From Yale Psychiatrist (and author of Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Is Medicating a Nation) Charles Barber on the above topic in The Wilson Quarterly, a quote:
The new neuroscience has emerged from the last two decades of formidable progress in brain science, psychopharmacology, and brain imaging, bringing together research related to the human nervous system in fields as diverse as genetics and computer science. It has flowered into one of the hottest fields in academia, where almost anything "neuro" now generates excitement, along with neologisms, neuroeconomics, neurophilosophy, neuromarketing. The torrent of money flowing into the field can only be described in superlatives - hundreds of millions of dollars for efforts such as Princeton's Center for the Study of Brain, Mind, and Behavior and MIT's McGovern Institute for Brain Research.
Psychiatrists have been in the forefront of the transformation, eagerly shrugging off the vestiges of "talk therapy" for the bold new paradigms of neuroscience. By the late 1980s, academic psychiatrists were beginning literally to reinvent parts of the discipline, hanging out new signs saying Department of Neuropsychiatry in some medical schools. A similar transformation has occurred in academic psychology.
A layperson leafing through a mainstream psychiatric journal today might easily conclude that biologists had taken over the profession. "Acute Stress and Nicotine Cues Interact to Unveil Locomotor Arousal" and "Activity-Dependent Gene Expression in the Prefrontal Cortex" are titles of typical offerings. The field has so thoroughly cast its lot with biology, and with the biology induced by psychoactive drugs, that psychiatrists can hardly hope to publish in one of the mainstream journals if their article tells the story of an individual patient, or includes any personal thoughts or feelings about the people or the work that patient was engaged with, or fails to include a large dose of statistical data. Psychiatry used to be all theories, urges, and ids. Now it's all a search for genes, receptors, and neurotransmitters.
Read Barber's whole essay here.
A few comments: He correctly describes the currents in Psychiatry today - the emphasis on the mechanistic view. Of course, this is just one view of the elephant, and you cannot eliminate the words "mind" or "soul." After all, the main role of current neuroscience is to understand "the mind." I try to take a balanced view. I am fascinated by the neurosciences, and I think our psychiatric medicines are Godsends for many. But, for many problems - let's use addictions as an easy example - I believe that a soul-change is needed, and is possible. I think it's best if we shrinks remain modest about our knowledge and our powers.
Another quote from Barber:
If there's any lesson to be gleaned from the recent history of psychiatry, it is, in the anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann's words, "how complex mental illness is, how difficult to treat, and how, in the face of this complexity, people cling to coherent explanations like poor swimmers to a raft."
We don't know much, but we should know just enough to recognize how primitive and crude our understanding of psychiatric drugs is, and how limited our understanding of the biology of mental disorder. The unfortunate fact remains that the ills of this world have a tantalizing way of eluding simple explanation. Our only hope is to be resolute and careful, not faddish, in assessing new developments as they arise, and to adopt them judiciously within a tradition of a gradually but steadily growing arsenal in the fight against genuine human suffering.