Gail Hornstein’s PhD studies in Clark University’s innovative psychology department and her Postdoctoral Fellowship in Personality and Social Structure at the University of California, Berkeley shaped the focus of her whole career— understanding how individual psychology shapes and is shaped by the social worlds in which we live.
Her articles, interviews and opinion pieces on a range of topics in personality and social psychology have appeared in many scholarly and popular publications. In recent years, her research has focused on the history and practice of psychology, psychiatry, and psychoanalysis. Hornstein’s biography To Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the World: The Life of Frieda Fromm-Reichmann—called “dazzling and provocative” by Publisher’s Weekly—tells the story of a pioneering psychiatrist who dedicated her life to doing intensive psychotherapy with the most disturbed patients.
“One goal of that book,” Hornstein said, “was to show that despite the spread of medication and electroshock as the primary treatments in American psychiatry, psychotherapy has long had powerful results with even the most seriously distressed people.”
Unlike most scholars who study mental illness, Hornstein has always been as interested in the ideas of those with first-hand experience as in doctors’ theories. Her Bibliography of First-Person Narratives of Madness in English (now in its 5th edition) lists more than 1,000 books by people who have written about madness from their own experience; it is used by researchers, clinicians, educators, and peer groups around the world.
Hornstein’s most recent book, Agnes's Jacket: A Psychologist's Search for the Meanings of Madness, shows how the insights of those diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar illness, personality disorder, and paranoia can help us reconceive fundamental assumptions about madness, treatment, and mental life. From Agnes Richter, who stitched an autobiographical text into every inch of the jacket she created in a 19th-century German asylum, to the hundreds of other patients who have managed to get their stories out, Hornstein shows how first-person accounts can help to bridge the gulf between the way medicine explains psychiatric illness and the experiences of those who suffer.
The book also documents the history, operation, and effectiveness of the Hearing Voices Network (HVN), an international collaboration of professionals, people with lived experience, and their families and friends who have been working to develop an alternative approach to coping with voices, visions, and other extreme states that is empowering and useful and does not start from the assumption that such people have a chronic illness. Hornstein speaks widely about HVN and other innovations in mental health across the United States, United Kingdom, and Europe, and she founded—and for six years co-facilitated—one of the first HVN peer-support groups in the U.S., in Holyoke, Massachusetts. She has also trained dozens of facilitators across the United States in this exciting new approach that is helping thousands of people all over the world.
Hornstein’s research has been supported by grants and fellowships from the National Library of Medicine, the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation, and most recently, by a major grant from the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care.
She has been awarded visiting fellowships at the History of Science Department, Harvard University; the Bunting Institute, Radcliffe College; Clare Hall, Cambridge University; Magdalen College, Oxford University; the School of Advanced Study, University of London; the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities, Cambridge University; the Birkbeck Institute for Social Research, University of London; and the School of Advanced Study, Durham University. In 2011, Hornstein was awarded the Meribeth E. Cameron Faculty Award for Scholarship at Mount Holyoke, and in 2014 she received the Ally Award of the Western Massachusetts Peer Network.
For seven years, Hornstein chaired Mount Holyoke's Women's Studies Program, and was founding director of the Five College Women's Studies Research Center for its first decade of operation. She teaches Theories of Personality; First-Person Narratives of Madness; Research Methods in Psychology; Qualitative Research; and a first-year seminar on Understanding Mental Health.
- "Professor's research gives hope to those who hear voices," Office of Communications and Marketing, March 13, 2015
- "Our Minds and Each Other," Keynote at the Meanings of Madness: Critical and Creative Perspectives Conference, University College, Cork, Ireland, November, 2013
- MHC Faculty Experts: "Mental Illness, Violence Not Linked," February 20, 2013
- "The Case of Norway's Anders Behring Breivik: Where Lies Madness?" The Huffington Post, May 23, 2012
- "Finding Purpose After Living With Delusion," The New York Times, November 25, 2011
- "Hearing Voices May Just Be That," Radio Boston, October 31, 2011
- "Letters to the Editor and Gail Hornstein’s response to The Sun interview," October 2011
- "The Voices Inside their Heads: Gail Hornstein’s Approach to Understanding Madness," The Sun, July 2011
- "Meribeth E. Cameron Faculty Award for Scholarship," Office of Communications, February 22, 2011
- "Hornstein Channels People Who Hear Voices," WAMC The Academic Minute, December 30, 2010
- "Mental Health Activists to Speak November 18 at MHC," Office of Communications, November 16, 2010
- "Gail Hornstein & "Agnes's Jacket: A Psychologist's Search for the Meanings of Madness," KBOO Madness Radio, November 1, 2010
- "MHC's Hornstein Interviews with BBC," BBC Radio, October 10, 2010
- "Best of 2009 and A New Look At Ayn Rand," Writers Voice Radio, January 4, 2010
- "Experts seek to learn from madness," Washington Times, November 11, 2009
- "Learning to write for readers beyond academe," The Chronicle, September 7, 2009
- "MHC's Hornstein on "Heeding Plans of Violence"," Hartford Courant, August 17, 2009
- "Looking beyond medicine to treat mental illness: A conversation with psychology professor Gail A. Hornstein," Office of Communications, May 22, 2009
- "Hornstein’s New Book Attracts Media Attention," Office of Communications, May 22, 2009
- "MHC's Hornstein Discusses New Book on WFCR", WFCR, April 15, 2009
- "Hornstein Publishes New Book on Mental Illness", Office of Communications, March 16, 2009
- "Brainstorms: A Different Way of Thinking," MHC Alumnae Quarterly, Fall 2008
- "MHC's Hornstein on Too Much Happiness," Vancouver Sun and Canada.com, February 14, 2008
- "MHC's Hornstein on Too Much Happiness," Canada.com, February 10, 2008
- "Gail Hornstein on Bipolar Disorder in Children," Office of Communications, September 24, 2007
- "Pardoning WWI's "Shell-shock" Sufferers," Philadelphia Inquirer, November 10, 2006
- "Terror and Cowardice," Newsday, October 22, 2006
- "Hornstein at Broadside Bookshop," Office of Communications, August 10, 2006
- "Film Series Offers New Perspective on Mental Illness," College Street Journal, December 12, 2003
- "Narratives of Madness, as Told from Within," The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 25, 2002
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- "Bibliography of First-Person Narratives of Madness"
- "Hornstein to Read from New Biography November 30," College Street Journal, November 17, 2000
- "Psychologist Hornstein Urges Therapists and Lay People to Listen to the Mentally Ill," College Street Journal, March 7, 1997