A heated attack on American psychiatry, its ""unscientific"" foundations and unjustified psychoanalytic bent. Once Gross...



A heated attack on American psychiatry, its ""unscientific"" foundations and unjustified psychoanalytic bent. Once Gross sinks his teeth into the flaws of Freudianism, he holds on like a dog with a bone and grinds away relentlessly. Gross has blasted others with equal fervor: The Brain Watchers (1963) castigated psychological testers and The Doctors (1968) upbraided the medical profession. Here he uses the same techniques (statistics, research summaries, quotations from critics within the fold) to build an argument heard before, the view of psychoanalytically dominated psychiatry as a religion with its own suspect superstructure: ""Some psychiatrists say, usually in whispers, that the way of life is maintained by a system of internal indoctrination and external intimidation that rivals that of the strictest church."" His approach is seductive and quite sophisticated but it rests on certain distortions of basic theory. For example, he writes that ""Natural emotions such as outrage, despair, grief, jealousy, suspicion, disappointment, and passing depression are made to appear not only undesirable but abnormal""--a common misconception. Those emotions are considered normal, prevalent, healthy, and problematic only when they continuously interfere with everyday functioning. And, for ""the reader who would read his own dreams or impress his therapist,"" he includes a list of dream symbols and their meanings--another misunderstanding. Dreams depend on individual associations for their interpretation, not on a one-to-one glossary of equivalents, and the idea of using them to impress one's therapist shows an ignorance of the nature of the therapeutic relationship. Most of us acknowledge, not usually in whispers, that psychotherapy has failed many people and failed to deliver what its early advocates promised; and most professionals admit that its misapplications are widespread and regrettable, that the process is costly and inefficient, and that medication has helped many people unresponsive to psychotherapy. Unquestionably, Gross does document errors and excesses in judgment and practice, but his kind of carping critique adds little to overall understanding and further misrepresents what accomplishments psychiatry can claim.

Pub Date: April 21, 1978


Page Count: -

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1978