Many people from around the world are concerned that the current model of “diagnosing and treating mental disorders” is a flawed model from the point of view of science and medicine, a self-serving model that supports the interests of professionals and pharmaceutical companies more than service users, and one face of a new imperialism and colonialism.


The Future of Mental Health Movement is a movement of inquiry, activism, and improved helping. We want inquiries into:

The very legitimacy of the DSM (the DSM is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, which is widely used to “diagnose and treat mental disorders”) and, where it speaks to “mental disorders,” the ICD (the International Statistical Classification of Diseases, produced by the World Health Organization)


The differences between “medications that treat illnesses” and “chemicals that have effects” (not all chemicals should be called drugs). It is a very important issue of real concern to individual sufferers, to parents of children “diagnosed with a mental disorder,” and to children themselves whether what they are being prescribed are genuinely “medications that treat illnesses” or “chemicals that have effects.” Even if they are only the latter, a person who is suffering might want those effects—but he or she should be in the position to make an informed decision.


What actually helps service users (for example, if talks helps, is it all talk or only talk of a certain sort?) Generally sufferers are offered two “treatment options”: “psychiatric medication” and “talk therapy.” Are these effective? Do they make sense? Are there effective alternatives to these two?


How helping professionals can improve their services (for instance, by taking a service user’s current circumstances and past experiences into account). If you are a helping professional—a psychiatrist, psychologist, psychotherapist, family therapist, clinical social worker, etc.—what changes might you want to make to improve the effectiveness of your offerings and align yourself less with the DSM/ICD model?


The treatment of children, who are confronted by an epidemic of “mental disorder labeling.” The Future of Mental Health Movement is particularly concerned with the way that a vulnerable population, children, who must rely on adults for their emotional and mental health care, are targets of the “mental disorder labeling system” and increasingly likely to receive a “mental disorder” label if and when they display the everyday feelings and behaviors of childhood.


The first-hand accounts of service users. Individuals who have had firsthand experience with service providers, whether in the context of individual psychotherapy, out-patient services, in-patient services, or in some other setting or context, ought to be heard.


What causes emotional and mental distress (including the contributing nature of social issues like poverty and injustice, existential issues like a lack of meaning and life purpose, cultural issues like the influence of mainstream media, etc.). To say that mental health is a bio-psycho-social thing is not to say enough. We require much smarter, deeper investigations into the relationships between cause and effect when it comes to mental health.


Alternate helping methods (for example, communities of care). The many alternatives to psychiatric medication and talk therapy need inquiries of their own. What distinguishes a traditional psychiatric facility from a community of care? What can we learn from radically different helping methods like the Open Dialogue Method employed in Finland? What are the alternatives and which work best?


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Two facts are incontrovertible: chemicals have effects and some talk sometimes helps in reducing emotional distress.

There is a long leap to be made from those two facts to “there are medical illnesses called mental disorders and chemicals appropriately called medication that so-to-speak treat those so-to-speak medical illnesses” and to “psychotherapy is valuable expert talk of a certain sort that is effective by virtue of the fact that so-called mental disorders can be so-to-speak cured via talk.”

If “mental disorders” are not genuine medical or pseudo-medical conditions, in what sense can “psychiatric medications” be medications? They are certainly chemicals with powerful, sometimes desirable and sometimes undesirable effects; and an argument can be made that an individual might want some of those effects. A person who wants certain effects might decide to take a “psychiatric medication” even if it isn’t really medicine and even if he or she doesn’t really have a medical or pseudo-medical condition. But shouldn’t that be an informed decision?

Likewise, choosing “talk” as a “treatment” ought to be an informed decision. Talking can certainly be beneficial when it comes to reducing your emotional distress and helping you make the changes that allow you to live a mentally healthier life. However, that is a very different proposition from “psychotherapy is a legitimate pseudo-medical specialty where experts engage in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders.” Is psychotherapy a very fancy, scientific-sounding word that stands primarily for paying someone to listen to you, point out a thing or two, and take your side? If it is more than that, what exactly is the “more”?

To learn more about these controversies, please visit our reading list.



Children are a vulnerable population. One of their vulnerabilities is having their behaviors labeled as “symptoms of a mental disorder” and, as a consequence, then receiving chemicals to “treat their mental disorder.”

If you are a parent you may find yourself under great pressure from your peers and relatives, from school employees, from mental health professionals, and from the popular media to adopt what is in fact a controversial point of view, that when your child acts in a certain way, expresses certain feelings or opinions, disagrees with something or displays differences from other children, that he or she “has a mental disorder.”

To learn more about these controversies, please visit our reading list.






There isn’t just one way to think about mental health. Today adults and children in distress are presented with a single picture: that they have some “mental disorder” requiring “medical treatment.” People from around the world are challenging this paradigm, presenting alternatives, and lobbying for change.

There is no consensus as to what is wrong with the current system or what ought to come next.

  • Some believe that psychiatry is a worthy and beneficial enterprise that has merely overstepped its bounds and succumbed to various pressures. Others believe that it is fraudulent at heart.
  • Some believe that talk therapy and psychological formulation are excellent alternatives to and replacements for the pseudo-medical DSM/psychiatric approach that relies on so-called medication. Others believe that talk therapy is its own sort of sham.
  • Some believe in the power of indigenous, alternative, and “natural” approaches to dealing with emotional distress. Others are as opposed to shamans and naturopaths as they are to psychiatrists.

These and many more striking differences of opinion do not make it easy for a prospective service user or for a person in distress to know how to proceed. Over the coming months we will present invited pieces from practitioners from around the globe who will shed some light on these controversies and differences of opinion.

To be kept informed about these invited pieces, please join our community and receive our monthly electronic newsletter.

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