Sally Satel &
Christina Hoff Sommers

One Nation Under Therapy:
How the Helping Culture is
Eroding Self-Reliance.
St. Martin's Press, 320 pages, $23.95

A few days ago I attended a talk by a leading member of the British psychiatric bureaucracy. It was his proud boast that he and his colleagues had persuaded the government that hospitals and health authorities should have to explain why they refused psychiatric assistance to anyone who had asked for it. The idea that some people might actually be harmed by the desired but nevertheless ineffective and unnecessary psychiatric assistance was completely beyond his comprehension. He evidently believed in a neo-Cartesian dictum: I want, therefore I need.

It is not difficult to work out that such an attitude would serve the financial interests and appetite for power of the so-called caring professionals. The psychiatric bureaucrat also...