Social psychiatry started over a century ago under the auspices of mental and racial hygiene, but after World War II it embraced concepts of community-based care and de-institutionalization. The major psychiatric reforms in the second half of the last century were mainly based on such concepts, including the reforms of Swiss and especially Zurich psychiatry. The present needs for psychiatric care, and the specific political and economic conditions for a continuation along this line are explored and found to be favourable. Also, the profile of future psychiatrists, as formulated by professional associations and expert groups, corresponds to concepts of social psychiatry. The World Health Organization stimulates service improvements in the same direction. The consequences concern the education and training, and the professional role of future psychiatrists. Finally, the future of social psychiatry will be shaped by public expectations and acceptance of community-based services.