In previous books Bettelheim reported ""the deeds by which the Orthogenic School (his therapeutic community at the...



In previous books Bettelheim reported ""the deeds by which the Orthogenic School (his therapeutic community at the University of Chicago) shall be known""; now he proposes ""to show in greater detail how it is done, so that others can do the same."" The detail is indeed the message of the milieu therapy practiced at the school. In contrast to the majority of psychiatric hospitals where patients spend ""the other 23 hours"" being dehumanized for the convenience of the staff, here the pleasant, open physical setting, the deeply personal and highly integrated routine encounters, and the non-hierarchical staff organization are planned and maintained to further the development of autonomy and self esteem. Here also the symbolic meaning of material things is crucial (one girl was allowed to pull a false fire alarm because she needed to test its pledge of safety and also the school's sincerity in putting objects at her disposal), nothing is insignificant, and Bettelheim devotes almost half the book to such matters as the cost of tableware (""nice china and glassware"" are well worth the price as they bespeak trust and respect), the decor of the previously forbidding stairwell (which should help patients descend safely into their own past and unconscious) and the construction of toilet stall doors (which must be easily removed by staff members when patients take advantage of the only door locks in the building to test whether they will be rescued). None of this would work without the deep inner commitment of the staff, and each member -- down to maids and janitors -- is carefully selected by the staff and patient community and interviewed by the Director. Certainly even among the intelligent, ego-integrated candidates whom Bettelheim invites for a three-day trial there must be few who are willing to make the total commitment the place demands or are able to restructure their own personalities for the patients' sake. The day to day interaction which Bettelheim stresses with his staff is surely more important in the making of a successful therapist than any amount of theory assimilated from books or classes. And though this book will be of less general interest than his closer looks at the patients themselves, the Orthogenic School stands as a compelling model for anyone seriously involved in or contemplating such work or (to a lesser extent) any kind of work with people.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1973


Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1973