First name:
Edward M.
20th century
Field of expertise:
Social psychiatry
Place of birth:
* 25.05.1936
† 10.12.2003
Biography print

(aka Lama Mingyur), American psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and founder of the Windhorse project.


Edward M. Podvoll (1936-2003) studied in New York City and then worked as a psychotherapist and psychiatrist at the private psychoanalytic Chestnut Lodge Sanatorium in Rockville, Maryland, together with Frieda Fromm-Reichmann and Harold Searles. When in 1974, Buddhist teacher and Oxford scholar Trungpa Rinpoche founded Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, Podvoll became head of its Department of Contemplative Psychotherapy. Based on his Buddhist convictions, he believed in the curability of all psychotic disorders and saw psychosis as an expression of “spiritual crisis”.


In 1981, he founded the Windhorse project in Boulder, Colorado, where he put his ideas into practice. This therapeutic community is based on the fundamental principle that every human being – irrespective of the severity of their mental disorder – is intrinsically oriented toward mental health and balance (“genuine recovery”). Windhorse clients live in therapeutic households with a housemate who is part of the treatment team. They receive individually tailored therapeutic support in reflecting their situation and possible changes while also engaged in normal everyday activities. This setting represents the core element of the Windhorse approach.


In his main work The Seduction of Madness (1990), Podvoll analyzes several first person accounts of psychotic experiences (e.g., by John Perceval and John Custance) for shared biographical and structural features. According to his theory, even the most disturbed mind shows so-called “islands of clarity” – a model somewhat reminiscent of the pre-psychiatric term “lucida intervalla” for symptom-free episodes. The therapeutic approach developed for the Windhorse community is thus designed to capitalize on these moments.



Podvoll, E. M. (1990): The seduction of madness. Revolutionary insights into the world of psychosis and a compassionate approach to recovery at home. HarperCollins: New York.

Podvoll, E. M. (2002): The history of sanity in contemplative psychotherapy. In: The International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 21, pp. 135-144.

Podvoll, E. M. (2003): Recovering sanity. A compassionate approach to understanding and treating psychosis. Boston: Shambhala. [New edition of The seduction of madness. New York 1990].

Kaufmann, H. (1996): Das „Windhorse-Modell“ der Bewältigung psychotischer Krisen. In: R.  Hutterer-Krisch:Psychotherapiemitpsychotischen Menschen. [2nd revised edition]. Springer: Berlin, New York, pp. 883-843.


Film including interview: Someone beside you (2006). Directed and produced by E. Hagen. DVD (98 mins), Zurich: Maximage Ltd.


Robin Pape

Referencing format
Robin Pape (2015): Podvoll, Edward M..
In: Biographisches Archiv der Psychiatrie.
(retrieved on:16.07.2024)