Loren R. Mosher, 70, who died of liver cancer July 10
at a clinic in Berlin, was a contrarian psychiatrist
and schizophrenia expert who was dismissed from the
National Institute of Mental Health for his
controversial theories on treatment.
While chief of NIMH's Center for the Study of
Schizophrenia from 1968 to 1980, Dr. Mosher decried
excess drugging of the mentally ill; large treatment
facilities like St. Elizabeths Hospital that he would
have preferred to raze; and the sway pharmaceutical
companies had over professional groups.
He advocated a largely drug-free treatment regimen
for schizophrenics, which still runs counter to a p
revailing opinion for using antipsychotic drugs for
schizophrenics in the United States.
His position was based on a view that schizophrenics
are tormented souls who needed emotionally nourishing
environments in which to recover. He said drugs were
almost always unnecessary, except in the event of a
violent or suicidal episode.
He eventually established small, drug-free treatment
facilities that were more akin to homes than hospitals.
His young care providers in one center, Soteria House
in San Jose, lived and performed household chores with
the handful of patients.
'The idea was that schizophrenia can often be overcome
with the help of meaningful relationships, rather than
with drugs, and that such treatment would eventually
lead to unquestionably healthier lives,' Dr. Mosher once
As late as 2002, he claimed that 85 percent to 90 percent
of his clients returned to the community without
conventional hospital treatment.
In 1998, Dr. Mosher resigned from the American Psychiatric
Association, which he called a 'drug company patsy.'
'The major reason for this action is my belief that
I am actually resigning from the American
Psychopharmacological Association,' he wrote in his
resignation letter. 'Luckily, the organization's
true identity requires no change in the acronym.
At this point in history, in my view, psychiatry
has been almost completely bought out by the drug companies.'
Loren Richard Mosher was born in Monterey, Calif., and
lived with various relatives after his mother's
death from breast cancer when he was 9. He worked
in oil fields in the American West as a young man
to earn money for medical school, or so he told his
employers. What was then a lie, he said, soon
became truth as his co-workers came to the allegedly
aspiring doctor with complaints about colds and sexual
After graduating from Stanford University and Harvard
University medical school, he arrived at NIMH in 1964.
His early schizophrenia research involved identical
twins, one with schizophrenia and the other without
the psychotic disorder. His research emphasized
the 'psychosocial' factors that he felt led one
toward exhibiting symptoms but left the other one
Creating Soteria House in the early 1970s, he said,
caused lasting trouble with the psychiatric community.
After showing studies of patient recovery that matched
traditional treatment with medication, the project
lost its funding amid a strong peer backlash. So
did a second residential treatment center in San Jose.
'By 1980, I was removed from my [NIMH] post altogether,'
he wrote. 'All of this occurred because of my strong
stand against the overuse of medication and disregard
for drug-free, psychological interventions to treat
He then taught psychiatry at the Uniformed Services
University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda and
became head of the public mental health system in
Montgomery County. He started a crisis house in
Rockville, McAuliffe House, based on Soteria principles.
He was a prolific contributor to scientific journals
and co-wrote several books, including 'Community Mental
Health: A Practical Guide' (1994). During the Ritalin
phenomenon of the 1990s, he was often featured as a
dissenting view in scores of articles. 'If you tell
a lie long enough, it becomes the truth,' he said of
Dr. Mosher moved to San Diego from Washington in 1996.
At his death, he was a clinical professor of psychiatry
at the University of California at San Diego medical
school and was in Berlin for experimental cancer treatment.
His marriage to Irene Carleton Mosher ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife of 16 years, Judy Schreiber
of San Diego; three children from the first marriage,
Hal Mosher of Fairfax, Calif., and Tim Mosher and Heather
'Missy' Galanida, both of Los Angeles; two brothers; and a
L.R. Mosher, Innovator at Mental Health Institute, Dies at 70
July 18, 2004
By ANAHAD O'CONNOR
Dr. Loren R. Mosher, a former National Institute of Mental
Health official who developed a drug-free approach to
treating schizophrenia and argued that psychiatrists should
rely less heavily on antipsychotic medications, died on
July 10 at a clinic in Berlin. He was 70.
The cause was liver disease, his wife, Judith Schreiber,
In the 1960's and 70's, as psychiatrists were beginning to
prescribe powerful new antipsychotic drugs to treat
schizophrenia, Dr. Mosher advocated using little-known
alternative therapies instead. From 1968 to 1980, while
chief of the Center for Studies of Schizophrenia at the
mental health institute, he began a long-term study that
compared drug-free treatments with conventional
Through decades of research, he found that patients who
were randomly assigned to live in a psychotherapeutic,
residential setting with few medications did just as well
as patients given drugs. In some cases, when the person had
never taken any medication, he found the outcome was even
'Loren believed that you couldn't just give drugs to
someone who is in deep distress and ignore them,' said Dr.
David Cohen, a professor of social work at the School of
Social Work at Florida International University and a
former colleague of Dr. Mosher. 'He said that there was
therapeutic value in just being with someone and bearing
the discomfort of it. Just giving the patients drugs would
only distance yourself from them.'
The centerpiece of Dr. Mosher's research project was a
12-room house in San Jose, where one psychiatrist and a
live-in staff cared for a group of about half a dozen young
schizophrenics. The center, called Soteria, or
'deliverance' in Greek, had a no-drugs rule unless patients
became violent or suicidal. Staff members shared cooking
and normal household chores with the patients and were
encouraged to view them as their peers.
The goal, Dr. Mosher later wrote, 'was to provide a simple,
home-like, safe, warm, supportive, unhurried, tolerant and
Dr. Mosher was convinced that supportive, social
relationships could help his patients rebound from
psychosis. He viewed the illness as a coping mechanism, a
response to years of various traumatic events that caused
the person to retreat from reality.
'Basically what they're saying is: 'Hey, folks, I'm out of
here. I'm constructing this world as it pleases me, and I
don't need to pay attention to that world out there. I'm
going to live in this one because that one out there
hurts,' ' he said in a 2003 interview with the San Diego
By 1974, Dr. Mosher had opened a second residential
treatment center in San Jose called Emanon. Both centers
lasted until the early 90's, when financing dried up. But
they inspired more than a dozen similar residential centers
in Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Italy and other parts of
In his later years, Dr. Mosher wrote and spoke widely about
his cynicism toward the pharmaceutical industry's influence
on physicians. He resigned from the American Psychiatric
Association in 1998, citing an 'unholy alliance' between
psychiatrists and drug makers.
Born in 1933 in Monterrey, Calif., Loren Richard Mosher
earned his undergraduate degree from Stanford and his
medical degree from Harvard. In the 1960's, he did early
research at the mental health institute, studying sets of
identical twins in which one had schizophrenia and the
other did not. He focused on their family lives and
upbringing, seeking to identify psychosocial factors that
might have brought on mental illness.
Dr. Mosher was a clinical professor of psychiatry at the
University of California at San Diego medical school.
Throughout his career, he wrote more than 100 scientific
articles and reviews. In 1989, he published a book,
'Community Mental Health: Principles and Practice,' which
has since been translated into five languages.
His first marriage to Irene Mosher, ended in divorce in the
In addition to his wife of 16 years, Judith, who lives in
San Diego, he is survived by two sons, Hal, of Fairfax,
Calif., and Tim, of Los Angeles; a daughter, Missy Galanida
of Los Angeles; two brothers, Roger, of San Francisco, and
Harold, of Casper, Wyo.; and one granddaughter.
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