Psychiatry today is torn by opposing sensibilities. Is it
primarily a science of brain functioning or primarily an art of
understanding the human mind in its social and cultural context?
Competing conceptions of mental illness as amenable to scientific
explanation or as deeply complex and beyond the reach of empirical
study have left the field conceptually divided between science and
humanism. In Healing Psychiatry David Brendel takes a novel
approach to this stubborn problem. Drawing on the classical
American pragmatism of Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and
John Dewey, as well as contemporary work of pragmatic bioethicists,
Brendel proposes a "clinical pragmatism" that synthesizes
scientific and humanistic approaches to mental health care.
Psychiatry, he argues, must integrate scientific and humanistic
models by emphasizing the practical, pluralistic, participatory,
and provisional aspects of clinical diagnosis and treatment.
Psychiatrists need to have the skill and flexibility to use
scientific and humanistic approaches in a collaborative, open-ended
clinical process; they must recognize the complexity of human
suffering even as they strive for scientific rigor. This is the
only way, he writes, that psychiatry can heal its conceptual rift
and the emotional wounds of its patients.Healing Psychiatry
explores these issues from both clinical and theoretical
standpoints and uses case histories to support its basic argument.
Brendel calls for an open-minded and flexible yet scientifically
informed approach to understanding, diagnosing, and treating mental
disorders. And he considers the future of psychiatry, applying the
principles of clinical pragmatism to a broad range of ethical
concerns in psychiatric training and research.
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