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Carina Hakansson on the Extended Therapy Room Foundation

On the future of mental health

Eric Maisel
Source: Eric Maisel

The following interview is part of a “future of mental health” interview series that will be running for 100+ days. This series presents different points of view about what helps a person in distress. I’ve aimed to be ecumenical and included many points of view different from my own. I hope you enjoy it. As with every service and resource in the mental health field, please do your due diligence. If you’d like to learn more about these philosophies, services, and organizations mentioned, follow the links provided.


Interview with Carina Hakansson

EM: Can you tell us a little bit about the Family Care Foundation?

CH: It is a long story, but very briefly it started as a reaction towards a system which far too often seemed to have forgotten important principles about human beings and life conditions, I was angry, but also very determined to try together with others to create a place which should be good to stay at- not just for those called clients, but also for the professional “helpers” and the family homes involved, and of course for the people around the one called client; family, friends and others.

We had an idea to try to combine essential knowledge from ordinary life with important knowledge from the professional field, mainly within therapy and social work. The organization has grown over the years, and has become part of a worldwide network, so much so that a new foundation started last autumn with the aim to extend our experience into a wider context, by research, training and of course therapeutic practice, which is still the most essential. Practice comes first is a statement we hold very high and something we try to hold on to, also regarding research and education. The name of the new organization is The Extended Therapy Room Foundation

EM: You’ve written a book called Ordinary Life Therapy: Experiences from a Systematic Collaborative Practice. Can you share with us some of its headlines and main points?

CH: The book is about practice and theoretical ideas at Family Care Foundation, it describes the collaborative work involving those called clients, their families, family homes, and staff at the office, mainly therapists. It is written in a personal way and includes my own reactions, thoughts, feelings and visions. There are narratives from different perspectives, interviews with some family homes and clients, some stories from my own life and history, some poems, some philosophical ideas and wonderings …

EM: What do you see as some potential or prospective international efforts in mental health care and reform?

CH: We need to find ways to let people know other narratives, found by research and practice about diagnosis and pharmaceuticals since it is a huge problem, not just for individuals but also for the society as a whole, and the idea about human beings. So the effort is to create a worldwide proud and skilled network including researchers, practitioners, people with lived experience not just in the field of psychotherapy and psychiatry but far beyond that. Artists, farmers, economists, students, statistics, carpenters, dancers … you name it, people of all kind, since this is an issue which has to do with each and every one.

EM: What are your thoughts on the current, dominant paradigm of “diagnosing and treating mental disorders” and the use of so-called “psychiatric medication” to “treat mental disorders” in children, teens and adults?

CH: As you can see from the answers above I am very worried about the current situation, and I have never understood the idea with psychiatric diagnosis since it most often is a complex and contextual issue. I am sad and upset the way children and young people are defined and “treated” by pharmaceuticals, and again, this is a problem for the society as a whole.

EM: If you had a loved one in emotional or mental distress, what would you suggest that he or she do or try?

CH: Not to go to psychiatry. To scream and cry and shout if necessary, but not on the street and not in a psychiatric ward. I would hope we were enough, many people to stay around him or her during the most critical moment, and to not let the fear overwhelm, either the person whom it concerns or those of us who are nearby.

I would also tell about the people I have met in my life who have been defined as “chronic patients” and who now live a life like most of us do. I would try to “be there.” If possible try to find a nice house where she or he can find some comfort for a little while, and to take hour by hour until the works fear and pain is gone.

EM: Can you tell us a little more about The Extended Therapy Room Foundation?

CH: It is an alternative to the psychiatric system, and we use no psychiatric diagnosis either when we talk with those called clients or when talking about them. We have many years experienced there is possibilities to reduce or withdraw psychiatric drugs if something else is “offered,” as for example a context where people are trying to make sense of what is happening/has happened in life.

Sometimes it is necessary also with a physical safe space, so we work close together with some family homes that are a kind of foster home, where the one called client may stay for a shorter or a longer period of time. Those of us working as therapists are involved and support both the family home and the client.

An essential part of our work is to let people know there are alternatives to the biological model, and so we try to inform about research and practice, and above all about all the people we know in our big network who have withdrawn their drugs, We are blessed to be part of a great global network and it is inspiring and enriching in so many ways.


Carina Hakansson, PhD, is a social worker, psychotherapist, founder of the Family Care Foundation and The Extended Therapy Room, and the mother of two lovely sons.

The Extended Therapy Room


Eric Maisel, Ph.D., is the author of 40+ books, among them The Future of Mental Health, Rethinking Depression, Mastering Creative Anxiety, Life Purpose Boot Camp and The Van Gogh Blues. Write Dr. Maisel at, visit him at, and learn more about the future of mental health movement at

To learn more about and/or to purchase The Future of Mental Health visit here

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