International Critical Psychiatry Network (ICPN): Critical Thinking About Alternative Approaches to Psychiatry

Consulting With Expert.Are you conflicted about methods of diagnosis and treatment in child and adolescent psychiatry? You are not alone. The International Critical Psychiatry Network (ICPN) ( is a growing international forum for critical thinking about alternative approaches to psychiatry.

Building on the work of the UK’s Critical Psychiatry Network (CPN) and the Radical Caucus of the American Psychiatric Association (, the ICPN avoids polemics of “anti-psychiatry” and “pro-psychiatry” to consider a multiplicity of options for thinking about psychic difference and suffering across the globe, encouraging both critique and curiosity.

In keeping with the goal of avoiding antipsychiatry/propsychiatry polemics, my ICPN colleagues and I do not idealize any particular alternative model nor do we (necessarily) devalue dominant models. A variety of approaches to psychic life (and a variety of hybrid combinations) can have value and may be useful for particular people in particular situations.

The goal is not to determine which is right or best for all. The goal is to help support the creation and sustainability of many options, and to help develop ethical structures of clinical care, which support and encourage this diversity in local contexts.

Critique of the dominant models of psychiatry—which have solidified in much of the Western world and are increasingly exported to other countries across the globe—is needed. These dominant models have some diversity within them, but tend toward a heavy reliance on the sciences of brain and cognition in the hopes of achieving value and culturally neutral “truths” about psychic life.

A variety of critiques challenge this reliance. For example, critical empiricism uses science to rigorously examine the evidence and often finds that dominant models in psychiatry use sloppy and manipulative science to over-hype the interests of dominant groups—particularly the pharmaceutical companies and supporters in government and academia.

If critique opens the door to alternatives, curiosity walks through that door, by exploring models of psychiatry that have been neglected and overshadowed by dominant models. These additional models are as diverse as psychoanalytic, humanistic/ existential, narrative, creative, social, political, spiritual, contemplative, mind-body, cross-cultural, traditional, and peer support, to name a few. Some of these models are explicitly psychiatric “alternatives,” but many use nonpsychiatric language to understand and organize an array of practices that can loosely be considered therapeutic for states of mental distress.

The ICPN email list currently has over 240 members. ICPN members come from around the world including the UK, USA, South America, Scandinavia, Australasia, Middle East, and Far East. If you would like to join the ICPN email list, contact [email protected]

International Critical Psychiatry Network (ICPN): Critical Thinking About Alternative Approaches to Psychiatry

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This article was published in print December 2013 in Volume:Issue 4:7&8.


APA Reference
Timimi,, S. (2016). International Critical Psychiatry Network (ICPN): Critical Thinking About Alternative Approaches to Psychiatry. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 3 Aug 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Aug 2016
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