Clinical social work, social welfare, mental health, psychiatry, pharmaceutical


This article examines how the biomedical industrial complex has ensnared social work within a foreign conceptual and practice model that distracts clinical social workers from the special assistance that they can provide for people with mental distress and misbehavior. We discuss: (1) social work's assimilation of psychiatric perspectives and practices during its pursuit of professional status; (2) the persistence of psychiatric hospitalization despite its coercive methods, high cost, and doubtful efficacy; (3) the increasing reliance on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, despite its widely acknowledged scientific frailty; and (4) the questionable contributions of psychoactive drugs to clinical mental health outcomes and their vast profits for the pharmaceutical industry, using antipsychotic drugs as a case example. We review a number of promising social work interventions overshadowed by the biomedical approach. We urge social work and other helping professions to exercise intellectual independence from the reigning paternalistic drug-centered biomedical ideology in mental health and to rededicate themselves to the supportive, educative, and problem-solving methods unique to their disciplines.

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