THE DILEMMA OF PSYCHOLOGY: A Psychologist Looks at His Troubled Profession by Lawrence LeShan

THE DILEMMA OF PSYCHOLOGY: A Psychologist Looks at His Troubled Profession

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Clinical psychologist LeShan (Cancer as a Turning Point, 1989, etc.), prolific in his writings on the holistic approach to psychotherapy, now takes the broad view of his discipline, historically and philosophically, in order to suggest where psychology may have betrayed its mandate to better understand, and by implication improve, the human condition. In LeShan's view, most of the problems in psychology's development as a profession stem from its dependence on the methodology of the physical sciences, with general disregard for the fact that the human organism is far more than a phenomenon to be studied and explained. Early quantification efforts of Fechner and others, and the impetus to form psychophysical laboratories in emulation of the physicists' experimental bent, LeShan says, led away from a more humanistic, ""ecological"" attitude, by which individuals in their particular sociocultural environments could be examined. Five concepts borrowed from 19th-century physics form the core of the discussion, as LeShan takes each in turn to indicate major shortcomings: the training method, which concentrates on ""pure"" research; the dominance of the laboratory, as an artificial setting, in academic programs; the pursuit of quantification and its corollary, the predictability of events; widespread use of metaphors and modeling, down to current conceptualizations of mind as computer; the notion of God as an engineer. The historical dimension is emphasized, with particular vehemence in castigating behaviorism, and with the author's own philosophical transformation from a believer in the accepted standards to a freethinker with a successful track record among cancer patients offered as proof that all is not lost. Innumerable quotations make the text a patchwork rather than distinctly original, and in fact while the basic argument is lively and accessible in this form, it's also old hat, having been part of the discourse surrounding psychology for decades. A brief, interesting review of familiar problems in the field, but laudable more for its intentions than its accomplishments.

Pub Date: Nov. 27th, 1990
Publisher: Dutton