The Couch, the Clinic, and the Scanner:

Stories from Three Revolutionary Eras of the Mind

Courtesy of HBR

David Hellerstein

Professor of Clinical Psychiatry
Director of the Depression Evaluation Service
Columbia University Irving Medical Center

In conversation with:

Dr. Frances Onyimba, PS'12

Over the past several decades, psychiatry has undergone radical changes. After its midcentury heyday, psychoanalysis gave way to a worldview guided by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which precisely defined mental disorders and their treatments; more recently, this too has been displaced by a model inspired by neuroscience. Each of these three dominant models overturned the previous era’s assumptions, methods, treatment options, and goals. Each has its own definitions of health and disease, its own concepts of the mind. And each has offered clinicians and patients new possibilities as well as pitfalls.

In this conversation, Prof. David Hellerstein—a psychiatrist who has practiced in New York City since the early 1980s, working with patients, doing research, and helping run clinics and hospitals—provides a window into how the profession has transformed. He explores the lived experience of psychiatric work and the daunting challenges of healing the mind amid ever-changing theoretical models. Recounting his intellectual, clinical, and personal adventures, Hellerstein finds unexpected poetry in hallways and waiting rooms; encounters with patients who are by turns baffling, frustrating, and inspiring; and the advances of science.

Time will be allocated for Q&A.

This program is part of the ColumbiaDC CUP series.


"What is the self to itself? In this wise and beautifully written book, psychiatrist David Hellerstein suggests that we are the tools we use to measure and medicate ourselves. Over a few decades, the same anxious patient has been interpreted as having father issues, a chemical imbalance, and troubles embodied in a brain scan. All may be true and useful. All may deceive and keep patients from getting help. Must we see some views of self as showing progress over others? Hellerstein‘s personal and provocative narrative will spark necessary conversations." Sherry Turkle, Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology, MIT, and New York Times best-selling author of Alone Together, Reclaiming Conversation, and The Empathy Diaries


fa1e7750-e1f1-11ea-9bec-bb4017b1f11a_1_.jpgDavid Hellerstein is professor of clinical psychiatry at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and director of the Depression Evaluation Service at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. His previous books include Heal Your Brain: How the New Neuropsychiatry Can Help You Go from Better to Well (2011); the memoir A Family of Doctors (1994); and two novels. Hellerstein is currently researching psychedelic treatments of depression and other disorders.


Frances Onyimba MD is a gastroenterologist and ColumbiaDC board member. She completed medical school at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons prior to completing her internal medicine residency and a fellowship in GI motility and Neurogastroenterology at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. She subsequently completed her general GI fellowship at University of California San Diego, where she served as a chief fellow. In 2019, she was selected into the Young Physician Leadership Scholars Program by the American College of Gastroenterology for leadership development and physician advocacy. Her interests include health communications and innovative programs and practices within healthcare.

CUP Series: This is a new initiative between ColumbiaDC and Columbia University Press to showcase acclaimed and pioneering work by renowned academics, scholars, and researchers published by the Columbia University Press.

May 17, 2023 at 6:30pm - 8pm


Washington, DC
United States

Miyako Yerick


Will you come?