Letter: The doctors' oath

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Oliver James's comments (Britain on the Couch, 2 June) on the need for a body to define and regulate therapists should be welcomed in a field where the gullible and the vulnerable can only too easily be preyed upon. However, he does not benefit his case by his complaint over the dominance of psychiatrists.

As members of the medical profession, psychiatrists are subject to the very regulation and control that he advocates. Moreover their psychiatric training, over and above their purely medical training, greatly exceeds that of any other mental health worker. The professional qualification, the Membership of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, requires a knowledge of psychology in addition to all the other disciplines pertinent to mental health.

Of course these include biochemistry and neurophysiology; the human brain is after all, "flesh and blood" like the rest of the body. Whilst childhood adversity may be a potent cause of later difficulties in life, it is not the only cause of mental ill-health, which comes in many varieties and from many causes. His suggestion that psychiatrists "are doctors who have had a further training in the administration of chemicals and electricity for changing the physical state of brains" is as wide of the truth and as unhelpful as the commonly held belief that all psychiatrists are psychoanalysts.


Consultant Psychiatrist

Carterton, Oxfordshire