The Reason Bestselling Author and Former APA President Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman Wrote Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry

By Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD
Lawrence C. Kolb Professor and Chairman of Psychiatry
Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
Psychiatrist In Chief New York Presbyterian Hospital – Columbia University Medical Center
Past President, American Psychiatric Association

As a psychiatrist who has cared for patients and conducted research for over 30 years, I have published over 600 scientific articles and 10 books for scientists and health professionals, but never anything for the public at large. Then I came to a realization.

Over the course of human history until the latter part of the 20th century, untold millions of people suffered from mental illness and substance use disorders because there were no treatments and little that could be done to help them. However, now that is not the case. We have an array of evidence-based treatments that work, for most mental and substance use disorders. However, because of lack of awareness, shame and embarrassment or lack of access to competent care or insurance coverage, people just aren’t getting them. Imagine if the population of our country was afflicted with infectious diseases like pneumonia, tuberculosis, smallpox and HIV and they did not seek or could not get antibiotics, vaccines or protease inhibitors.

This is the reality for millions of people in the U.S. and around the world and it is a reality that is no longer tolerable. It is simply unacceptable that the greatest barrier to symptomatic relief and recovery for mentally ill persons is not a lack of scientific knowledge or effective treatments, but stigma.

It is for this reason that I wrote Shrinks, The Untold Story of Psychiatry; to tell the fascinating and scandalous story of mental illness, and psychiatry’s efforts to understand and treat them.   Shrinks describes the origins of our understanding brain disorders that affect mental functions and behavior and the evolution of the field of medicine responsible for their understanding and care. It describes psychiatry’s development from a mystical pseudoscience to a bona fide scientifically guided medical discipline that helps people and saves lives, while revealing exemplary case studies of patients. The book also makes an urgent call-to-arms for the public and media to start treating mental illness as a disease rather than a state of mind. As a member of this profession, I think you will find this story incredibly illuminating and inspiring.  

But don’t just take my word for it, here is what some other distinguished authors said.

“Jeffrey Lieberman has produced a masterful behind-the-scenes examination of psychiatry—and, by extension, the human condition. His epic narrative charts the unlikely ascent of the ‘stepchild of medicine,’ paralleling Lieberman’s own professional transformation from eager psychoanalytic student of Freud to neuroscience-minded president of a reformed American Psychiatric Association. A wise and gripping book that tackles one of the most important questions of our time: what is mental illness?

—Andrew Solomon, author of Far from the Tree and The Noonday Demon

This is an astonishing book: honest, sober, exciting, and humane. Dr. Lieberman writes with the authority of an expert, but with the humility of a doctor who has learned to treat the most profound and mysterious forms of mental illnesses. This book brings you to the very forefront of one of the most amazing medical journeys of our time.”—Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Emperor of All Maladies

“Shrinks is a must-read. . . A smart, important, accessible book.” (Patrick J. Kennedy, former congressman, founder of The Kennedy Forum, and co-founder of One Mind).

Weekend Edition with Scott Simon NPR 3/14/15

Charlie Rose PBS Interview 4/8/15

For additional information visit: Lieberman


 interviews Dr. Alan Doyle of Fountain House

Fountain HouseWilliam Jiang: Hi Dr. Doyle, Thank you for coming today. Who are you and what is Fountain House?

Alan DoyleWill, thank you very much for inviting me to speak with you today about Fountain House. I am the Director of Education at Fountain House. It’s an opportune moment for me because of where Fountain House is in its history — for almost seventy years Fountain House has been at the center of defining a model of community mental health, not only in New York City, but especially now as the recipient the Hilton Humanitarian Prize globally. Fountain House is considered a model for community mental health world-wide and as policy on how we should proceed over the next decades  in terms of the structure and care for those with severe mental illness.

William Jiang:  it is really interesting that you brought up the Hilton Humanitarian Award. I wanted to ask you about that because I heard the Fountain House won it recently. Can you say more about the importance of this award?

Alan Doyle:  Yes. Every year the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation Identifies a charitable, non-governmental organization that has made extraordinary contributions toward alleviating human suffering. In 2014, when it considered the suffering caused by mental illness, it decided that Fountain House and those clubhouses throughout the world that follow its practice offer a real solution for families, for governments, for mental health professionals, and for people living with severe mental illness. We did not come to this award easily. We were nominated for the prize for more than ten years. It was only at the point where the Hilton Foundation learned that the crisis in mental health care had reached such global proportions that mental illness was a topic that needed to be addressed. It chose to shine its light on Fountain House to meet this great humanitarian need and the suffering it causes. Fountain House  is now also working with the World Health Organization for the same purpose.

William Jiang: Can you speak about Fountain House’s work with the World Health Organization?

Alan Doyle: Yes. The pervasive impact of mental illness cannot be understated. It should not only be considered in terms of individual human suffering alone but the impact it has on a nation’s economy, especially in those areas of the world at the lower end of the scale of wealth. So that the seriousness of this illness not only pertains to individual people, but also at the national and international levels. Fountain House has teamed up with the WHO  by jointly publishing a clinical study on the premature death faced by people with mental illness. It is currently writing source materials for government officials and public health practitioners addressing the impact of this condition in terms of solutions.

William Jiang: That is very interesting. As a reminder, this is I understand Fountain House has two books out. Can you please talk about them as well as where Fountain House is going in the future?

Alan Doyle:  The idea for a book on Fountain House (Fountain House: Creating Community in Mental Health Practice) came to me about 7 or 8 years ago. It became apparent to us that practitioners and policy makers were not clearly understanding our methodology. We call Fountain House a working community. We are located on 47th Street in New York City in the old Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of the City. People come each day to Fountain House: both staff and the members — “members” is how we refer to those individuals within our community who suffer from severe mental illness. And we do what everybody else does. From Monday to Friday from 9 to 5, we have a work day here where we address together the issues faced by people living with mental illness in the community. That is the project  we work on. That’s why we are here today. And for some reason the idea that the normality of the way that we approach treatment for people with serious mental illness is considered not important or not intellectual enough for many academics or mental health practitioners was the reason for wiring the book. this perception is changing with the recognition of the WHO and The Hilton Foundation. We believe that many in the academic community have overlooked the importance of the opportunity for meaningful work that has always played a part in recovery for serious mental illness–for centuries back to the 19th century Paris, France and the   method morale of  Philippe Pinel.  Fountain House taps into these rich social traditions and practices them as a way of helping our members live outside the hospital and in society. So, what the book did then was tap into these rich academic traditions coming out of Psychiatry with Freud and group theory and integrated with Social Work and the Settlement House movement. Fountain House is a settlement house for those living with serious mental illness.

William Jiang: Like Hull House?

Alan Doyle: Like Hull house, exactly! But we practice our services for those with severe mental illness in contrast to Hull House which worked with immigrant populations.

William Jiang: Exciting!

Allan Doyle: We follow the evolution of this thought as to how we tapped into these traditions taking it out of a medical environment into an everyday work environment like our clubhouse here at 47th Street.

William Jiang: Did you want to say anything else?

Alan Doyle: I think there is a serious issue on the horizon that I would like to personally work on and bring to your attention. As we look upon our traditions and  the recognition by the World Health Organization and the Hilton Foundation,  what started to emerge that supports the effectiveness of the intervention of the clubhouse model. That of the original dream in our origins.  Fountain House was never just a program here at 47th Street: Fountain House was an idea in community mental health care with worldwide ramifications. What we’re looking at and challenged by now is how we scale our idea from where we started with one clubhouse in 1948 and then in the nineteen-eighties started the training program which resulted in over 300 clubhouses over score of years later.

William Jiang: Under Mr. Beard?

Alan Doyle: it started with John Beard and then was furthered by his protege Rudyard Propst into a worldwide movement involving hundreds of clubhouses practicing the approach that the was founded here at Fountain House. But for the last 15 years we’ve been stuck at 315 or so clubhouses worldwide. So it is an issue of scale that we are now faced with. I personally have been looking at how we can use education as an intervention to break through this barrier and reopen the gates of expansion that occurred between 1980 and 2000 when we grew to over 300 clubhouses. We need to look at a whole new approach to how we think about replication — in a way that is fiscally responsible for a solitary place in New York City. We want to keep in mind our global mission and how we can in a very practical dollars-and-cents way, think about how to expand community mental health around the world using the clubhouse model of Fountain House,

William Jiang:  That sounds exciting.

Alan Doyle: And yet we can reach out to a larger community. We are looking forward to coordinating with training for others and share our methodologies. We now have video conferencing–it allows us to give our traditional training in a way that we can do it without walls and recreate that early group who brought  the message of Fountain House to other parts of the world and use it to support and re-energize groups to go into areas like South America.

William Jiang: South America?
Alan Doyle: South America only has one or two clubhouses: two in Argentina and also one in Mexico. Think about it- all of South America is going through deinstitutionalization right now, like we did here in the states  in the 1960’s and 70’s. They will have an increasing number of people in the jails who are there not for any criminal activities but because of their mental illness. Also, there will be increased rates of drug addiction and homelessness on the streets. These are all the impacts that the World Health Organization is looking to Fountain House to mitigate. And that’s why we need to find a way of thinking about how we can bring this issue of mental health to the fore for countries at a reasonable cost.

William Jiang: This was an exciting and very interesting  overview of what Fountain House has one and will do in the very near future, hopefully. Thank you so much for talking to me today, Alan.

Alan Doyle: Thank you, Will.



5 Star #Book Review: Guide to #Natural #MentalHealth by Amazon Hall of Fame Reviewer Loyd Eskildson

on April 24, 2017

The author was formerly the Chief Librarian of the New York State Psychiatric Institute Patient and Family Library, affiliated with Columbia University. Mental illness is a widespread and serious problem. The National Institute for Mental Health estimates about 26.2% of Americans 18 and older meet the criteria for at least one serious mental disorder. The World Health Organization estimates that by 2020, depression will be the second most common worldwide cause of disability and premature death.

Both exercise and sunshine have been shown efficacious for treating depression. The Omega-3 in fish is not only good for the heart but also the nervous system and brain. Jiang reports it has also been shown good for stopping schizophrenia and helping fight development of diabetes. A sleep deficit built up over many years can also cause lasting physical problems. Eating fruits and vegetables is also good for a person.

Excessive playing of video games or the Internet should be avoided by anyone with anxiety and/or depression problems. Experts say that up to 6% of smartphone users can be addicted. (Checking our phones and finding messages provides a reward in feeling needed.)

William Jiang, MLS is the Author of 63 books, including the bestselling books Guide to Natural Mental Health , 3rd ed and his critically-acclaimed autobiography A Schizophrenic Will: A Story of Madness, A Story of Hope. You can see a selection of his books about mental and physical health nicely laid out on his blog at


Book Review: Your Achilles Eel by Mike Bundran is an Useful, Easy Read

Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage, Improve Your Self-Esteem just might help you get to the root of your self-destructive behaviors. AHA, although I’m generally not a self-destructive or negative person, there were many aha! Insights I had while reading this brief but insightful book.  I shined a probing light into my own psyche while reading this quick book, and it is a rare book that can make you self-assess honestly yet gently and usefully all at the same time.

The most important aspect of my own personality that I learned about while reading Mr. Mike Bundran’s book was the concept of not immediately gratifying myself. This sounds basic to any adult life, right? Wrong. If I cannot do something immediately, I generally give up on some level. The adage “Rome was not built in a day.” applies here.  How so? If you want an inner life or a work life or a love life as rich as that of the Romans, it is impossible to build something like that on immediate gratification. So, there has to be a short, medium, and long term plan for any aspect of your life you want to get better. That, for me was a crucial and very valuable lesson. What that means in terms of not being self-destructive in Mr. Bundran’s book you should read yourself to figure out. I am not an expert in terms of apparently and overtly self-destructive behaviour. Mr. Bundran is .That being said, everyone will engage in some kind of counterproductive behavior over the course of their lifetimes, and although this book is aimed at the some pretty self-sabotaging and self-destructive people, I feel that anybody can benefit from this book in that we all engage in this type of negative behavior on some level. I will be re-reading this book as I felt there were some deep lessons to be learned about my own life.

I felt hints of Buddhist wisdom in Your Achilles Eel. i have always enjoyed and respected Buddhist sacred texts and especially Zen poetry. There is much wisdom in few words in that spiritual tradition, with a distinctly different orientation than in Western religious texts.  Yes, I will be reading Your Achilles Eel again, more slowly next time. Why? This book seems deceptively simple on the surface in that we all have a negative force that is attached to our mind and ego that sucks the life out of it. However, the idea really holds up, the more one thinks about it. When one does not give life to those self-destructive forces in one’s own psyche, one becomes a more complete, loving, effective, whole, effective, and healthy human being.

Honestly, I before buying Mr. Bundran’s book, I read all the one, two, and three star reviews of Your Achilles Eel . I read the one star reviews on Amazon often as a critic can many times reveal a deep or obvious truth about a negative aspect of a book or product being sold on the e-commerce giant, Amazon. This was true here. But, what I learned about Mr. Mike Bundran’s book was not that it was not useful nor effective. Rather, it showed me that, sadly there were just some self-destructive people who were searching for healing and health in this book that were beyond the reach of the wise words of the book. So, they turned their self-destructive behavior outwards to try to denigrate the work of Mr. Bunran, and so they wrote a one star review, This just underscored the need of these people to spend a few more hours contemplating their own lives and their visceral reaction to Your Achilles Eel. They probably needed the book the most.

Finally, this Little work seems like something Freud would have written, had he put his mind to it. The book should be taken for what it is worth, a short but insightful and powerful book about trying to take the bite out of our own self-destructive psyches. It is not an immediate panacea for all that is wrong wit one’s ego or life. Far from it, as I mentioned the concept of time in the book, good things take some time. Healing and healthy behavior, although sometimes elusive, can become more possible after reading this book. “No pain, no gain.” they say. The worst thing a self-destructive person could do is NOT to take that journey of self- discovery and health by starting on that journey to extricate and starve their own Achilles Eel. They say that a journey of a thousand miles, starts with a single step, I feel that this book would be  a step in the right direction, if you are struggling with chronic self-destructive behaviors.