The Lure of ‘Cool’ Brain Research Is Stifling Psychotherapy

The Lure of ‘Cool’ Brain Research Is Stifling Psychotherapy

Publication date: Aug 01, 2020

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) was established in 1949 by the federal government in the United States with the practical goal of providing ‘an objective, thorough, nationwide analysis and reevaluation of the human and economic problems of mental health’.

Ever since, the NIMH has increasingly narrowed its focus almost exclusively to brain biology – leaving out everything else that makes us human, both in sickness and in health.

Having largely lost interest in the plight of real people, the NIMH could now more accurately be renamed the ‘National Institute of Brain Research’.

This misplaced reductionism arose from the availability of spectacular research tools (eg, the Human Genome Project, functional magnetic resonance imaging, molecular biology and machine learning) combined with the naive belief that brain biology could eventually explain all aspects of mental functioning.

Many millions of people around the world have already been helped by NIMH psychotherapy research.

In a rational world, the NIMH would continue to fund a robust psychotherapy research budget and promote its use as a public-health initiative to reduce the current massive overprescription of psychiatric medication in the US.

Drug treatments would be reserved for severe psychiatric problems and for those people who haven’t responded sufficiently to watchful waiting or psychotherapy.

No surprise then that the NIMH’s neglect of psychotherapy research has been accompanied by its neglect in clinical practice.

Studies comparing psychotherapy versus medication for a wide variety of mild to moderate mental disorders would help to level the playing field for the two, and eventually reduce our massive overdependence on drug treatments for nonexistent ‘chemical imbalances’.

Brain research should remain an important part of a balanced NIMH agenda, not its sole preoccupation.

Concepts Keywords
Adventure Magnetic resonance imaging
Aeon Major depressive disorder
Alley Psychotherapy
Anxiety Mental health
Balanced Budget Mental disorder
Behaviour Therapy Psychiatry
Biological Reductionism Mood disorders
Biopsychosocial Psychopathology
Brain Psychiatric assessment
Chemical Imbalance Abnormal psychology
Cognitive Therapy Psychiatric diagnosis
Complete List Psychology
Creative Commons Articles
Depression Psychotherapy
DSM Cognitive therapy
DSM IV Human sickness
Ecumenical Placebos
Fruit Vulnerability schizophrenia
Genetic Mental illness
Goliath Pill solution
Homelessness Influence politicians insurance
Insurance Pharmaceutical treatments
Mental Disorders
Mental Health
Mental Illness
Psychiatric Medication
Psychotropic Drugs
Public Health
Real People
Watchful Waiting


Type Source Name
disease MESH Men
disease MESH homelessness
drug DRUGBANK Nonoxynol-9
disease MESH complications
disease MESH anxiety
disease MESH depression
disease MESH development
disease MESH sitting
drug DRUGBANK Spinosad
disease MESH schizophrenia
disease MESH Mental Disorders

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