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Mad in America: Rethinking Mental Health

The Mad in America podcast, hosted by James Moore, examines mental health with a critical eye by speaking with psychologists, psychiatrists and people with lived experience.

When you hear such conversations, you realise that much of what is believed to be settled in mental health is actually up for debate. Is mental health a matter of faulty biology or is there more to it? Are the treatments used in psychiatry helpful or harmful in the long term? Are psychiatric diagnoses reliable? With the help of our guests, we examine these questions and so much more. 

This podcast is part of Mad in America’s mission to serve as a catalyst for rethinking psychiatric care and mental health. We believe that the current drug-based paradigm of care has failed our society and that scientific research, as well as the lived experience of those who have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, calls for profound change. 

On the podcast over the coming weeks, we will have interviews with experts and those with lived experience of the psychiatric system. Thank you for joining us as we discuss the many issues around rethinking mental health around the world.

For more information visit


Mar 7, 2020

This week on MIA Radio, we chat with Beatrice Birch who is the initiator of the residential healing community Inner Fire. For over 35 years, Beatrice worked as a Hauschka artistic therapist in integrative clinics and inspiring initiatives in England, Holland and the USA where the whole human being of body, soul and spirit was recognized and appreciated in the healing process. She has lectured and taught as far afield as Taiwan.

Her passionate belief in both the creative spirit within everyone and the importance of choice, along with her love and interest in the human being has taken her also into prisons where she has volunteered for many years offering soul support through Alternatives to Violence work and watercolor painting.

In this interview, we discuss how Inner Fire works to help the people that attend, and how a core principle of their healing work is that ‘human being are creators, not victims’.

We discuss:

Beatrice’s background and experiences as someone providing alternative help and support for mental and emotional challenges, including her time in the UK National Health Service (NHS) utilizing Hauschka artistic therapy and other artistic therapies alongside improving nutrition and connection to new skills.

How she came to be interested in the resilience of the human spirit, wanting to understand why some people cope and others do not.

That Beatrice worked for many years in prison settings, working with Alternatives to Violence (AVP) and providing artistic therapies to inmates before founding Inner Fire, based in Vermont.

Inner Fire is a proactive healing community officially recognised by the state of Vermont as a Therapeutic Community Residence (TCR) that has been operating as a 501(c)(3) non-profit for almost 6 years.

How Inner Fire provides a medication-free approach to recovery from debilitating or traumatic life experiences, helping people to reclaim their lives.

That Beatrice believes in the importance of allowing people to connect with their divine, creative selves and this leads to a core principle of Inner Fire which is that ‘human being are creators, not victims’.

Inner Fire doesn’t influence a person’s choice to stay on or come off psychotropic drugs, but they will work with people who want to gradually taper either to a comfortable level or off completely.

Beatrice presented a paper to ISPS Rotterdam entitled: Suppose ‘Mental Health’ is a Reductionist Term for ‘Soul Health’…

How Beatrice describes those that come for help as ‘seekers’ and those from Inner Fire that support them as ‘guides’.

That the focus of Inner Fire is participation, connection and community achieved by learning new skills in a group environment, getting people out of their heads and into their limbs.

The importance of rhythm when following the Inner Fire programme and how it is key to the healing process.

Inner Fire has a staff psychiatrist who has an appreciation of the spiritual dimensions of our lives, allowing spiritual and biological aspects to coexist.

How Beatrice’s experience is that while medications can be helpful for some for a time, typically one drug will lead to another and then another and ultimately to hospitalisation.

Where tapering is concerned, the seeker and the psychiatrist together decide on the tapering approach but that it is recognised that tapering must be slow and must adapt to the experience of the person trying to reduce.

That Beatrice wants to raise enough money to provide a space where people can freely express the emotion that often arises as they come off their psychotropic drugs.

Inner Fire is currently private pay and that people donating can therefore help seekers who want to attend but don’t have the financial resources.

How Inner Fire is not a profit-motivated enterprise because the focus is on the individual’s healing journey.

Bob Whitaker helped open the east wing of the Inner Fire home.

Love is for the world what the Sun is for outer life
No soul could live if love departed from the world
It is the moral Sun of the world
To spread love over the Earth to the greatest degree possible
To promote love
That alone is wisdom
- Rudolph Steiner, Love and its Mission in the World

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Beatrice on the Peter Breggin Hour podcast