What is social psychiatry?

Social psychiatry is an area that focuses on the interactions between mental health problems and society.

Social integration has beneficial effects on mental health, promotes recovery, and reduces the risk of relapse in the case of severe disorders. Conversely, mental disorders have significant social consequences that often go beyond the individual impact of symptoms, such as isolation, marginalisation, loss of employment, and precarious housing situations. In social psychiatry, integration into the natural environment is both the driving force and the result of recovery. For example, in the case individual job support or housing first activities, obtaining and maintaining employment or housing is both the motivation and outcome of recovery. Social psychiatry studies the interactions between social, psychological and biological factors and includes the social environment (family, work, housing, etc.) in its therapeutic approach while seeking to encourage attitudes and living conditions that promote mental health. Social psychiatry promotes the balanced use of biological, psychological and social therapeutic methods, seeking an effective minimum use of drugs while systematically considering the psychological and social aspects of disorders.

Methods of social psychiatric interventions are based on scientific evidence. The most common examples are crisis interventions aimed at preventing social disintegration, working with friends and family, employers, neighbours, managers or the local authorities. The most specialized interventions are psycho-social rehabilitation, family therapy, different forms of socio-therapy, environmental therapy, and group work. Social psychiatry is evolving towards a form of community psychiatry which is based on mobile teams promoting integration into the natural environment using a “place then train” approach, such as IPS employment support or ACT intensive clinical case management.


The culture and tools of recovery are useful to all those affected by mental health problems, whether that be the individuals themselves, their friends and family, or professionals. The ability to recover concerns all mental disorders, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. The recovery model conveys a positive vision of the transformation of the individual through the lived experience of the mental health problem. Tools for recovery include extensive assessment of bio-psycho-social needs, social network assessment, joint crisis planning or early guidance, and recovery and wellness planning.