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A social paradigm in psychiatry – themes and perspectives

  • S. Priebe (a1)



Psychiatry as science is underpinned by paradigms. Considering whether a social paradigm may help to advance the current state of psychiatry, the review provides a reference to the rich, but fragmented past of related initiatives in the history of psychiatry and a personal view of themes, challenges and perspectives of using a social paradigm in psychiatry.


Major themes are the evidence on social determinants of mental health; the value-based importance of integrating people with mental disorders in society; options to overcome the social isolation and improve the networks of psychiatric patients; utilising a systemic approach for interventions in families and communities; and understanding group and one-to-one treatments in psychiatry primarily as social interactions. Whilst all these themes open up perspectives for future action and/or research, there are also conceptual challenges through the limitations of the current construct of mental disorders and the dominating terminology.


Initiatives for using a social paradigm in psychiatry may refer to important achievements in the past, but need to go beyond this and consider on-going societal changes.


Innovation may benefit from close collaboration with social sciences and humanities.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Professor S. Priebe, Queen Mary's University of London, Social Psychiatry, London, UK. (Email:


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