HARRY STACK SULLIVAN: The Man and His Work by

HARRY STACK SULLIVAN: The Man and His Work

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Billed misleadingly as ""the first complete study of the life and work of. . . the most important figure in psychiatry in the last 100 years,"" this is not a study in depth; it has no pretensions to being anything other than a lucid introductory volume, and as such it serves its purpose well. It is written to acquaint the intelligent layman with a man whose influence on the theory and practice of modern psychiatry is pervasive but who is not widely known outside professional circles. Eccentric and humane, Harry Stack Sullivan was the originator of the ""interpersonal theory of psychiatry,"" which differed sharply from Freudian, Jungian, and other schools: Sullivan believed personality problems were disturbances in a person's observable patterns of relating to other people, were caused by disturbed relationships early in life, and could be treated by a special kind of supportive and challenging relationship--with an active, involved therapist. Chapman first briefly and candidly examines Sullivan's own early life and emotional and career problems--a lonely rural childhood, a homosexual friendship, failure in college--as sources of both his shortcomings as a thinker and his great innovative and empathic strengths (Sullivan escaped the prejudices as well as the benefits of formal education and learned psychiatry from the patients). Chapman then explains Sullivan's ideas on the development of personality, its susceptibility to social environment, and its treatment, with such clarity that the reader may better understand his or her own life, as well as admire a system of thought which blends brilliant simplicity with commonsense compassion.

Pub Date: May 13th, 1976
Publisher: Putnam