Saturday, June 28, 2008

Five best: books: the factions & follies of psychiatry

Paul McHugh is a University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University. His book Try to Remember: Psychiatry's Clash Over Meaning, Memory, and Mind will be published in October.

At the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of "books about the factions and follies of psychiatry."

One title from the list:
Remembering Trauma
by Richard J. McNally
Belknap/Harvard, 2003

Psychiatrists who follow Sigmund Freud make up the "psychodynamic faction" of psychiatry, and they explain mental disorders as the result of unconscious conflicts stemming from infantile sexuality. In the 1980s a splinter group within this faction claimed that the conflicts were driven by the actual sexual abuse of the child -- memories of which had been "repressed." These ideas about memory and trauma were mistaken, but they nonetheless spurred a witch hunt, led by psychotherapists, against parents and other guardians of children. In the remarkably dispassionate and thorough "Remembering Trauma," Harvard scientist and clinical psychologist Richard J. McNally looks closely at the issue of traumatic memory -- its history and its application in psychiatric explanations and therapy. The book systematically lays out all the claims about repressed memories and their role in mental disorders. And then McNally just as systematically demolishes every one of the claims. "The notion that the mind protects itself by repressing or dissociating memories of trauma, rendering them inaccessible to awareness," he concludes, "is a piece of psychiatric folklore devoid of convincing empirical support." This book effectively ended a disgraceful therapeutic craze.
Read about all five titles on McHugh's list.

--Marshal Zeringue