The audiobook reviewed here is ‘One Nation Under Therapy (Unabridged)’ by Christina Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel and narrated by Dianna Dorman. Dorman narrates clearly and with expression. I found that the narration made the material easy to listen to and helped to keep my attention focused.
As I wasn’t familiar with the authors before listening to this book I performed a quick Google search. Christina Hoff Sommers has been a Professor of Philosophy and has a Wikipedia article (a.k.a internet biography) which covers some of her other works as well as her views on gender and equity feminism. These views have apparently provoked much discussion. Dr Sally Sattell is a psychiatrist who is also widely published and amongst her other works is a look at political correctness in medicine. Sattell also has a Wikipedia article.
I found the content very interesting. Some of the material might be considered controversial but it can be argued that such dialogue is necessary as it facilitates reflection on and appraisal of practice. The authors focus on a number of issues relating to therapeutic intervention. One of the themes they explore is that of vulnerability of children. Thus they argue that children in schools are being increasingly ‘cushioned’, for instance being given less homework or parents responding to PE lessons that are considered too difficult. The authors are referring to the American schooling system in their work although it can be argued that it can be difficult to generalise as there will be heterogeneity not only between schools but also between pupils within the same school.
They also discuss how bereavement theories developed by Colin Murray Parkes, John Bowlby and Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (‘On Death and Dying‘) have been misinterpreted and also refer to Freud’s Mourning and Melancholia. Thus they argue that following bereavement, the bereaved will not necessarily follow a strict phases but that there will be considerable variation between individuals and that abnormal’ bereavement necessitating treatment occurs in a relatively small percentage of the bereaved (see also this review on Art Therapy and Bereavement). They also comment on what they describe as a movement towards providing counselling in those that have been recently bereaved despite the above although again this may be too fluid and heterogenous to characterise.
During the discussion of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder there are many references to British Psychiatry including Professor Simon Wessely and an interesting quote from Aubrey Lewis who noted that the number of new cases of neurosis did not seem to increase during the Blitz in Britain. They consider the origins of PTSD in detail and look at some of the issues in the empirical research. They consider situations in which treatment for traumatic experiences is not warranted.
The term they use through the book is that of therapism, which is a movement they trace to therapists such as Carl Rodgers. They consider historical aspects of the origins of the person-centred movement that filled the gap created by the decline in the popularity of psychoanalytic psychotherapy. They argue that some of the values found within this movement have permeated society through various educational programs and that this perspective can create difficulties in establishing moral responsibility.
The authors raise many issues in an uncompromising and engaging style and this is a work which may continue to provoke much needed discussion.
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