An evaluation is currently underway concerning the changes which have taken place in Italy in the twenty years following the reform law. The qualitative and quantitative changes are being analyzed based on a possible shared definition of the processes of deinstitutionalization. This theme is generally the object of misundestandings and cliches. The need for change in clinical and istitutional psychiatry is the indispensable premise for the development of community psychiatry and the growth of a culture of public psychiatry in general. In this framework, an attempt is being made to define the meaning of change through the growth of the active participation of persona affected with mental disorders and their families in treatment, the participation of ordinary citizens, the spread of services in the community and the quantitative increase of the number of personnel involved in public community services. Emblematic of this change is the increase in the number of psychiatrists working in the public sector, from 700 to 7,000, over this twenty year period. The changes which must take place in psychiatric practice must also be emphasized: the heirarchies, the relationships, the search for non-health resources and enhancing the value of operators as subjects outside of their institutional role. The various forms of resistence which have retarded, and continue to retard, the process of change are also considered: the persistence of clinical cultural models, administrative inertia, the defense of acquired privileges by medical and nursing lobbies, the interests of the private, commercial and religious sectors and political manipulation. In any case, the beginning of a process of change which contains all the potential of a real project for prevention is judged positively.