Laing was born into a working-class family and grew up in Glasgow.
He studied and earned a doctoral degree in medicine at the University Of Glasgow in 1951.
After serving as a conscript psychiatrist in the British Army (1951–52) and teaching at the University of Glasgow (1953–56), he conducted research at the Tavistock Clinic (1956–60) and at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations (1960–89). He had a private practice in London.

R.D Laings work on Schizophrenia (The Divided Self 1962) for example, offers a model in which the patient's relationship with the world and the self has broken down. Here the patients communication remains intelligible but only in terms of theirs own 'divided self' and its relationship with the world.
Laings work was an assault on the treatment of Schizophrenia as a disease, he came to feel that the way it was being treated made the condition worse, that Schizophrenia was something the medical profession did to patients.

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