Psychiatry done well is a rare and precious thing. People come with tangled emotions and tormenting thoughts, and, through dialogue and reflection, make sense of themselves. They do not slip into chaos and crisis; the initial investment of time and insight averts later, far higher expenditure on emergencies, benefits, debts, and drugs.

Psychiatry done badly is all too common and, sadly, often seems necessary. The patient is caught late, when trouble and sadness have developed into personal loss and disorder. Relationships have already been stretched and broken, jobs are under threat or gone, and the torment is too strong to contain within socially normative behaviour. The crisis is treated with drugs; life is never the same again.

I like to think that mediation is like psychiatry done well. A problem is caught early and treated consensually, with sympathetic dialogue and expertise. Maybe adversarial litigation is often like psychiatry done badly. Considerable suffering has already taken place, and nobody comes out unscathed: except, perhaps, for the middleman (the lawyer or drug company).