An extremely important conference on ‘Phenomenology in Psychiatry for the 21st Century’ at the Institute of Psychiatry in London in September 2005 symbolised a renewed vitality and openness to the experiences of sufferers of serious mental health problems and paved the way for a rapprochement between psychology, psychiatry, psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, a possibility which I felt should be grasped with enthusiasm. At the conference Nancy Andreasen suggested that a ‘reverse Marshall Plan’ was now needed and possible where the United States could benefit from the more qualitative approaches to understanding that have long flourished in Europe (e.g. Jaspers, 1963). Many contributions at the conference made reference to the works and ideas of artists, philosophers and spiritual questers (see Schizophrenia Bulletin, 2007, volume 33, number 1 for several of the papers presented) and it was clear that semantic understanding was at last being respected as opposed merely to mechanistic reductionism, categorisation and prescription.