Chris Salway

About Chris Salway

Chris Salway is a Consultant Psychiatrist and former GP. He has a wealth of experience in a variety of NHS settings, and has recently taken a step back from statutory work to focus on academic research and developing alternatives.

Areas of interest

  • Open Dialogue
  • Psychedelic drugs research combined with therapy
  • Relational Practice
  • Greencare

More Info

Former GP, Chris Salway, became a psychiatrist in 2000, and since then has worked in a range of adult psychiatry settings both in the community and in-patient services. He completed the NHS Peer Open Dialogue training in 2016. He has recently left his NHS psychiatry job, and is currently a principle investigator Exeter University where he is going to be involved with research using psychedelic drugs combined with therapy for the treatment of mental health problems.

Chris says: “The history of psychiatry is one of understanding and treating mental health problems from a perspective exploring social, psychological and biological factors. In recent decades biological psychiatry has come to the dominance.

I had bought in to this biological approach and in my daily psychiatric NHS practice I was becoming cynical and depressed.

Since being exposed to ideas of the Open Dialogue, and more recently the promise of psychedelic research, which in many ways are not new ideas, it has re-awakened my passion for my going in to psychiatry in the first place.

About Open Dialogue

The Open Dialogue approach is both a philosophical/theoretical approach to people experiencing a mental health crisis and their families/networks, and a system of care, developed in Western Lapland in Finland over the last 25-30 years.

In the 1980s psychiatric services in Western Lapland were in a poor state, in fact they had one of the worst incidences of the diagnosis of schizophrenia’ in Europe. Now they have the best documented outcomes in the Western World. For example, around 75% of those experiencing psychosis have returned to work or study within 2 years and only around 20% are still taking antipsychotic medication at 2 year follow-up.

Remarkably, Open Dialogue is not an alternative to standard psychiatric services, it is the psychiatric service in Western Lapland. This has afforded a unique opportunity to develop a comprehensive approach with well-integrated inpatient and outpatient services. Working with families and social networks, as much as possible in their own homes, Open Dialogue teams work to help those involved in a crisis situation to be together and to engage in dialogue.

It has been their experience that if the family/team can bear the extreme emotion in a crisis situation, and tolerate the uncertainty, in time shared meaning usually emerges and healing/recovery is possible. Open Dialogue has drawn on a number of theoretical models, including systemic family therapy, dialogical theory and social constructionism.

The North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NELFT) is leading on a national multi-centre Open Dialogue pilot that seeks to transform the model of health care provided to patients with major mental health problems in the UK.

Chris is a compassionate and relationship centred practitioner. In the words of a former patient:

Always open and honest, gives you time to talk ( no clock watching from this doctor) Always willing to listen and engage, sympathetic and willing to explain what could or could not be going on. He has integrity and an openness not often found in his field. You will not find arrogance or a high and mighty “I know better than you” manner, just a wonderfully supportive doctor. He will admit that he doesn’t always have the answer, but is willing to listen and point you in the right direction. I have been under his care now for over 5 years. I cannot recommend Chris Salway highly enough.

When he is not working you can often Chris dancing in a field at a party or festival somewhere.

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