A New Film Called ‘Beyond the Medical Model’


“If even one apple fell up, wouldn’t we have to at least begin to question the laws of physics?”

– Dr. Daniel Dorman, Psychiatrist and author of Dante’s Cure

 A New Film

I am writing this post primarily to share a trailer for the new film, Beyond the Medical Model. This film has been developed as a part of the Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community (RLC), where I have worked since 2007. The Western Mass RLC is a growing community of people who have survived a diversity of experiences and who strive to change the world.

Love It or Hate It

Beyond the Medical Model is a product of our community in many ways. It grows collaboratively out of our hurts, our anger, our passion, our discoveries and our insistence that we be heard. Our collective wisdom and exploration drives its very purpose. It would be hollow without our stories.

However, if I am to be completely honest, if you love it or hate it, I’m primarily to blame. I selected people to be interviewed, wrote most of the interview questions and script, and collected the quotes. I spent many days pouring through the over 16 hours of footage to unearth the segments that would ultimately be compiled to create the story now offered in the completed film. Although early drafts were offered up for screenings and feedback to those who were featured in it, only some chose to see it and not all feedback was able to be integrated. So, yes folks, if you don’t like it, send your hate mail addressed to me!

Not an Action Film

Beyond the Medical Model is not an action film. But, truth be told, I love it. It is made up of a series of interviews with a variety of people sharing what they’ve learned through life in one way or another. It tells a story I haven’t seen before on film, and that needs to be told to students, providers, people diagnosed, friends, family and more. It paints a picture of a solitary model adopted into our culture and regarded as somehow so sacred that those who challenge it are essentially seen as having committed a strange brand of blasphemy.

The message is that people have been hurt by this medicalized system we have been asked to so blindly accept.

The message is that there is both research and stories to demonstrate the success of other paths.

The message is that no one model should ever reign so supreme above all others.

The message is that offering alternatives for healing is only the SECOND half of the story, and the first half – the one where we each discover our own meaning and understanding of our distress – also must be told.

The Message is Not Anti-Medical Model

The biggest criticism of this film will inevitably be that it is anti-medical model. However, the people that say that aren’t fully paying attention. In my experience, people are quick to play the “you’re anti-psychiatry” or “anti-medication” or “anti-medical model” card. It gives them permission to stop listening and allows them to stay stuck where it feels safe and familiar. It allows them to go about business as usual, and not go through the discomfort of contemplating change.

Accepting the true message of the film would mean having to admit we don’t have all the answers. It would mean acknowledging that we’ve given or received incomplete or flatly incorrect information for a long time. It would mean that some well-intentioned people who are highly educated have done harm when they thought they were helping.

It would mean a loss of income for pharmaceutical companies who thrive on the message that virtually everyone can benefit from some sort of pill. It would mean we don’t have easy explanations for why some really scary things happen. It would mean we have to say “I don’t know why,” a hell of a lot more. And sadly, it would mean that some of us will find ourselves asking, “You’re telling me I didn’t have to live like this for all these years?”

No, the message of the film is not anti-medical model. But the film does call for recognition of the pain the medical model has caused. That pain has been caused not so much by its existence but because of the force and dishonesty with which it has been applied. Were there more transparency about the medical model being just one of many options, about the lack of definitive scientific proof for its claims, about the true benefits and risks of psychiatric drugs… Well, then, it would just be another tool in the tool box that we could try or not try, use or discard.

The Message is…

The film’s message is one of freedom. It is one of the right to tell your own story and choose your own path (including the medical model), or to meander about across many paths as works for you. In order to create equal access to all the paths, we do need to recognize the oppressive ways that the medical model has been and continues to be applied and the legal, financial and other system structures that have become dependent upon it. We need to cut it down to size, so to speak, but we needn’t erase it altogether.

I will not claim that the medical model has not been helpful to some, at least at certain points in their lives. It has. There are too many supporting stories. For me to argue otherwise would be just as arrogant as any other wholly black-and-white approach. But I will say that even some of those stories exist as they do for lack of other options being made known and yet others claim “help” based on watered down dreams realigned with the assumption of chronic illness.

However, if we peel those away, still more remain saying the medical model and many of its accouterments did help. Then there are the many stories of those who have had to fight hard for their right to reach the other perspectives that once seemed virtually invisible behind a giant named biopsychiatry. Those people are the revolutionaries that will lead us to the truth of not knowing and the freedom of choice.

Those people are the apples that fell up or who are on their way in that direction.

And the Trailer Says…

Although I bear no illusion that this film will change the world, I hope it will be a part of the tapestry that does. Please share this trailer with others and look for the film for sale on the Western Mass RLC website coming soon.



Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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  1. I am not anti-religious but I am anti-psychiatry. The fundamental principle of religion – at least as Christianity was taught to me – is faith. One *believes* in God and that faith is unbeholden to anything else. Though I may not believe in God, I do believe that free will and the ability to believe is what defines our human condition. Philosophically and ethically I have nothing against the cornerstone of religion which is faith.

    Psychiatry, as now overwhelmingly conceived in the West, purports itself a scientific consequence of the basic laws of physics. You, Sera, may believe that human behavior is ultimately and entirely explained by those laws, or not. It seems to me, either way, you respect that belief in others and I share that respect with you. In that sense neither you nor I are anti-psychiatry. However, psychiatry has developed an extensive body of what it calls knowledge that its practitioners claim must be accepted if one is to abide by the laws of logic. I happen to believe that the vast majority of psychiatric knowledge, as a scientific endeavor, is flawed. But psychiatry is much more than an intellectual or philosophical theory, it is the practice of enforcing its methods and indoctrinating society in the supremacy of its beliefs. As a practice of oppression, which is the preeminent social role of psychiatry, I am anti-psychiatry. If you say you respect people’s belief in chemical imbalance theories, I believe you. When you say that you are not anti-psychiatry, I have my doubts.

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    • Fair enough, PC. 🙂 It really does come down to how we define the words and you’re certainly right that I am absolutely and completely opposed to the oppressive system that has been built around the ideas that form the so-called medical model perspective. I am 100% against it being portrayed as proven science, when it is simply theory and – even more importantly – theory that has often been contradicted by human experience and science. So, yes, if we’re talking about the industry of psychiatry, you win.

      That said, in my experience people so often call other people ‘anti-psychiatry’ and ‘anti-medical model’ and ‘anti-medication’ as a way of discrediting them… As a way of saying ‘You’re far too extreme and blinded by your own bias to be worth listening to.’ And I don’t particularly care for or feel I fit into THAT definition.

      I am also not exactly saying that I am able to remain even when I hear people refer to the chemical imbalance theory. It seems to me that that has been so disproven that I have to admit my heart hurts a little bit when I hear people fall back on it. That said, I feel I *do* have to respect when people say things like, “I don’t know exactly what it is, but I do feel like at least part of my experience is based on something that is different about my brain and how it works.” Or any variant of that says, ‘when you talk about trauma, etc. it doesn’t resonate for me and here’s what I believe, at least for now.’

      Ultimately, the film DOES discuss – at least briefly – the false science and the financial industry around it and it does NOT give equal time to the medical model. In fact, it really doesn’t give it any time (in a positive way). There’s plenty of that out there in the world already. But the underlying message is not that its existence is the problem, so much as it the oppressive industry that has been built on its foundation.

      Anyway, thanks for reading! 😉


      P.S. I don’t actually say in this piece that I’m not anti-psychiatry. I just point out that its one of the things people get called in an effort to not have to listen. 😉

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      • Warning: This comment will likely hurt your heart because I am going to call into question the notion that the chemical imbalance theory has been disproven. The chemical imbalance theory isn’t a theory at all – it is actually a hypothesis. We often hear theory and hypothesis used interchangeably in an attempt to simplify a complex topic to more easily dismiss disagreement. Because a hypothesis in itself doesn’t prove anything, it can’t be disproven. A legitimate criticism of the chemical imbalance HYPOTHESIS is that it is more limited in its ability to explain ‘mental illness’ than we are often lead to believe. We are often lead to believe chemical imbalance is an iron-clad ‘theory’ by folks using the same strategy that seems to be used in this film to refute it. The strategy isn’t fair, no matter which side of a debate uses it. A general message to anyone trying to find the closest thing to truth in a debate: look into every side with skepticism and recognize when arguments attempt to paint with a simplicity brush. See what important information got brushed over in that process. Attempting to expose supposed ‘pseudoscience’ using a method that can just as easily be labeled pseudoscience is a failed enterprise.

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          • 1. Does that opinion make it OK to discredit the field by using anti-psychiatry pseudoscience techniques, as I describe above?

            2. What is your opinion on the legitimacy of neuroscience, which is closely related to a lot of the work psychiatrists do?

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          • 1. Freedom of speech, guaranteed by the US Constitution, gives me that option. Whose pseudo-science is the more pseudo-science, is still a matter for debate, and basically, up for grabs.

            2. Neuroscience can’t, and perhaps never will be able to, separate the firing of neurons from consciousness decision making. Attributing aberrant behaviors to abnormalities in brain circuitry is, at this point in time, about as valid as attributing it to chemical imbalances. In other words, doing so is not supported by any evidence, the only thing that matters.

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    • Psychiatry is a secularised religion, with its own preachers; its own intolerant dogmas inimical to the true spirit of free scientific inquiry; its own demands of unthinking, unwavering adherence to its doctrines; its own persecution of heretics; its own messianic rhetoric; its own gods; its own martyrs; its own bible; its own ideology designed to facilitate and legitimate the acquisition, exercise and consolidation of power; and its own sacrifices of truth and humanity at the altar of its deities. It is essentially a species of secular religion.

      Much like with Nazism, perhaps the prototypal secular religion and another Trojan horse, like psychiatry, its leaders and believers have usurped the idiom of the medical profession and science for its own beliefs, as much as anything in the latter case to confer upon the beliefs a veneer of apodicticity, thereby preventing dissent and facilitating the process of indoctrination, whilst discouraging latitudinarianism.

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  2. Thank you so much for this! IT must have taken many, many quantaties of time, energy and thought not only to plan but to pursue and finish it! Congrats. I really would love to buy a copy and get for my Church. We have a NAMI meeting and I think the issues with them an others is many ways is not lack of goodwill but time evolved rigidity and entropy. Back in the 1980’s there was a lovely documentary about an Australian Government Institution for the Developmentally Disabled. The director and writer worked at an institution where the staff had lead massive changes in treatment and sanitary conditions. However to the new worker the problems were glaring.Every five years a new Dorthea Dix needs to be reborn. Thank you for doing your part.

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    • Thanks, mcoma. I will definitely post once it’s available for distribution! 🙂 Dorothea Dix is indeed an important part of our history, and there are so many of us doing our part now. And part of that work is finding our way to each other so our voice gets louder! 🙂

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  3. You would avoid all the confusion by saying disease model instead of medical model.

    It’s hard to figure out when you say, “We believe in the medical model but we don’t believe in it and we want to move beyond it.”

    Try this. Social messaging is really important. “We believe in a scientific basis for emotional distress because all emotions have biological components. But we don’t believe that people who get labels have a “disease.” It a normal response to an abnormal situation.”


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    • Corinna,

      I respectfully disagree that we would avoid all confusion by changing that particular word. I can appreciate some of the arguments you made in your ‘Please Stop Saying the Medical Model’ piece that I’d already read, and yet I also don’t think it’s that simple. I don’t think we’re just talking about the ‘disease’ model when we criticize the medical model, for instance. I also don’t think that we – or I, more specifically – are saying ‘I believe in the medical model but I don’t believe in it and want to move beyond it.’

      Rather, I believe that we do not know all the causes of some of our human experiences, and I believe in SAYING we do not know. I believe that even unusual experiences are still human experiences. I believe in people’s right to choose their own story, even if it follows a path that I find unappealing PROVIDED they’ve been given the space and all the information they need to really make that choice. I believe in medical interpretations as one possible choice, but I also believe many people have chosen it and many more have been forced to accept it based on force and oppression.

      That’s what I believe, anyway and that’s at least somewhat different then swapping out disease model for medical model.

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      • When you say “I don’t like the medical model” people think you don’t like science. The obvious next question is well, what model do you like? It’s awfully hard to be against something as an advocate if you don’t have something different that you are for. If you don’t agree with the points I made in my post it might be useful to point out why not so that we can dialogue and come up with language as advocates. Using the language of the oppressors is a losing argument for us.

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        • Corinna, I believe that we are having different conversations. My point – at least here – is that I am precisely AGAINST exchanging one model for the next. The trauma model, for instance, would still be problematic if it were forced upon people in an oppressive manner. Comparing and contrasting those two models in isolation, and which one might be worse if it were applied with force, is sort of not the point.

          It may indeed be harder for people to hear an argument to move away from something we’ve always known without giving them something concrete to step toward. However, that is exactly what needs to happen… Not the exchange of one box for another, but a genuine curiosity about one another’s experiences and the ability to say we just don’t know a whole lot of the time.

          In general, I agree with you about not using the ‘language of the oppressor.’ I’ve done a lot of writing, training and talking about shedding language like ‘consumer,’ ‘mental illness,’ and so on. And yet, I’m just not sure that I agree with the exchange of medical for disease model for the reasons outlined above and for many others including the point that identifying ‘models’ is not really my ‘end game,’ so to speak.

          Unfortunately, I don’t have time to do a point-by-point response to your piece right now, but I’ll come back to it if I can, barring being swallowed up by the vortex of work and my children. 🙂

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        • I’m not for tossing out the term “medical model” at all. Because, I think it behooves us to look at integrative approaches – neurofeedback, acupuncture, hyperbaric oxygen therapy – not only talk therapy.

          I don’t think the trauma model answers all questions either. Certainly not for real neurological issues that come with tramatic brain injury and other conditions – from alzheimers to drug-induced brain injury.

          There’s plenty of room for real science in the mix here.

          I’m against psychiatry as practiced *today* – with fear, force and coercion. As the first-line of treatment, without fully-informed consent; preying on children, elderly in nursing homes and war-traumatized military and veterans.

          I’m *for* real options – including *medical* options – ones that encourage full-recovery and overall well-being – with *freedom* as the cornerstone of treatment.

          In other words, I would consider myself to be pro-freedom, and pro-recovery. And *proud* to call myself *anti-psychiatry*, as practiced *today*.

          Sue me.


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        • Sera,

          First, I thought this was a *great* post.
          Secondly, I understand completely and agree with you.

          The “sue me” comment was directed to those proponents of the status quo (dishonesty by force) who continuie to attempt to marginalize with the term ‘ant-psychiatry’.


          As always, your comments are insightful. I’m *almost* on the same page with you in regard to the “disease model” – although *lyme disease* can cause symptoms of “mental illness” as can *celiac disease*… and of course, alzheimers is a disease as well.


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    • This gets complicated.
      You can’t mention either Disease or Medical model, without erroneous assumptions being attached to it. And as Sera mentioned this involves the whole “Patient” or “Consumer” model. And that involves wall street games.
      I don’t really believe that the “medical model” heals any disease. It gets rid of the symptom; but that’s only a symptom. The disease comes from your own energy and your consequent relationship with the world around you (which is really also yourself). You can keep nit picking and removing this and that as if it’s outside yourself, but it’s not going to be gone unless you deal with what’s going on inside. This doesn’t mean that going into therapy necessarily has anything to do with what’s going on inside either, because that’s often the “trauma” model. I think that therapy would actually be to discover our ability to transcend all trauma, rather than look for excuses in our behavior; and need to manifest duality to do it. The same judgments of good or bad we use to determine trauma is also what causes the stress and the duality which caused the behavior that caused the trauma. A really “good” person isn’t judging anyone else’s behavior as “bad,” instead they know that there’s something going on there which maybe points out a flaw in “society (and in themselves),” something that wasn’t attended to, was neglected. Judging it as bad doesn’t give perspective. And a really “good” person doesn’t judge themselves, either. Nor do they see themselves as separate; that they have to deal with things “outside” to make change, and unless they do that everything they do on the inside is separate. Or maybe I’ve gone beyond good and bad….
      And a person who has suffered trauma has the right to find peace, because then they are investing in what heals the whole cycle, and they find out the kind of harmony the human is soul actually capable of. This is where art, meditation, non violence, non attachment, forgiveness, yoga, taking walks, etc. where this comes in. All of those things also change all of society.

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  4. Sera, thanks for making this film; I’m looking forward to the opportunity to see it. In terms of your discussion in these comments with Corrina, I also do not see how her suggestion of using the term “disease model” instead of “medical model” changes the conversation in any way. In my view, “models” are the problem. I’m so glad you talked about the need to SAY that we don’t know the causes of all human experiences. No one “model” can possibly explain all the variations of extreme states that humans experience, and it’s helpful to state that.

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      • Um LOL!
        If we were to speak about a “medical” model at all, and actually follow the discipline that’s called science that “medicine” is based on; we’d have a hard time actually calling ANYTHING that the prescribing of psychiatric medications does either medical or scientific. Scientifically, according to scientific data that’s based on the scientific method, which is called science; psychiatric medicating, and psychiatric medications and the use of psychiatric medications ALL cause chemical imbalances (unless you don’t actually take the medications). The diseases actually have never been proven to be caused by a chemical imbalance. There’s no “scientific” proof that the disease ever was caused by a chemical imbalance, something the “cure” HAS been proven to cause. Thus the whole concept that emotional problems are a disease wouldn’t have anything to do with anything medical to begin with. And EVEN the side effects of psychiatric “medications” listed that are symptoms of psychiatric diseases, such as psychosis etc…. these are something different than what’s actually called the original “disease.” And the original “disease” have NOTHING to do with anything “medical.” Unless “medicine” was allowed to be something as abstract as allowing for personal expression, giving a person a TRUE asylum where they could rest rather than be forced on psychiatric medications; or learning non-attachment; or mindfulness; or how to paint, play an instrument, do yoga, study non violence, study literature, dance; what have you. Any of these supposed luxuries that go second to a penal system based on terrorizing people into behaving sane and moral, a military that trains people to kill, an economic system based on false dreams and religions that say you won’t go to heaven unless your controlled by the fear of going to hell for the rest of eternity. .

        So, yes, I don’t know what anti-disease model would have to do with anything, unless it’s to avoid the “disease” being “medicalized,” oops I mean used as a means to create a biological disease that supposedly treats an emotional one. People do have emotional dis-ease; but I challenge anyone to show me that a constant maintaining of psychiatric controlled substance intoxications, numbings and disablings of the reflexes are ever really part of what heals this dis-ease.

        And just trying to say blah blah blah about ANY of this is such a hodge podge of terms that have lost their meaning I think it’s quite wrong to fuss further about them creating more of the same. Read the words for what they mean beyond words and you might not need to pin them down anymore.

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      • So anyways. I think it might be counter productive to fuss about words, which have become so undone from their meaning that any further fussing only causes more of the same. And really, if they were meant to have such definitions or meant to be put into a box to such a degree; they really WOULDN’T have any meaning. The meaning is in context, and transcends what would be fussed about…. I think….

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        • Nijinsky, Thanks for your response, here! It’s a mixed bag with language, I think! Some of the argument gets in our way and seems to be headed toward no discernible point, and yet some of it also slips by us and has profound effect. While I’m having trouble seeing the Disease vs. Medical Model conversation as one I can get invested in, I’m definitely one to speak up loudly about labels like ‘consumer’ and ‘client’ and all that as I believe those sorts of words get ingested into people’s identities.

          In any case, I think everyone’s making good points. Lots of truth flying in all the chaos. 🙂


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          • Well, it really concerns me that there are people that need healing; and needed this before they got involved with all of the extra stuff that’s caused by the “medications.” And that their problems also are different, even what the “medications” cause. They needed to be able to find peace, do yoga, meditate, play an instrument, make a painting, act out, act inside themselves what’s going on to get perspective, lose perspective to get lost and see they’re not lost; that they have a soul that’s part of everything regardless and it already has harmony beyond the worlds form. And this can simply mean something different also than therapy rather than “medications,” because maybe they just needed to be left alone, or have a community. Maybe they are the people that actually have the same “sociological” constructs that are used in mental illness; and are minorities, poor, and it’s amazing that indigenous isn’t part of a diagnosis of people that don’t fit into statistical based norms enough to be considered to be “surviving” properly. The people that actually had music as a nourishment rather than a sensual escape, the one’s that knew the healing there is in nature, which the scientific method and copyrights will never find.

            And I agree about Consumer or Client as they are similar to Android or Clone or something….. or appropriate capitalistic peon.

            But sometimes all these words are just too much! LOL!

            Which I hate to bring up because some genius psychiatrist in the DSM 6 gang is going to become scared that he fusses too much about words and make it a diagnosis (as long as the fussing is in appropriate places like what’s written in the DSM 6 or later; that fussing about fussing about words is appropriate fussing: or appropriate theories which support the need for collateral damage to maintain harmony)…although this doesn’t make surrealism psychiatric gibberish, just yet….

            So, maybe it’s better to fuss about these words, and try to make some sense out of it; to sort of ease and sooth the fears of this up and coming knew help from this genius psychiatrist and gang…..that they might remember that butterflies and soft ideas do have a function despite how they’re used in…


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  5. Hi Cindy,

    I was able to meet and get to know Paris a little bit this past November. (Actually, I believe he was among a group who had a chance to screen an earlier version of the film… though, I’m not 100% positive he was able to stay for it.) I still need to read his book, though. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂 My path definitely crosses New York on a fairly regular basis so perhaps it will cross with yours soon! 🙂

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  6. I believe the medical model that is being put on us, is in effect not good for anyone who is deemed mentally ill. I being put with a label that followed me to not getting diagnosed with what i have sooner. For almost a month i was telling these so called for the people doctors at the ER’s i had something wrong with me, really wrong, the basically told me i was having stress related issues and panic attacks. Go to hell to those who decided this before doing a much needed back MRI. this film will hopefully get enough media play that we will all have something to think about when we go get medical help and we get told there is nothing they can find wrong. the dumb asses never looked in my back even when i was complaining about the spine pain outright. it was my muscles they concluded. nice huh? I am seeing a surgeon now that I know that they screwed me over with their stupid theories. I am angry as hell and have a right to be, but i bet they will tell me the stress is doing this too. I want the doctors to stop this crap and do their job.

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    • I completely understand and empathize. Psychiatry can be an obstruction to real medical attention, care and treatment.

      I have a symptom that sounds completely crazy, in the way that I describe it. Up until a month ago, I didn’t have “the right words”. Because of psychiatry, I went through great turmoil for fear of being psychiatrized if I sought medical attention for my “crazy” symptom.

      And for people who debate the use of words and terms, and their significance and importance, it was literally because of a trail of words that I discovered *the right ones* that I so desperately needed. Now that I have the correct vocabulary to articulate my symptom, I will be taken seriously and not dismissed as a “mental case”.

      The right words were so beneficial to me that I suddenly understood a problem that is 26 years old.

      I am currently in the process of getting the medical attention that I need.

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  7. Sera,

    I love to read the blogs here and yours always seems to be among the ones that get abundant replies. I just want to point out that my own apples seem to fall both up and down… and occasionally sideways or even suspended in mid air. A few years ago, a psychiatrist told me I was talking too fast and I seemed to have pressured speech. (I was in a court battle for my kids at the time) Her response to this was to up my seroquel and add risperdal. My guess is her interpretation of the ‘medical model’ told her to reel me in. I ended up fully depressed within a week and stayed that way for about 8 months.

    Thanks to this site and a few books by Robert Whitaker and Gwen Olsen, I am now med free for 7 months. I do not feel confused anymore and I’m no longer succumbing to the pressure of any model. Keep up the good work and I can’t wait to see your film. I think a book about the success stories of people coming off meds and finding their own models is in order… let me know when you are free to write it… I would love to help out.


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    • Jeff,

      I can certainly appreciate your apple trajectory. 🙂 And, yes, we need more and more stories getting out there… and what seems key to me is to get those stories not only to others who are similarly struggling with psych drugs and the like, but to as wide of an audience as possible including all those students aiming to be tomorrow’s ‘helpers!’ There’s a part of this work that is reaching one person at a time and there’s a part that is demanding a whole cultural shift.


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