Discussion about alternative movements to typical psychiatric treatments


By David Cohen, Ph.D. UCLA

Two hundred years ago, the “mental health system” consisted only of a few lunatics and their jailers in insane asylums. Today, anyone is a potential patient, and the mental health system includes many institutions, professions, theories and treatments, even national and global policies, and a legal drug cartel that spends huge sums of money to shape how citizens view suffering and healing. About 50 years ago, a reform movement emerged, trying to create “alternatives” to typical psychiatric treatments, especially for people experiencing psychosis (extreme and disturbing mental states). This movement appears to grow and gather speed. In this talk, I will discuss what the ideas in this reform actually accomplished, and what new directions might be taken to continue transforming mental health practices.



David Cohen is Professor of Social Welfare at the Luskin School of Public Affairs of University of California, Los Angeles. He has studied the lifecycle of psychoactive drugs and their uses and effects, particularly iatrogenic, in contexts ranging from small helping relationships to whole societies. He is also interested in the impact of medicalization on culture and the role of coercion in systems of care. He has taught in Canada, France, and the United States. His latest co-authored book (2013) is “Mad Science: Psychiatric Coercion, Diagnosis, and Drugs.”