Historical Perspectives On Contemporary Issues

Lucas Richert — Break On Through: Radical Psychiatry and the American Counterculture


Closed-captioning available on Youtube.

In this episode of Perspectives, we speak with Lucas Richert, author of Break On Through: Radical Psychiatry and the American Counterculture.

In his book, Lucas Richert discusses the impact of the countercultural movement on the theory and practice of psychiatry in the late 1960s and 1970s. Dr. Richert argues that broader societal developments—e.g., the civil rights movement, second-wave feminism, and the Vietnam War—pushed a large number of psychiatrists and mental health workers to radically reform the discipline. Psychiatrists and psychologists such as R.D. Laing, Claude Steiner, Phyllis Chesler, and Mike Michaelson all labored to improve mental health by identifying and critiquing the power dynamics involved in both the practice of therapy and society at-large. Richert ends with a fascinating and timely discussion of the use of psychedelic drugs in psychiatry in the 1960s and 1970s, and the ways in which mind-altering pharmaceuticals are making their way back into the heart of the field in the 21st century after decades of prohibition. 

To cite this podcast, please use footnote:

Lucas Richert, interview, Perspectives, Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine, September 9, 2021, https://www.chstm.org/video/127. 


Lucas Richert

Lucas Richert is Associate Professor and George Urdang Chair in the History of Pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 



Insights from the Collections

The Consortium's collections provide many opportunities to learn more about psychiatry, psychopharmacology, and health activism. 

Our cross-institutional search tool allows researchers to investigate materials across multiple institutions from a single interface. With more than 4.4 million catalog records of rare books and manuscripts, the Consortium's search hub offers scholars and the public the ability to identify and locate relevant materials. 

Search the Consortium search hub.

Some archival materials related to this topic include:

Walter J. Lear Health Activism Collection, Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Pennsylvania

Stephen Abrams Papers, Wellcome Collection

Typescripts of Unpublished Papers by Speakers at the First International Congress of Social Psychiatry, London, August 1964, Wellcome Collection

Warren S. McCullough Papers, American Philosophical Society 

See also recent work by our fellows:

Matthew Hoffarth, The Californian Personality: Testing and Techno-Utopianism in Silicon Valley, 1949-2019

Howard Chiang, Translators of the Soul: From the First Chinese Psychoanalyst to the Rise of Transcultural Psychiatry 

Marcos Cueto, A History of Global AIDS and Health Activism in Brazil

Wendy Gonaver, The Peculiar Institution and the Making of Modern Psychiatry, 1840-1880

Jeremy Blatter, The Psychotechnics of Everyday Life: Hugo Munsterberg and the Politics of Applied Psychology, 1892-1920