Doctoring the Mind

Is Our Current Treatment of Mental Illness Really Any Good?

388 pages

September, 2009

ISBN: 9780814791486


Richard P. Bentall is professor of clinical psychology at the University of Bangor in Wales. He has held chairs in clinical psychology at the universities of Liverpool and Manchester. Known internationally for his research into the causes and treatment of severe mental illness, he is also the author of the award-winning book Madness Explained: Psychosis and Human Nature.

All books by Richard P. Bentall

Toward the end of the twentieth century, the solution to mental illness seemed to be found. It lay in biological solutions, focusing on mental illness as a problem of the brain, to be managed or improved through drugs. We entered the "Prozac Age" and believed we had moved far beyond the time of frontal lobotomies to an age of good and successful mental healthcare. Biological psychiatry had triumphed.

Except maybe it hadn’t. Starting with surprising evidence from the World Health Organization that suggests that people recover better from mental illness in a developing country than in the first world, Doctoring the Mind asks the question: how good are our mental healthcare services, really? Richard P. Bentall picks apart the science that underlies our current psychiatric practice. He puts the patient back at the heart of treatment for mental illness, making the case that a good relationship between patients and their doctors is the most important indicator of whether someone will recover.

Arguing passionately for a future of mental health treatment that focuses as much on patients as individuals as on the brain itself, this is a book set to redefine our understanding of the treatment of madness in the twenty-first century.


  • "This is a provocative but an engaging book that argues that the impact of 'modern medicines' in reducing the burden of mental illness, most particularly schizophrenia and other psychoses, has been exagerated by advocates of biological psychiatry and the potential role of psychological therapies underutilised. . . The book is scholoarly and well researched yet readable."

    —Phillipa Hay, Metascience

  • Doctoring the Mind is a very accessible and well-organized book, but what makes it most engaging is the glimpse inside the world of mental illness that Bentall’s patient stories provide.”

    Scientific American Mind Magazine

  • “This controversial book makes an important contribution to the broader health-care debate regarding mental health and the role of the pharmaceutical industry.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Bentall’s are revolutionary ideas, aimed at a profession in thrall to the products of the collective of companies known as Big Pharma.”

    The Sunday Times

  • “Psychoanalysis was popularly called the talking cure, but a better name is the listening one, because to be listened to properly inspires, or can inspire, hope. As Bentall starkly says: ‘Without hope, the struggle for survival seems pointless.’ At a time when dialogue in the presence of other human beings is becoming less and less available, this brave book gives a sense of why this could be disastrous.”

    The Observer

  • “In this cogent, convincing and compassionate book, Bentall argues for a new approach to severe mental illness, one which, rather than labelling patients as having ‘irrecoverable’ conditions manageable only by long term drug regimes, instead advocates the sparing, short-term and episodic use of antipsychotic drugs in conjunction with cognitive and behavioural therapy (though not with psychoanalysis, which Bentall views as unhelpful).”

    The Telegraph

  • Doctoring the Mind paints a stark picture of a mental health system riddled with corruption and incompetence, in which shrinks live it up on pharmaceutical company cash while patients are disrespected, dehumanised and drugged to the eyeballs.”

    The Times