Perspective: Upcoming Paradigm Shifts for Psychiatry in Clinical Care, Research, and Education

Rubin, Eugene H. MD, PhD; Zorumski, Charles F. MD

Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3182441697
The Future of Psychiatry

Psychiatry is facing a crisis fueled by a fragmented and inefficient system of care delivery and a disconnection between the state of research and the state of psychiatry education and practice. Many factors contribute to the current state of psychiatric care. Psychiatry is a shortage specialty, and this will become worse in the near future. In addition, financial pressures have led to decreases in psychiatric inpatient and outpatient services and to shorter lengths of hospitalization for even the sickest patients. This has resulted in fragmented care and an overreliance on polypharmacy. To reach the large number of patients needing psychiatric services, health care systems must change and take advantage of collaborative and integrative care models and new technologies. Psychiatrists must learn to partner more effectively with primary care providers to extend their expertise to the greatest number of patients.

Currently, psychiatric diagnosis is based on a criteria-based system that was developed in the 1970s. Advances in systems and molecular neuroscience are beginning to elucidate specific brain systems that are dysfunctional in psychiatric illness. This has the potential to revolutionize psychiatric diagnosis and treatment in the future. However, psychiatry has not yet been successful in incorporating the language of this research into clinically meaningful terminology. If neuroscientific progress is to be translated into clinical advances, this must change. Residency programs must better prepare their graduates to keep up with a psychiatry literature that will increasingly use the language of neural circuits to describe psychiatric symptomatology and treatments.

Author Information

Dr. Rubin is professor and vice chair for education, Department of Psychiatry, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, Saint Louis, Missouri.

Dr. Zorumski is Samuel B. Guze Professor and head, Department of Psychiatry, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, Saint Louis, Missouri.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Rubin, Department of Psychiatry, Campus Box 8134, 660 S. Euclid Ave, Saint Louis, MO 63110-1093; telephone: (314) 362-2467; fax: (314) 747-8559; e-mail:

First published online January 25, 2012

© 2012 Association of American Medical Colleges