Announcing an International Symposium and Institute on Psychiatric Drug Risks and Withdrawal


The Family Care Foundation was founded nearly 30 years ago as my reaction to a psychiatric system which tended to fail to take into consideration that human beings are relational and contextual. The vision was to make some changes, not only for individuals but also for society as a whole. Did we manage to do it?

In some ways we did, especially regarding individual people and their families. We have also made wonderful connections with people from all over the world, which is enriching and powerful. In my daily practice as a psychotherapist, and leader, it is extremely important to know that there are many people all over who have experienced that it is possible to reduce and get off psychiatric drugs, and to leave behind a life defined as “a patient.” If it had not been for the network we have built up, I am not sure we would have made it, either as an organization or as individuals.

But — and here is the hard thing — in the last decades it has become worse when it comes to diagnosis and prescription of psychiatric drugs than it was 30 years ago, and as many of us know, these practices have now become widespread in the care of children and young people as well. It is unbelievable how this has happened, and there are days when I feel powerless and a bit overwhelmed by the fact that so many people are “psychiatric patients,” and by the fact that so many people accept what is going on as necessary, and inevitable.

Some years ago some of us at Family Care Foundation realized we have to do more, to extend our work even more in a social and political direction, and to find allies far outside psychiatry and psychotherapy to try to involve and engage with people who still do not know what is going on.

I decided to leave Family Care Foundation to focus my attention on setting up the Extended Therapy Room Foundation, from which we are reaching out to connect people of all kinds in an effort to get the word out.

I have given up on psychiatry as a system capable of “being there” for people who are dealing with life and death issues. Psychiatry as a system of care lacks validity. Every day — unfortunately — we learn of new examples proving this statement. A recent example is found in Joanna Moncrieff‘s blog on how an important workshop was rejected from a psychiatric conference. I meet with people every week at my work place who tell about the way they are treated in psychiatry. Every day people are told there is no cure, there are no possibilities other than “medication,” and so it continues…

Before I start to seem too pessimistic, here comes the good news: every day we meet people who show that the predictions of psychiatry are not true; that there are “cures,” that it is possible to reduce or withdraw psychiatric drugs, and that in most cases it is better never to have started them! It is not done without effort, and it is not done alone, but it is possible. I have experienced this many times, and so have others, all over the globe.

We have to continue to show this to the world – in practice, research and other manifestations. And so, this October 15th, we will host Scientific Symposium – Psychiatric Drug Risk and Alternatives in Gothenburg, Sweden. The symposium will mark the start of an International Institute for Psychiatric Drug Risk and Withdrawal. Some of the initial members of the institute’s faculty – Volkmar Aderhold, Birgitta Alakare, Will Hall, John Read, Olga Runciman, Jaakko Seikkula, Sammi Timimi, Robert Whitaker and myself – will present on what we know, and what remains to be learned, about the risks of, and withdrawal from, psychiatric drugs.

Even if we are still a minority compared to the dominant system, I am absolutely sure – I know – that there are a lot of people out there who support the idea, who are just waiting for something to happen, and who long for other narratives. We have this conversation often with people — both professionals and former psychiatric patients — who travel from around the world to know more about what we do.

The real challenge is how to make it happen in a way that people feel that this new narrative belongs to them. These alternative ways of working don’t cost more money. There don’t have to be large structural changes. It’s important that we do research with traditional numbers and figures; but there are enough numbers and figures already. There are a lot of the things that can be done now. All that has to happen is to find a way to describe our experiences in a way that moves people.

There are many more people who we would have loved to invite to speak; so many who know the truth of what we are saying, and doing wonderful work. But time and space are limited, and we hope that many of those people – you – will come and participate. We hope to gather more knowledge, more strength, and more courage from this event, and to find ways to let more people know what is happening.

* * * * *

For those of you who want to know more about the
Extended Therapy Room and the Symposium,
please have a look at


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Carina Håkansson, PhD
Ordinary Life Therapy: Carina Håkansson is founder of the Family Care Foundation and The Extended Therapy Room Foundation in Gothenburg, Sweden.  She writes about psychiatry and societal treatment of children in foster care, and the ongoing challenges of helping people withdraw from psychiatric medication.


  1. I like many of the people in this conference Sandra but I question the (over)focus in so many conferences on psychiatric drugs and how to withdraw from them. I say this as someone who was on 12 psychiatric drugs, including antipsychotics, and who withdrew from several at the same time, and am now on none. Also, I helped family members to taper off.

    The problem is that by focusing so much on the nature of psychiatric drugs and psychiatric drug withdrawal, and do they work at all, do they work a little, how difficult is it to withdraw for whom, when should we withdraw, etc…. all of this focus continues the conversation on the home ground of psychiatry and Big Pharma… they want to be the conversation to be about drugs, even if it’s critical, I think.

    By contrast, I think shifting the conversation even more to alternatives and to developing success stories of outcome – as Sandin did, for example, as Open Dialogue did/is doing – is a more valuable investment of resources proportionally. Creating genuine alternatives where people get “cures”, rather than just criticizing practice as usual (i.e. drugging), is the way to go in my opinion. We should build more structures and groups/publications that people admire and will want to join, not just hold meetings criticizing drugs. Do more to build new structures, not just attack the old (the focus of criticizing and attacking drugs also leaves people vulnerable to being attacked as “antidrug” and “antipsychiatry”, whereas focusing on new approaches that work and proving that they works cannot be attacked as easily).. Maybe I am misunderstanding the conference and it is equally about alternatives, but it doesn’t sound that way. You know that I very much like your work…

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    • Thank you for taking time to respond, but I wonder if you have read my blog…? The symposium is about alternatives, but it is also about the psychiatric drug risks, since far too often this issue is left out on conferences and events, at least those I have attended. We hope to see you in October, welcome!!!

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      • I did read the blog; I don’t comment on articles I haven’t read. The Symposium is titled “An International Symposium and Institute On Psychiatric Drug Risks and Withdrawal” – so I assumed that its primary subject was related to its title, i.e. psychiatric drugs. That’s what most people would assume I think!

        To me, I feel the opposite of you – far too often the focus with discussion about mental health problems is on psychiatric drugs and should they or should they not be taken, do they or do they not have such and such side effects, how much do they help or not, are they dangerous for whom, etc.

        To me, speaking globally (not just in small pockets of Northern Europe) we need much more focus on alternatives, i.e. psychotherapy research, Open Dialogue research, respite care centers, peer to peer work, a focus on listening to individuals andt heir stories etc. You may not see this because you often do focus on alternatives, but you’re one of the few, and now you’re doing a conference which is titled about drugs, and that bothered me….

        The degree of (over)focus on psychiatric drugs is what bothers me; they would not be a big deal if they were not so profitable to the corporations. These drugs are about profiting from vulnerable people and making money for shareholders, primarily, not about whether the drugs treat any actual illnesses…. they don’t. It all comes down to the money.

        Anyway, I will not be at this conference, as to me these conferences always give the main voices to professionals, and are not welcoming places for people with lived experience who don’t work in the field. Our views are not respected; neither at these meetings nor within groups like ISPS. I am going to start my own site and reach out to people directly in a way that will be more authentic, as I have in fact started doing already…

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  2. I agree with BPD. While talking about the drugs themselves, how ineffective and potentially harmful they are and how to safely withdraw from them is useful information, it still legitimizes psychiatry in that it criticizes the treatment but not the diagnosis.

    While talking about the harmful effects of psychiatric drugs is helpful, more effort needs to be put towards offering safer and more effective alternatives (attacking a treatment option without providing an alternative treatment may turn people away), but more importantly, more effort needs to go towards exposing and tearing down the psychiatric system as a whole which is based on diagnosis.

    Prove the fact that psychiatric diagnoses are not based on science, that there is no evidence to support such claims as chemical imbalances, brain diseases, or genetic defects. Expose that there are no legitimate medical means of diagnosing mental disorders, no brain scans, x-rays, blood or urine tests. Show people how throughout the decades since psychiatry came about that it has been used primarily as a form of social control to remove anyone that challenges the system, and show that psychiatric treatments over the years have been more akin to torture than treatment (hydrotherapy, electroshock, lobotomy, insulin coma therapy, etc). Psychiatry is a system built on abuse and is a system designed to maintain and expand the status quo of power, profit, and control.

    Rather than attacking the walls, go for the foundation. Expose that psychiatry is not science, just like eugenics is not science. Both psychiatry and eugenics are employed by insane people who seek more power and control over others while stripping those very things from the people they seek to dominate and abuse. Psychiatry is a house of cards. Don’t try to knock off a few cards from the top, go for the base, the foundation, and watch the whole thing collapse.

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    • Thank you for your supportive comment Ragnarok. Psychiatric diagnosis and the myth that problems of living/behavior can be reduced to “psychiatric diagnoses” are the Achilles heel and the lynchpin of psychiatry. Discussing the drugs using the reductionistic research involving psychiatric diagnosis is often a distraction from the main issues you named, i.e. the fraudulence of the entire psychiatric edifice of diagnoses and treatments of “disorders.”

      As I commented above, it does not make much sense to me to title a conference about alternatives “An International Conference and Institute on Psychiatric Drug Risks”.

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  3. At this point, I think it’s very clear that people can and have moved beyond anything resembling “mental health care”–not just psychiatry, but the entire mental health world paradigm of thinking. It is all based on the illusion and duality of socio-economic classes–that is, what is culturally accepted, as a norm–e.g., that “titles = evolved awareness” and, especially, the most damaging illusion of all, that “money = power.”

    Or, what I would call “the box,” which tends to be extremely well-defined and immovable in this very rigid “mental health culture.” Walking into this to heal one’s heart, clear one’s mind, or soothe one’s spirit–especially from social trauma, which I truly believe is the core cause of mental distress and spirit wounding–is a paradox. That is pressure that cannot be resolved in such a culture. It is suffocating, and you can’t win in any regard unless you cut off from your integrity (and along with it, sense of self) and play the wicked game. That’s survival in that world, to dissociate.

    To me, the “alternative’ is actually learning to perceive and navigate life from a different perspective, where everyone is regarded without the assumptions and terribly discriminating stigma found in cultures where economic disparity is so blatantly highlighted. I think the mental health world is Orwellian, where it is very clear that “some are more equal than others.” I think it’s quite flagrant, and explains the frustration and stuckness. How can injustice heal injustice?

    My 2 cents on the matter.

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  4. It’s right to fix the goal posts down at both ends. It’s a game of drugs versus non-drugs approaches.

    Some people would rather it was non-drugs approaches plus a little bit of drugging. But then the alternative isn’t an alternative, it’s something else.

    The irony of psychiatry drugging people is that that in itself meets the DSM 5 Criteria for Substance Use Disorder.

    Psychiatry isn’t ready to acknowledge itself as part of the problem even though it acknowledges a substance use disorder as requiring a solution.

    Best wishes with the symposium.

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  5. Carina, People come to learn from your faculty about a new narrative so that they can feel it belongs to them? So that you can formulate a far left agenda?

    I just wanted you to know I’m paying attention to you and your faculty. You are just one aspect of the PIVOT POINT of mental health care. I can strike the foundational rod of MIA and my voice will echo because I am the narrative as much as you are!

    ~ Pat Hayes

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