THE MIND GAME: Witchdoctors and Psychiatrists by E. Fuller Torrey

THE MIND GAME: Witchdoctors and Psychiatrists

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The Original Sin was probably ethnocentrism"" says Dr. Torrey in this unique and challenging transcultural study of psychotherapy which ought to shrink the overinflated professional ego of Western psychiatry considerably. Administering a healthy dosage of cultural relativism to the scientific pretensions of Western mental health ""experts,"" Torrey pronounces them no better and no worse than that white man's bogy, the tribal witchdoctor. Shaman, medicine man, Japanese miku, Zulu ganga, Latin American curandero, Senegalese baroom xam-xam, or Harvard Ph.D. in psychology at $30 bucks a visit. . . a shrink by any other name. . . . Denouncing the ""psychiatric imperialism"" of the West, Torrey presents around-the-world studies of the role of ""healers"" from Ethiopia, Borneo, Japan, et al., and finds their treatments and cures to be on exactly the same ""scientific"" or ""prescientific"" level: ""all mental illness is culture-bound because the system of classification is culture-bound."" A comparison of the therapist-patient relationship, the selection and training of the doctors, and the techniques of therapy (e.g. confession, ""the naming process,"" suggestion, analysis of dreams, role-playing) shows them to be remarkably similar in all cultures. For good measure Torrey tosses in recent studies which show that untrained nonprofessionals -- housewives, college students, barbers, and bartenders -- are as effective, sometimes more so, in dealing with emotionally disturbed persons as those with eight or ten years of formal instruction at prestigious medical schools. Torrey's salutary shock treatment however is not intended to lower the status of practicing psychiatrists; rather he argues for upgrading the witchdoctors to their rightful role as vital health resources and outlines some possible ways in which, indigenous shamen -- or the naturally empathic housewife -- can be used in community health care programs to reach ethnic minorities -- Indians, Mexican-Americans, Eskimos -- and other nations innocent of Oedipal complexes. With a foreword by Bertram S. Brown, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, this will probably induce anxiety attacks in the inner sanctum of the APA. Potent and liberating.

Pub Date: May 3rd, 1972
Publisher: Emerson Hall--dist. by David White