Chamberlin, Judi
First name:
20th century
21st century
Field of expertise:
Place of birth:
Brooklyn (USA)
* 30.10.1944
† 16.01.2010
Biography print

American critic of psychiatry and international activist in the psychiatric survivors movement.

Judi Chamberlin (née Rosenberg; 1944–2010) was born in 1944 into a Jewish middle-class family in Brooklyn. She attended Midwood High School. At the age of twenty-one, she suffered a miscarriage and became depressive. She was initially treated with psychotropic drugs on an outpatient basis. Between March and October 1966, she was admitted to several psychiatric facilities in New York City, partly voluntarily but partly also against her will. Of all the treatments she underwent during this period, she found only psychotherapy helpful (Tamao 2013). When finally discharged, she became involved in the women’s liberation movement and the psychiatric patients’ rights movement. In August 1971, she joined an independent New York-based patient group, the Mental Patients Liberation Project. Twice divorced, she married Ted Chabasinski, a fellow activist in the psychiatric survivors’ movement. This marriage lasted from 1972 to 1985. Chamberlin settled in Vancouver for one year, then moved to Bellingham, Washington, and finally to Boston, where she became involved in the Mental Patients Liberation Front (MPLF) in 1975.


In 1978, Judi Chamberlin outlined the guiding principles of user-controlled alternatives to clinical psychiatry in her book On Our Own, which became a key text of the psychiatric survivor movement. She turned into an influential international networker, founded the National Association of Mental Patients in 1985, acted as an advisor to health policy bodies (e.g., to the National Council of Disability in 2000), and spoke at numerous conferences. Chamberlin was one of the most important activists of the psychiatric survivor movement in the US. She died from chronic lung disease at her home in Arlington, Massachusetts, in January 2010. The digital archive Judi Chamberlin Papers is maintained by the University of Massachusetts Amherst Special Collections and University Archives.



1992: Distinguished Service Award of the President of the United States.

1992: David J. Vail National Advocacy Award.

1995: N. Neal Pike Prize for Services to People with Disabilities.



Chamberlin, J. (1978): On Our Own. Patient-Controlled Alternatives to the Mental Health System. New York: Haworth.

Chamberlin, J. (1990): The Ex-Patients Movement. Where we’ve been and where we’re going. In: The Journal of Mind and Behaviour 11 (3), pp. 323–336.

Chamberlin, J. (1995): Mental Health. Choice and Dignity. In: The Magazine of the World Health Organization 48 (5), pp. 16–17.

Chamberlin, J., E. S. Rogers, M. L. Ellison (1996): Self-Help Programs. A Description of Their Characteristics and Their Members. In: Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal 19 (3), pp. 33–34.

Chamberlin, J. (1997): A Working Definition of Empowerment. In: Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal 20 (4), pp. 43–46.

Chamberlin, J. (1998): Confessions of a Noncompliant Patient. In: Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services 36 (4), pp. 49–52.

Chamberlin, J. (1998): Citizenship Rights and Psychiatric Disability. In: Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal 21 (4), 405–408.

Chamberlin, J. (2006): Preface. In: P. Lehmann, (ed.): Coming off Psychiatric Drugs. Successful Withdrawal from Neuroleptics, Antidepressants, Lithium, Carbamazepine and Tranquilizers. Peter Lehman Publishing: Berlin, pp. 11–13.

Rogers, E. S., J. Chamberlin, M. L. Ellison, T. Crean (1997): A Consumer-Constructed Scale to Measure Empowerment Among Users of Mental Health Services. In: Psychiatric Services 48 (8), pp. 1042–1047.

National Council of Disability (2000): From Privileges to Rights: People Labeled with Psychiatric Disabilities Speak for Themselves. Washington. URL: [accessed on 12/18/2014].

Tamao, S. (2013): Judi Chamberlin Papers (MS 768). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries. URL: [accessed on 12/18/2014].


Robin Pape


Photo: Tom Olin (MindFreedom International) / Source: Wikimedia / License: CC BY-SA 3.0


Referencing format
Robin Pape (2015): Chamberlin, Judi.
In: Biographisches Archiv der Psychiatrie.
(retrieved on:21.06.2024)