I believe that physicists can help with the education process of both clinicians and research psychiatrists. However, I can only go on my experience of being treated by psychiatrists and the papers I have read within the psychiatric literature. I have very little knowledge of how psychiatrists are trained or of psychiatric research culture.

This blog post was adapted from notes I sent to one of the editors when constructing my Lancet Psychiatry article in the May 2023 editionLithium Story: Eight Guidelines, Eight Recommendations“.

The blog post discusses how physicists could contribute to the education and practice of both clinicians and research psychiatrists in the field of psychiatry. Alex draws from their own experiences as a patient, as well as their understanding of physics and its approach to learning and problem-solving.

For Clinicians: Alex suggests that physicists could assist clinicians in gaining a deeper understanding of the concepts and guidelines they use in psychiatric practice. He highlights that physicists are skilled at questioning assumptions and embracing unconventional perspectives, as seen in the field of physics where concepts are constantly reevaluated. This approach could help clinicians question their own understanding and challenge existing guidelines, leading to a more profound comprehension of psychiatric practices.

For Researchers: Physics, according to Alex, deals with analyzing simple systems using straightforward mathematical models, while biology, including psychiatry, deals with complex systems and intricate mathematical models. Alex believes that physicists’ education equips them to find simplicity within complexity and identify patterns in data. He notes that physicists are encouraged to embrace their mistakes and revisions, which is vital for progress. Alex highlights his Lancet Psychiatry article that exemplifies a physics-like approach to psychiatric research, emphasizing evidence-based arguments and clear definitions. He argues that psychiatric researchers could benefit from adopting a culture that values clarity, experimentation, and the acceptance of being wrong.


It was clear to me during my lithium treatment that clinicians would be using words to describe certain practices, without understanding the meaning behind those words. For example, using the phrase “morning trough1 level” to apply to a 12-hour level approximately halfway between peak and trough lithium concentrations in my bloodstream. I believe physicists can help clinicians to think about the meaning behind guidelines.

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