How should psychiatry respond to its critics - with vehemence or conciliation?

Subodh Dave, Sir Robin Murray

30 minutes


July 2023

Congress webinar 2023


Psychiatry is often criticised, for example for the continued use of ECT, preoccupation with the minutia of DSM/ICD diagnoses, excessive use of medications or compulsory treatment. The critics include pseudoreligious groups such as the Scientologists with whom dialogue is impossible. Others with extreme views include radical psychologists who consider that their profession should take over the care of most of the mentally ill from psychiatrists. However, significant criticism also comes from user groups, other mental health professionals, Hearing Voices groups, psychiatric historians, and even from fellow psychiatrists such as those in “Critical Psychiatry”. This criticism can, at times, be vitriolic - see the website for “Mad in America” (and its offspring “Mad in the UK”).

Psychiatry sets out to provide care for those with mental health problems i.e. to provide a service to them. Service industries (e.g. hotels, airlines), generally survey their consumers to assess their satisfaction or otherwise. However, the orthodox psychiatric response to criticisms of care has often been to discount sceptics as ill-informed, paranoid, or simply misled. Some psychiatrists have attempted to have dialogue with the critics, not always successfully. This presentation will consider the options, bearing in mind that bad experience of psychiatric care drives patients away, and that companies that lose touch with their customers tend to go out of business.


Chair: Subodh Dave, Dean, Royal College of Psychiatrists, United Kingdom

Sir Robin Murray, Institute of Psychiatry, London, United Kingdom

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