Is Psychiatry a Religion?

December 8, 2017
Anna Jankowska, LCPC

By Anna Jankowska, MA, CEAP, SAP, LCPC

Anna Jankowska is a mental health, addiction, and substance abuse counselor with over 17 years of experience and has specialized training and skill in working with individuals, groups and communities to improve mental health outcomes. NPI number: 1598843526

By CCI Team,

According to, religion is defined as:

  1. a) the service and worship of God of the supernatural, b) commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
  2. a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs and practices
  3. archaic: scrupulous conformity: conscientiousness
  4. a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

Meanwhile Psychiatry is defined as: a branch of medicine that deals with mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders (Merriam-Webster, 2017).

By definition, it does not appear that the two has much in common, though in a recent article for Mad in America, Dr. Lawrence Kelmenson has tried to draw a parallel between the two.  He noted that as the psychiatric profession was hit by multiple “plagues”.  Of which included: Freud’s theories falling into disrepute, an antipsychiatry movement began and state hospitals form the 1960’s and 1990’s closed, causing the transition of psychiatrists to outpatient therapy increasing competition, the closure of private psychiatric hospitals, increasing competition from cheaper alternatives from social workers and psychologists, and eventually managed care companies.  He concludes by linking the psychiatrists back to his previous arguments regarding use of medication in psychiatry (Klemenson, 2017).

Klemenson draws additional parallels for diagnostic purposes, in his article is the DSM is the equivalent of a “Bible”, the authorities are comparable to “priests”, symptom relief correlates to “salvation” via “miracle pills”, chemical imbalances are and “an evil force that is ruling over you” and modern science is a “new god” with power to fix this.  He appears to believe that psychiatrist have adapted a religious approach towards a distressing situation while pharmacological companies are blindly trusted.  He goes on to note his beliefs that psychiatrists are perpetuating that “mental illnesses” are permanent conditions that requires the clients’ continued return.  Klemenson concludes that biological psychiatry is America’s first state-sponsored religion, and he and other members of Mad in America are warning the public of the dangers (Klemenson, 2017)

Taking a step back, perhaps it can be a bit ironic that Klemenson appears to be taking on the role of a prophet in his approach to providing the warnings about this new religion.  Whether you agree or disagree with Klemenson it is still important to consider that there are alternative views to the same argument.  According to the American Psychiatric Association, “A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (an M.D. or D.O.) who specializes in mental health, including substance use disorders. Psychiatrists are qualified to assess both the mental and physical aspects of psychological problems.” According to the site, psychiatrists do diagnose patients, and while prescribing medicine is one from of treatment, it is often used with psychotherapy and psychosocial interventions, depending on what the patient needs.  (American Psychiatric Association, 2017).

Medical News Today explored “What is psychotherapy?” back in May this year.  The article notes that psychotherapy is actually a wide range of treatments “that can help people deal with their mental health problems, emotional challenges and some psychiatric disorders”.  These treatments may be used in conjunction with medication for treatment of conditions such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, but unlike Klemenson had claimed, don’t necessarily always require medication nor does it require a lifetime to treat.  Oftentimes the therapy can be under a year, dependent on the effort a person is willing to put forth, and how eager and willing they are to change. This form of therapy is also known as talk therapy, and the benefits clients by providing them with someone to talk to and perhaps help them see their problems with renewed perspective (Brazier, 2017).

Ultimately, there is ample information out there, but your beliefs and your health, physically and mentally, are your own.  If you find yourself in a position that requires assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.  Consult with your physician and conduct your own investigation to form your own opinion to determine what is the best option for you.


Klemenson, L. (2017, November 27). How Psychiatry Evolved Into A Religion. 

Religion [Def. 1,2,3,4]. (n.d.). In Merriam Webster Online, Retrieved November 30, 2011

American Psychiatric Association. (2017). What is Psychiatry? 

Brazier, Y.  (2017, May 23). What is psychotherapy? 

Related Posts


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *