A psychiatrist presents 10 case studies from his 20 years in private practice.
Suffused with religious overtones, Briddell’s stories of his patients and their treatments all follow a neat, well-organized path from illness to recovery (or redemption). An elderly compulsive hand-washer learns to deal with dirt and finds love at 82; a businessman suffering from uncontrolled vomiting obtains a job better suited to his personality; a woman dying of cancer, whose family becomes unglued, faces her childhood problems and her cancer goes into remission; a victim of a serious head-injury, suffering from memory loss and anxiety, learns to enjoy his forced retirement; and an unkempt teenager aroused by women’s bowel movements is cured of his predilections and learns to get along with his family. Briddell explains that he did not always have this level of success. Early in his career he discovered to his surprise that patients did not always respond to scientifically validated treatments, as they were often too emotionally damaged to make the necessary changes. What they needed, he decided, was nurturing and human kindness, and he revised his own methods accordingly. Readers looking for inspiration in neatly packaged stories might enjoy these accounts, but they hardly provide a realistic picture of the work of psychotherapy. Briddell’s patients are remarkably free of ambivalence about their illness and they neither resist his interpretations nor balk at any of his suggested regimens. Furthermore, Briddell’s apparent conversion from “scientist” focused myopically on his patients’ symptoms to a kind of New Age empathizer viewing his patients as “heroes” is somewhat curious, and basically unexplained. A reader might well wonder about the specifics of Briddell’s revised approach, and some of the failures in treatment that led him to reconsider his earlier outlook.
Sincere but unconvincing.