The last half-century of psychiatric services as reflected in psychiatric services

Psychiatr Serv. 2000 Jan;51(1):41-67. doi: 10.1176/ps.51.1.41.


The last half-century of psychiatric services in the United States is examined through developments and trends reported in the 50 years of publication of Psychiatric Services. The journal, earlier named Mental Hospitals and then Hospital and Community Psychiatry, was launched by the American Psychiatric Association in January 1950 and marks its 50th anniversary this year. The author organizes his review of psychiatric services largely around the locus of care and treatment because the location of treatment--institution versus community--has been the battleground for the ideology of care and for the crystallization of policy and legal reform. He uses "dehospitalization" to describe the movement of patients out of state hospitals, rejecting the widely used term "deinstitutionalization" as inappropriate; one reason is that the term wrongly implies that many settings where patients ended up were not institutional. Also covered in detail, as reflected in the journal, are community care and treatment, economics, patient empowerment, and the interface issues of general hospitals, outpatient commitment, and psychosocial rehabilitation. The author notes that some concepts, such as outpatient commitment and patient empowerment, emerged earlier than now assumed, and that others, like psychosocial rehabilitation, recurred in slightly different forms over time. He concludes that even after 50 years of moving patients out of state hospitals and putting them somewhere else, mental health policymakers and practitioners remain too myopically focused on the locus of care and treatment instead of on the humaneness, effectiveness, and quality of care.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Deinstitutionalization
  • History, 20th Century
  • Hospitalization
  • Hospitals, Psychiatric
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Mental Health Services / history*
  • Periodicals as Topic / history*
  • Publishing / history
  • United States