Essays by a diverse group of writers, in the United States and abroad, engaged in rethinking psychiatry. (The directory of personal stories can be found here, and initiatives here).

Rethinking Madness: A Book Review

“Rethinking Madness: Towards a Paradigm Shift In Our Understanding and Treatment of Psychosis” by Paris Williams, Ph.D., describes how our current mental health system...

Keynote Speech at Alternatives 2012 Conference: Remembering Our History, Thinking About our Future

This is a transcript of my keynote speech at Alternatives 2012, which a Madness Radio listener recently transcribed.

Hospitalization: A Crisis in Crisis Care

This Wednesday, March 19th I will be speaking with the wonderful folks at Rethinking Psychiatry in Portland Oregon. These amazing individuals are working on reforming the mental health system and creating practical alternatives such as a Soteria-based housing model in the community. As I look at the present state of how we help people in severe emotional crisis I see enormous problems from beginning to end. I want to outline some of those main problems and then look at some ways we could work to reform them.

Advice to the Newbies: Give Your Heart, & Hold Your Theories Lightly

I was recently asked to give the commencement address for Goddard College's masters program in psychology and counseling. This is what I said.

Healing from an Addiction to Patterned Ways of Thinking

I had a soul-redemptive heart-to-heart reunion with a woman I had known from a distance but whom now (after our hours long coeur-a-coeur/heart-to-heart) I consider a close friend. I shared with her some very exciting and some challenging circumstances I have been experiencing of late. After I shared and shed a few tears she told me a story from her life that also poses, like my story, an invitation for profound change in our lives.

A New Model of Service

What should the relational and emotional stance of the therapist be? Just who exactly is the therapist in relationship to the person coming to see the therapist? What is the therapist's job, exactly? What should the therapist's disposition be toward the person sitting across from them? What kinds of assumptions or presumed power come with the label therapist and are those assumptions harmful or helpful?

Cognitive Therapy Found Effective in Unmedicated Psychotic Patients . . . And Other News

For a long time, psychotherapy has been seen as providing little benefit to patients with schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders. However, two recent studies,...

An Intersubjective Approach to Treating Young Children With Autism and Related Challenges

For too many years I was taught and believed that children diagnosed with autism were incapable of learning through the normal channels of relationship. I accepted that they must be taught differently and could easily dismiss their frequent displays of emotional distress as simply a symptom of their autism. This all changed when I attempted to reconcile what the autism intervention and child development fields had to say about what children need for optimal social and emotional development.

Life for Psychiatrists after Reading Bob Whitaker: Let’s Take Back Substance Abuse Treatment

An astounding development is the explosion in the numbers of substance abusers being diagnosed with Bipolar. I teach a class in Substance Abuse at...

David W. Oaks’ Message To the World: “Cracking the Nut of Normality”

After 4 decades as a psychiatric survivor human rights activist and 3 decades with spinal arthritis (ankylosing spondylitis), that fused my spine into peanut brittle, I knew I needed a break. The break that I got about 3 weeks ago was not the one I expected. I slipped off a wet ladder in my writer's studio, and it resulted in a complete break of my neck.

Creating Sustainability, Disarming Trauma and Loving One Another

I recently joined BHbusiness Mastering Essential Business Operations as a convener.  The plan is to recruit 15-20 peer organizations to participate in a peer provider learning community.  I decided to create an all peer - or at least a 95 percent peer - learner community with meaningful programs, innovation, and plenty of ideas that may not necessarily be easy to implement. How can we disarm trauma in the midst of creating sustainable communities? We must love ourselves a little harder, love our peers just a little bit stronger and bring our adversaries closer to our hearts.

Psychiatry: Smoke and Mirrors

In many MIA posts and outside sources I hear the voices of people who perceive psychiatry as an omnipotent force in society. They are perceived as so intimidating and powerful that they have inspired the “anti-psychiatry movement” (which I subscribe to).  It is true that many people who suffer from emotional pain do follow their psychiatrist’s recommendations and trust their diagnostic skills and prescriptions for treatment. It is also true that these skills rely a great deal upon the smoke and mirrors of Magic.


If you’ve ever driven your car in a blizzard, you realize that the biggest hazard isn’t the snow or ice on the road; it’s mostly other drivers. You of course have your own vehicle (and welfare) to look out for, and it’s certainly stressful driving slowly, keeping traction on the slippery tarmac, maintaining concentration, watching out for black ice, and so on. But these variables remain somewhat under your control. Other drivers; not so much.

Get Off Prescription Drugs: Arriving at the Work

I sat in my office in the middle of Provo, Utah (home of BYU) on a scorching hot Wasatch mountain day. I was taking a brief professional hiatus...

Does It Matter if We Believe in Mental Illness?

It's clear that different people relate to the idea of "mental illness" and labeling differently. Many people find the experience of being diagnosed with...

The Church of GSKology

Facing a sexual abuse lawsuit, the archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis made a big deal of putting an independent panel in place to investigate. They put the Reverend Reginald Whitt in charge of appointing the panel and receiving its reports on behalf of the archdiocese. Rev. Whitt told priests and deacons that the task force may review specific files to determine whether the policies of the archdiocese concerning clergy sexual misconduct were properly followed. But, he wrote, “Access to these files will be within my control, and limited only to what is necessary for the task force.” This sounds terribly like the approach Sir Andrew Witty is attempting to put in place for GSK, AbbVie and the rest of the branded pharmaceutical industry vis-a-vis abuses, including child abuse committed in their name. They are asserting their right to spin their version of what it is you put in your body even though this clashes fundamentally with your right to know what you are putting in your body.

One Year of Mad In America


In January 2012, Mad In America went live with a handful of bloggers and the mission to become a central community in the effort to rethink and transform the paradigm of psychiatric care.

I want to offer some thoughts and figures about where we've been in the past year and what we are growing into.

Then I want to ask you for money.

Simon Says:  Happiness Won’t Cure Mental Illness

How do we distinguish between ordinary feeling down, on the one hand, and depression-the-illness on the other. Psychiatry's answer is that depression-the-illness causes " . . . clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning." This phrase occurs as a criterion feature in almost all psychiatric "diagnoses," and is embodied in the DSM definition of a mental disorder, but is unsatisfactory from a number of aspects. Firstly, the term "clinically" has no meaning, other than a thinly-veiled attempt to lend a medical flavor to the phrase. Secondly, the term "significant" is not defined, and inevitably rests on the subjective opinion of a psychiatrist, who, in many cases, has a vested interesting in "finding" a "diagnosis."

Chapter Five: Filling the Void

When I returned to boarding school in the fall of my junior year, I brought with me not just duffel bags of clothes, athletic...

Remembering Kate

I first wrote this story of my mother back in 2000, six years after her death. I share it today as my first entry on this important blog, in the hope that people will see that there is another way. In future entries I want to share with you why I don't believe in mental illness and the use of psychotropic medications, and how I believe people who are experiencing emotional distress can get well, stay well, and live the lives they want to live.

5 Tasks if Your Child is Diagnosed With a Mental Illness

When I teach workshops or lead discussions on coming off psychiatric drugs and alternatives, there are invariably parents present who are at loose ends. They want to know what to do for their children, how to help them best, and how it can be possible for their child to live without medication given all they have been through.

#Diversity? — What “Solidarity” Really Looks Like

What would it look like if national peer-run mental health organizations and other national leaders came out with statements in support of other movements' struggle for freedom from oppression? What would it look like if we were truly unified in solidarity? We would have community-based centers providing intentional support, open 24 hours a day, instead of crowded jail cells holding people in pain. It wouldn't be easy, but we have to do it.

Introduction: Anatomy of a Psychiatric Practice

In anticipation of this first blog post, I have spent some time wondering how I arrived at  this point in my career.  I have...

Hearing Voices Workshop Comes to Vermont

I recently had the great pleasure of hosting a Hearing Voices workshop with Ron Coleman and Karen Taylor. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Many people described this as one of the best trainings they had ever attended. Ron's message is inherently uplifting - after all this internationally known educator was once a mental patient given a poor prognosis. But in addition, they offered pragmatic suggestions for how to think about voices and talk to someone who is experiencing them.

Principled and Loving Support: The Greatest Gift We Can Give 

"D" had attempted suicide a few days ago and remained in the hospital due to medical complications from the suicide attempt. I listened. I told D how much I cared and was ready to come and get D if that was what D wanted, and D could live in my guest bedroom for as long as D wanted. It’s been a few days since I made that offer – an offer I have never before made to anyone. I have clarified for myself the intent of my offer. I will soon share my intent with D, and writing this now is my effort to clarify my intentions