Humanizing Psychiatry: The Future of the Field
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Published on 04/1/2010
A review of: Humanizing Psychiatry Author: Niall McLaren, M.D.

The Look of Psychiatry Today

Humanizing Psychiatry:  The
  Biocognitive Model
Author:  Niall McLaren, M.D.
Publisher:  Future Psychiatry Press
ISBN:  978-1-61599-011-5

Psychiatry has been around for a long time; in fact, conventional methodologies, systems and beliefs haven't changed that much since their inception.  Battered now from all sides, the debate centers on the reliance on pharmaceutical drugs as the cure-all of any real and imagined psychiatric difficulties.

We read magazine articles touting the latest "discovery" of mental disorder , an almost "flavor of the month" mindset seems to prevail in our society,  We study the tv shows, advertising and media articles asking ourselves if we have these symptoms, and writing down the name of this or that drug, all but guaranteed to quickly and painlessly cure us.  Of course, some of the listed side effects are frightening, but we forge ahead for the miracle cure.  These pills are going to change and repair our chemical imbalance.  As McLaren states, it usually is not that easy. 

There are several schools of thought, with science demanding that all aspects of a patient's life experiences, family history, brain function and proven theory and practice be examined.   In a society and field of science that is looking more and more to the "quick fix", the actual science of psychiatry is too often ignored. 

Part I of this work explains the scope of biology psychiatry and it's restrictions by taking a very indepth look at the well known  and often cited works of Eric Kandel.  Basically, Kandel presented the argument that there is no limit to the capacity of biology to explain human behavior.  In other words, nothing is beyond our perception, if we merely take a "wait and see" attitude, eventually the answers will become obvious.  Of course, that's not taking into account all the false answers that may come our way in the meantime.  Also discussed in great detail is the work of mathmetician and logician Alan Turing, most popularly referred to as the "Turing Machine".   Turing believed that all human thought processing and problem solving could essentially be reduced to a single set of thought processes; thereby placing this set of processes as commands into a machine (computer) would show that the machine is capable of human thoughts, processing and reasoning.  Given these beliefs, the goal of biological psychiatry is to remove psychiological cause from the concept of mental disorder.
What about science and the ever-growing psychiatric publishing industry?  Publications can be both educational and correct flawed popular but outdated and incorrect theories and thinking.  Unfortunately, there is no agreement or idea of what constitues the proper model of mental disorder.  The actual objectivity of these many popular articles, magazines and "self help" psychiatric books tend to lean most heavily toward the reductionist theory illustrated by Kandel and Turing.  Rarely is alternative theory or criticism written or published.  Accountability on the part of publishers, editors, authors is pretty much nonexistent, with no knowledge of the background and basis for publishing specific theory.

Part II is Resolving the Mind-Body Problem for Psychiatry.  It illustrates the author's belief in the science as it pertains to mentalist control of human behavior, the possibility of molecular resolution of the mind-body problem, embodied logic, the biocognitive model, language as a test of the biological model, and human nature.

In Part III of this work, Niall McLaren M.D. applies the biocognitive model of psychiatry, the role of personality and numerous fascinating case studies; and includes the most interesting to this reader, the Circus Vitosus, or vicious circle of the biocognitive model of psychiatry.

In conclusion, regardless of a reader's personal view of biocognitive modeling in psychiatry, McLaren has prepared a fascinating and timely study of the fallacies or facts of the science and where it is headed. 

While the book is written at a level that may be difficult for some lay persons to comprehend, McLaren has taken extreme care in presenting a work with both thought provoking and groundbreaking opinion.  I found it well written, indepth and a fascinating look at the field in our world today.