Richard Bentall pieces together evidence from an impressive array of sources to provide a critical yet accessible evaluation of the current state of psychiatry. This book is not a scathing anti-psychiatry rant. Bentall lucidly examines the mental health literature, before concluding that a) mental health practitioners often fail their patients - he is self-critical and modest about his own treatment successes and failures and b) this failure is often borne out of rigid adherence to the neo-kraeplinian, biomedical school of psychopathology; an approach which is underpinned by pharmaceutical companies and their marketing strategies. Psychiatric diagnosis is a difficult process, the author - who favours a symptom-focused model - believes these difficulites arise from the inefficiencies, limitations and unsuitability of the disorder-based, biomedical paradigm of mental health. The efficacy of both pharmacological and psychosocial treatments is also comprehensively challenged - alongside the chapters on psychiatric diagnosis, these topics form large sections of the book.
In essence, the book provides a basic framework for an holistic approach to the treatment of mental illness. Bentall seeks to educate, empower and treat the psychiatric patient, perceiving them as individuals with diverse and often distressing life experiences who are deserved of fundamental human rights, rather than as deviants lacking the cognitive prowess to make decisions relating to their treatment who cannot/shouldn't be trusted to tell the truth about their symptoms and life experiences. A nurturing, trusting, compassionate, patient/client-centred approach is promoted as a key component of treatment success, regardless of the treatment modality. Adopting the author's approach is likely to be beneficial to the patient-practitioner relationship because it engenders a sense of mutual trust and respect which would probably improve treatment compliance, appointment attendance, the patient's self-esteem and perhaps even treatment outcome.
It is impossible to do justice to this book in such a short review because the diversity and depth of the subject matter, as well as the author's warm and humane tone cannot be reviewed nor conveyed. This book is a must for the psychiatrist, the psychologist, the psychiatric patient and anybody else who is interested in psychopathology. Doctoring the Mind is an important text which asks probing questions about mental health practices, that could also be used as a springboard to improved policies. This book is suitable for the layperson.