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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 62 (2020) 4, 291 - 297


The underestimated value of science in psychiatry

C.H. Vinkers

background Psychiatry is a special but complicated medical specialty as it focuses on the most elusive of all suffering in medicine: mental suffering.
aim Description of the (desired) role of science in psychiatry.
method Essay based on relevant literature.
results Science constitutes the basis of psychiatry and is essential for daily practice. A methodologically broad view on science can provide new knowledge and better care in psychiatry without falling prey to reductionism. The doubt and nuance inherent in science is also valuable to avoid unnecessary ideological debates in psychiatry and to give room to meaningful discussions. Nevertheless, investments in science within psychiatry are relatively limited, particularly in view of the suffering and costs related to psychiatric disorders.
conclusion Psychiatry has greatly benefited from science. However, science should also lead to modesty and doubt about the current state of knowledge. This paradox should be an incentive to embrace science as the basis of psychiatry while avoiding reductionism. This essay discusses a number of ways how this could be realized.

keywords biopsychosocial model, paradigm, philosophy of science, psychiatry resident