For over 85 years we've provided the highest quality care to adults, children and adolescents. We also conduct pioneering research, educate professionals in the field and serve our community.

Our Story

The story of the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry is the story of the best of modern psychiatry. The department, founded in 1934 with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, was one of only three general hospital psychiatry services in the country.

The department's first chair, Stanley Cobb, MD, was a professor of neuropathology with a vision was to create a psychiatry service in the hospital so medical and surgical inpatients could readily receive psychiatric care. The integration of care for the body and mind provided an alternative to the traditional segregation of psychiatric patients in special facilities.

Today, the department is fully integrated into the mainstream of medicine at the hospital. One out of every eight inpatients on a medical or surgical unit receives care from the psychiatric team, four times the national hospital average.

The department includes more than 60 specialty clinical and research programs that address virtually every aspect of psychiatric disorders - the brain diseases also known as mental illness - including depression, schizophrenia, and a host of other disorders such as anxiety, panic, attention deficit, bipolar, obsessive compulsive and post-traumatic stress. All are complex, painful, often debilitating conditions that alter the perceptions, feelings and behaviors of those who suffer from them.

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A Four-Part Mission

The Department of Psychiatry serves patients, families and the community by vigorously pursuing a four-part mission.

Caring for Patients

Felicia Smith, MD, speaks with a patient in the hospital.
Felicia Smith, MD, speaks with a patient in the hospital.

The Department of Psychiatry offers an exceptional depth and breadth of patient services including: emergency and urgent care, general and specialty outpatient care for adults, children and adolescents, a 24-bed inpatient unit, psychological and educational assessment services, dedicated psychiatry services for both medical and surgical inpatients and outpatients, an addictions program, a neurotherapeutics service, and forensic psychiatry services. 

The department’s more than 600 affiliated psychiatrists and psychologists are uniquely trained as clinicians, researchers and teachers, and include some of the field’s most accomplished and recognized specialists, particularly in psychopharmacology, cognitive-behavioral therapy and behavioral medicine. They are able to achieve extraordinary treatment results because of the research that underlies their expert care, and the patient concerns that drive the research questions they study. Due to its exceptional results in patient care, the Mass General Department of Psychiatry has consistently earned top rankings in psychiatry in the annual “America’s Best Hospitals” survey by U.S. News & World Report

Conducting Pioneering Research

Jordan Smoller, MD, ScD, conducts research that seeks to identify genetic determinants of psychiatric disorders.
Jordan Smoller, MD, ScD, conducts research that seeks to identify genetic determinants of psychiatric disorders.

The integration of patient care and clinical research has been a hallmark of the Department of Psychiatry for more than 30 years. The department’s clinical research programs began with small scale studies by psychiatrists and psychologists seeking to provide new treatment options for their patients.

Today, the department has the largest clinical research program in the hospital, with studies at the forefront of neuroscience, molecular biology, and genetics. Thanks to tools such as neuroimaging, genetics and genomics, Department of Psychiatry researchers are beginning to map the pathways through which brain biology interacts with life circumstances and events to produce psychiatric illnesses. This research is making it possible to pinpoint affected areas of the brain, understand inherited risk factors and the role of environmental stress, develop more effective psychotherapies, medications, and neurotherapeutic treatments, and ultimately to prevent these illnesses from occurring by intervening early.

Educating Professionals

Olivia Okereke, MD, speaks with a psychiatry resident..
Olivia Okereke, MD, speaks with a psychiatry resident.

To address the serious shortage and availability of expert psychiatric care, each year the Department of Psychiatry trains 100 adult and child psychiatry residents, psychology interns, and clinical fellows to become leaders in their areas of specialty. Another 40,000 psychiatrists, non-psychiatric physicians and other health professionals are reached through the Mass General Psychiatry Academy, a comprehensive program of web-based seminars, satellite symposia, teleconferences and live symposia.

In addition, the department educates professionals in education, law, the military and the clergy who carry their enhanced understanding of the discipline of psychiatry out into their work with affected individuals and their families.

Serving the Community

Community psychiatry was born at Mass General when Eric Lindemann, MD, the Department of Psychiatry’s second chief, launched historic studies of survivors of a fire in the trendy Coconut Grove night club in Boston’s Back Bay in 1942 to understand the role of trauma in psychosomatic illness. This early groundwork has reverberated through the department’s history, helping veterans returning from World War II and Korea, and connects today to our work understanding post-traumatic stress disorder and programs for returning warriors. The Red Sox Foundation/Mass General Home Base Program serves veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan who live with deployment- or combat-related stress and/or traumatic brain injury, as well as serving their families.

To address the mental health needs of people in Mass General’s neighborhoods who suffer from severe and persistent mental illness, substance use disorders, poverty, immigration challenges, homelessness and multiple traumas, the Department of Psychiatry partners with local organizations through its Division of Public and Community Psychiatry. The department has also been a strong member in the hospital-wide Program in Substance Use & Addiction Services (PSAS). The department also offers free patient and family education programs in Boston through its Psychiatry Academy. To serve the hospital’s global neighbors, the department was the first hospital department in the United States to establish a division of global psychiatry. The Chester M. Pierce Global Psychiatry Division addresses the acute shortage of mental health professionals in developing countries through training and service opportunities.