Handbook of Culture, Therapy, and Healing

By Uwe P. Gielen; Jefferson M. Fish et al. | Go to book overview

Preface
In recent years, students of psychology, anthropology, psychiatry, sociology, comparative religion, nursing, and other disciplines have converged in recognizing health and disease as the long-term outcomes of a complex process of biopsychosocial interactions. Therapy, healing, and counseling typically take place in a psychosocial field shaped by culturally constituted forces. This volume brings together the work of well- known scholars from psychology, anthropology, psychiatry, and related disciplines. It is partially based on a workshop organized by us under the auspices of the New York Academy of Sciences. The contributors focus on the interaction of cultural, social, psychological, and biological variables as they influence therapy, counseling, and psychological healing. The volume includes broadly conceived theoretical and survey chapters as well as detailed descriptions of specific healing traditions in Asia, the Americas, Africa, and the Arab world. Other chapters focus on multicultural considerations, specific populations such as refugees, and the integration of traditional and modern forms of counseling and healing. Taken together, the chapters provide a broad overview of Western and non-Western healing, psychotherapeutic traditions, and counseling traditions as these span the divide between psychosocial, anthropological, medical, and religious approaches. The emphasis throughout the book is on social interaction between healers, therapists, counselors, and their clients, as well as on the cultural belief systems shaping these interactions.Historically speaking, the world's first healers served simultaneously as religious specialists, healers, diviners, and psychotherapists. In contrast to modern divisions between body, mind, and soul (if any!), they perceived both the patient and themselves as inhabiting a unitary world of visible and invisible forces and beings that could induce health or sickness, growth or fragmentation, good or evil. In the course of history, Western medicine lost sight of this unitary vision. Instead, a secular, mechanistic world view came to dominate the training of allopathic physicians who looked upon the body as complex machinery in need of fixing. Interpersonal and intrapsychic considerations, in turn, were mostly handed over to psychiatrists and psychologists whose position on the medical totem pole was low or precarious. Neither physicians nor psychologists understood how much their conceptions of healing were influenced by cultural belief systems and expectations.In contrast to these earlier, acultural viewpoints, this volume is based on the assumption that culture influences pervasively:
What we experience as distressing, how we label our distress, to what and to whom we attribute the distress, whether or not we believe that invisible beings and forces are part of the origins of the distress and its treatment.

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