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.


  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.

    • 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.

  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.

  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.”


    • 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.

  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.

  5. 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.

    • 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.

  6. 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.