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Alienist is an archaic term for a psychiatrist or psychologist. Despite falling out of favor by the middle of the twentieth century, it received renewed attention when used in the title of the 1994 novel The Alienist by Caleb Carr.

Although currently not often used, the term "alienist" is still used in psychiatric hospitals to describe those mental health professionals who evaluate defendants to determine their competency to stand trial.

  • It is used in Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness to describe the doctor in the Company headquarters in Belgium.
  • It also appears in H.P. Lovecraft's 1927 novella The Case of Charles Dexter Ward to describe the doctors who examine the protagonist during his stay at Dr. Waite's psychiatric hospital, as well as in his story Beyond the Wall of Sleep.
  • It is used by the fictional Dr. Simon Jordan when mentioning fellow psychiatrists in Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace.
  • More recently, see also Sebastian Faulks - Human Traces (2005).
  • When Kris Kringle is put “on trial” in the 1947 film Miracle on 34th street, several newspaper articles call the psychiatrists who examined him "alienists".
  • Newspapers in the 2011 game L.A. Noire use the term to describe psychiatrist Harlan Fontaine.
  • It was used on the season 2 The Originals episode "Red Door", where Mikaelson family patriarch Mikael calls Cami, a therapist, an alienist.
  • Also used on Television program Penny Dreadful: "Possession" Episode, where Vanessa speaking with Dr. Frankenstein, asks during an examination "meaning you will soon bring in an alienist?"
  • New York Times; December 28, 1934, Friday; Two Alienists Report Alleged Budd Slayer Has Some Abnormalities. White Plains, New York; December 27, 1934. Two alienists reported today to Walter A. Ferris, District Attorney elect of Westchester County, that Albert Fish, 64 years old, held in the county jail for the murder of Grace Budd, is legally sane.
  • In Agatha Christie's 1936 novel The A.B.C. Murders, Dr. Thompson, "the famous alienist", is called to Scotland Yard to help Poirot and Inspector Japp find a murderer who mails cryptic letters to Poirot before each murder.[1]
  • The 2014 film Stonehearst Asylum, set in 1899, uses the term "alienist" to refer to doctors who treat asylum patients.[2]


  1. ^ Christie, Agatha (1936). The A.B.C. Murders. Penguin Books. 
  2. ^ Reed, Rex (October 22, 2014). "‘Stonehearst Asylum’ Is the Best Madhouse Movie Since ‘Bedlam’". Observer. Archived from the original on February 17, 2015. Retrieved March 1, 2015.