scholarly discussion of the subject. (off-site Amazon link).

Pages Related to Psychiatry


Psychiatric Labeling

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

cognitive Behavioral Therapy Types


Mental Health Professionals

Appeal to Mental Health Professionals for access to professional mental health treatment facilities with the option of non-pharmaceutical treatment

Education and Psychoeducation for Self and Family for Mental Health Wellness