Doctoring the Mind: Is Our Current Treatment of Mental Illness Really Any Good?

Doctoring the Mind: Is Our Current Treatment of Mental Illness Really Any Good?

Doctoring the Mind: Is Our Current Treatment of Mental Illness Really Any Good?

Doctoring the Mind: Is Our Current Treatment of Mental Illness Really Any Good?


Toward the end of the twentieth century, the solution to mental illness seemed to be found. It lay in biological solutions, focusing on mental illness as a problem of the brain, to be managed or improved through drugs. We entered the "Prozac Age" and believed we had moved far beyond the time of frontal lobotomies to an age of good and successful mental healthcare. Biological psychiatry had triumphed.

Except maybe it hadn't. Starting with surprising evidence from the World Health Organization that suggests that people recover better from mental illness in a developing country than in the first world, Doctoring the Mind asks the question: how good are our mental healthcare services, really? Richard P. Bentall picks apart the science that underlies our current psychiatric practice. He puts the patient back at the heart of treatment for mental illness, making the case that a good relationship between patients and their doctors is the most important indicator of whether someone will recover.

Arguing passionately for a future of mental health treatment that focuses as much on patients as individuals as on the brain itself, this is a book set to redefine our understanding of the treatment of madness in the twenty-first century.


Several years ago I was invited to give a talk at a conference held for the lay people and professionals who sit on the British National Health Service’s numerous research ethics committees. These committees, which meet in every corner of the country, are responsible for regulating the conduct of medical research. Any investigator who wishes to carry out a study in the NHS is required to submit detailed plans to the local committee, which will then debate the merits of the proposed investigation, ensure that any risks to patients are outweighed by likely benefits, and make sure that that all those participating freely consent to doing so.

I had been invited to talk at the conference because the organizers thought that, during two decades of work as a clinical psychologist* studying severe mental illness, I was likely to have gained some insights into the specific problems encountered when trying to conduct research with psychiatric patients. The conference was scheduled to take place in the city of Chester, about 20 miles from my home, so I had reluctantly agreed to give my talk early on a Saturday morning, a time I normally prefer to spend with my family. As I made my way to the conference venue my mind was focused on a less cerebral

* The differences between the profession of clinical psychology (to which I belong) and the profession of psychiatry will be discussed at length as we proceed. Suffice it to say for the moment that psychiatrists first of all obtain a degree in medicine before receiving further training in the treatment of mental illness. Clinical psychologists, on the other hand, first of all receive a scientific training in psychology (the science of mind and human behaviour) before going on to take an advanced training (a taught doctorate in Britain and the United States) in the use of psychological techniques in the assessment and treatment of mental illness and other clinical conditions.

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