Medications & Psychiatry

 email page    print page

All Topic Reviews
Psychiatry Under the InfluenceAlternatives Beyond PsychiatryAmerican MadnessAmerican PsychosisAn Unquiet MindAntipsychiatryBad PharmaBefore ProzacBetter Than ProzacBiological PsychiatryBipolar, Not So MuchBlack Man in a White CoatBlaming the BrainBrain Science and Psychological DisordersBrainwashedClinical Psychopharmacology Made Ridiculously SimpleComfortably NumbCompassion and Healing in Medicine and SocietyComplete Mental HealthConcise Guide to PsychopharmacologyCrackedCritical PsychiatryCultural FormulationDeconstructing PsychosisDemystifying PsychiatryDiagnosing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental DisordersDiagnosis: SchizophreniaDiagnostic Issues in Depression and Generalized Anxiety DisorderDimensional Models of Personality DisordersDisordered Personalities and CrimeDoctoring the MindDoctors of DeceptionDrop the Disorder!DruggedDrugs for LifeEmpirical Ethics in PsychiatryEssential PsychopharmacologyEssential Psychopharmacology of Depression and Bipolar DisorderEssentials of Psychiatric DiagnosisEsssential Philosophy of PsychiatryEthics in PsychiatryEvidence-Based Treatment of Personality DysfunctionExercise-Based Interventions for Mental IllnessFinding the Right Psychiatrist:Forces of HabitHandbook of Clinical Psychopharmacology for TherapistsHappy Pills in AmericaHealing the Soul in the Age of the BrainHelping Parents, Youth, and Teachers Understand Medications for Behavioral and Emotional ProblemsHerbs for the MindHigh PriceHippocrates CriedHistory of Psychiatry and Medical PsychologyHookedHuman TrialsInfectious MadnessInspired SleepIntoxicating MindsIs It Me or My Meds?Let Them Eat ProzacLife-Threatening Effects of Antipsychotic DrugsLitLiving with Bipolar DisorderMad in AmericaMad ScienceMalignant SadnessMedicating ChildrenMedicating Modern AmericaMental Health in Asia and the PacificMind FixersMoments of EngagementMommy I'm Still in HereNatural Healing for DepressionNo One Cares About Crazy PeopleNot CrazyOrdinarily WellOur Daily MedsOverdosed AmericaPathologist of the MindPediatric PsychopharmacologyPediatric PsychopharmacologyPediatric PsychopharmacologyPharmaceutical FreedomPharmacracyPharmageddonPharmageddonPhilosophical Issues in PharmaceuticsPoets on ProzacPower HerbsPowerful MedicinesPrescriptions for the MindProfits Before People?Prozac and the New AntidepressantsProzac As a Way of LifeProzac BacklashProzac DiaryProzac on the CouchPsychiatric DiagnosisPsychiatric HegemonyPsychiatrists and Traditional HealersPsychiatry and EmpirePsychiatry and the Business of MadnessPsychiatry as Cognitive NeurosciencePsychiatry at a GlancePsychiatry in PrisonsPsychiatry ReconsideredPsychopathyPsychopharmacology Problem SolvingPsychotropic Drug Prescriber's Survival GuidePsychotropic Drugs And Popular CulturePsychotropic Drugs: Fast FactsRaising Generation RxRe-Visioning PsychiatryRecovery from SchizophreniaReligious and Spiritual Issues in Psychiatric DiagnosisRitalin NationRunning on RitalinRutter's Child and Adolescent PsychiatrySaving NormalSchizophreniaShock TherapyShock TherapyShould I Medicate My Child?ShrinksSide EffectsSometimes Amazing Things HappenStraight Talk about Psychiatric Medications for KidsSuccessful PsychopharmacologySuffer the ChildrenTaking America Off DrugsTalking Back to ProzacTextbook of Cultural PsychiatryThe $800 Million PillThe Age of AnxietyThe Anti-Depressant Fact BookThe Antidepressant EraThe Antidepressant SolutionThe Antidepressant Survival ProgramThe Big FixThe Book of WoeThe Complete Guide to Herbal MedicinesThe Conceptual Evolution of DSM-5The CorrectionsThe Creation of PsychopharmacologyThe Cult of PharmacologyThe Dream DrugstoreThe Emperor's New DrugsThe Essential Guide to Prescription Drugs 2005The Essential Guide to Prescription Drugs 2006The Making of DSM-III®The Medical Model in Mental HealthThe Medicated ChildThe Medication QuestionThe Merck DruggernautThe Mind/Mood Pill BookThe Natural Pharmacist : Natural Health Bible from the Most Trusted Alternative Health Site in the World The Pill BookThe Pill Book Guide to Natural MedicinesThe PlaceboThe Rise and Fall of the Biopsychosocial ModelThe Sedated SocietyThe Therapist's Guide to PsychopharmacologyThe Therapist's Guide to Psychopharmacology, Revised EditionThe Truth About the Drug CompaniesThe Use and Misuse of Psychiatric DrugsThe World of CaffeineThomas S. SzaszToxic PsychiatryTrouble in MindTry to RememberTry to RememberTwilight of American SanityUnderstanding Physician-Pharmaceutical Industry InteractionsUnhingedVoluntary MadnessWarning: Psychiatry Can Be Hazardous to Your Mental HealthWhat Is Mental Illness?What Psychiatry Left Out of the DSM-5What Works for Whom?Will@epicqwest.comWomen, Madness and MedicineYour Drug May Be Your Problem

Related Topics
Alternatives Beyond PsychiatryReview - Alternatives Beyond Psychiatry
by Peter Stastny & Peter Lehmann (Editors)
Peter Lehmann, 2007
Review by Maria Christoforatos
Sep 2nd 2008 (Volume 12, Issue 36)

Crimes of the mind... Psychiatry is the authority for this in our time and functions as an arm of social force, ultimately an arm of the state, with state powers, police powers, real locks and bars, drugs and torments. But it also embodies an idea, the idea that the individual carries an invisible disease or taint, which no pathology can prove, but which experts can intuit and cure by force. This idea prevails by common consent, by publicity and propaganda, by the borrowing from the prestige of science itself and applying the force of the state and its overwhelming armory of physical power.

This statement, by the eloquent Kate Millett in her contributing essay "The Illusion of Mental Illness", well summarizes the concerns of many activists and compassionate therapists regarding involuntary treatment and Big Pharma. Robert Whitaker, in his sobering preface, informs that the number of those diagnosed with psychosis and depression has increased six-fold since the introduction of chlorpromazine (the first antipsychotic drug) in the 1950's, in the United States alone, while Australia and other countries relying on the biochemical model also exhibit proportional increases in "psychiatric disability".

Alternatives Beyond Psychiatry is a long overdue book by leading therapists, lawyers, and visionaries in the consumer/survivor/ex-patient movement (c/s/x). There is something deliciously 1970's about this book, not only in the design –from the beige cover with photos of the authors to the verbose chapter headings- but all the idealism and heady visions of change. But lest the word "idealism" deter anyone, I hasten to add that while there is plenty of theory in this book; it is absolutely a practical resource.

Safe Spaces

In the opening segment "Why Psychiatry Hurts More Than It Helps", Dorothea Buck-Zerchin, "historical witness", writer, and super-activist, recalls her experiences of forced sterilisation as a psychiatric patient at age 19, during the Nazi era.  Now, after decades of surviving psychiatry (up until the chlorpromazine explosion), 91 year-old Buck-Zerchin advocates passionately for peer-run crisis hostels and indeed the creation of such havens is one major goal of the c/s/x movement. Many authors in Alternatives Beyond Psychiatry extensively relate their experience with safe and long-term residences for people in crisis and Soteria House, developed by the late psychiatrist Loren Mosher, is arguably the most popular model. Lesser known yet equally inspiring is the Berlin Runaway House, described by Petra Hartmann & Stefan Braunling, as the place "where it is possible to go through crazy states within the widest possible limits". In its current incarnation, the Hostel houses up to 13 residents and around-the-clock helpers. Each group differs in philosophy; from the Podvollian view of supporting the "islands of clarity" that occur in every storm of madness to a more Laingian view of "madness as sane response to insane circumstances".  The practical and common approach however is the dissolution of the patient/therapist hierarchy, no or minimal use of psychiatric treatments, and a communal routine which each resident could choose to (or not) participate in.

Community & Self

Experiences of madness, or prolonged altered perception, often profoundly shatter one's relationship to or faith in the dominant social paradigm. Maryse Mitchell-Brody discusses her work with The Icarus Project which experiments with community and support from an activist perspective, particularly as traditional support groups can be challenging for they "emulate and reproduce the stress and trauma of the world (we) intend to change". Language is perhaps the fundamental human utensil connecting one's identification to the social fabric and as such, The Icarus Project embrace a radical re-vision of one's self, which, often, is not compatible with the "self as diseased" psychiatric position. Psychologist Rufus May is also sympathetic to this approach and in "Reclaiming Mad Experience" discusses the Evolving Minds meetings in the United Kingdom where self and language are explored alongside alternative ways of managing and living with unusual beliefs. Marc Rufer, medical doctor, expands on this and looks at the pitfalls of internalising psychiatric labels and powerfully highlights psychiatry's misappropriation of the quite unrelated field of neurobiology to supply a form of "neuromythology".

Advance Health Directives

Another vital source of empowerment, emphasised by Miriam Krucke, is the creation of advance health directives. Having completed a master's thesis on the topic Krucke discusses the therapeutic value of advance directives and power of attorneys in a "voiceless" field where the "right to treatment" often overrides a person's wishes for their own health care. Laura Ziegler, in "Upholding Psychiatric Advance Directives: The Rights of a Flea" discusses the more controversial aspects of advance health directives and cites various astounding legal cases. For example, the 1997 case of R. R. who created a durable power of attorney (DPOA) stating a refusal of "any drugs or ECT against her will" if deemed incompetent. R.R's DPOA was ignored within Vermont State Hospital and her agent was banned from visiting the hospital with staff asserting R.R competent enough to consent and therefore claimed the DPOA was inactive. Finally, in 1999, a court case was settled with R. R. awarded $30,000 and "an agreement was signed detailing how the hospital would comply with her DPOA". It is clear that psychiatric legal documents remain a complex minefield, yet with advance health directives being legally binding in some states of America and Australia, and with activists and lawyers working toward uniformity, this is an important area indeed.

Psychiatry & Culture

In many parts of the world, faith and religion is explicitly bound up with treatment of mental and emotional turmoil as in Ghana where relatives may send a sufferer to a spiritual camp where conditions are often difficult. Dan Taylor discusses Mindfreedom Ghana's work not only in community outreach, but also in improving hospital ward conditions, and "assisting people with severe mental distress to receive the treatment they want or get protected from treatment they do not agree with". Philip Thomas and Salma Yasmeen in "Choice and Diversity: Developing Real Alternatives for People from Non-Western (and Western) Cultures" explore the problems with applying a Western medical model to countries with economical disadvantages. Additionally, the Western cultural philosophies and values do not always translate over to non-Western cultures, to detriment. And while the "rationalizing" and paternalistic hand is one core dilemma created by psychiatric dogma across all cultures, "this struggle assumes a particular saliency for people from non-Western cultures, where histories of colonialism and slavery must be reckoned with."

Other topics the book touches on is care of people who experience dementia; working with teenagers; family therapy; the male gender role and sexuality.


Alternatives Beyond Psychiatry bursts with guidance, affirmation, tactics, irreverence, and authenticity, and is bound to rankle some people by the sheer audacity. Exerting authority over what happens to one's own psyche, in the context of psychiatry, is, apparently, a radical act. If so, this is a radical book. While there are plenty of excellent doctor, therapist, and lawyer contributors here for those concerned with credentials, the beauty of this book and its promise lies in the united convictions of professionals and the ordinary members of community with direct experience of "crazy states". Each author writes with a sense of urgency, having peered through the cracks of psychiatry. A powerful book deserving of a wide audience.

© 2008 Maria Christoforatos

Maria Christoforatos, a poet, apprentice perfumer, and scholar (University of QLD), currently resides in Australia.


Welcome to Metapsychology.

Note that Metapsychology will be moving to a new server in January 2020. We will not put up new reviews during the transition. We thank you for your support and look forward to coming back with a revised format.

We feature over 8300 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and perspectives. We update our front page weekly and add more than twenty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.

Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from for purchases through this site, which helps us send review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your purchases through our Amazon links. We thank you for your support!

Join our Google Group!

Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? To apply, write to our editor.

Metapsychology Online Reviews

Promote your Page too

Metapsychology Online Reviews
ISSN 1931-5716