Handbook of Culture, Therapy, and Healing

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

1

Approaches to Culture, Healing, and Psychotherapy

Juris G. Draguns The Pennsylvania State University

Uwe P. Gielen St. Francis College

Jefferson M. Fish St. John's University


CULTURE, HEALING, AND PSYCHOTHERAPY: THEIR CHARACTERISTICS AND INTERRELATIONSHIPS

The subject of this book concerns the relief of mental suffering and physical distress by means of healing and psychotherapy, and the manner in which these objectives are pursued in a wide array of cultures around the world. To this end, our first task is to introduce, anchor, and pinpoint the three key terms in the title: culture, healing, and psychotherapy.


Culture

Definitions of culture abound. Our preference is to introduce culture, with Melville Herskovits (1949), as the part of the environment that has been generated or created by human beings. Social scientists are in agreement that culture encompasses concrete, visible, and tangible products created by human action, as well as that which Hofstede (1991) has called "software of the mind" (p. 4): the systems of communication and the preserved experience of prior generations, and also the shared values and beliefs that, at the same time, represent templates for future action. Cultures differ then not only in their artifacts, but in their languages, subsistence and production systems, and philosophies of life, both implicit and explicit. Closer to the major objective of this volume, it is reasonable to expect that cultures have shaped the healing and psychotherapeutic practices that have evolved within them.


Healing

Healing is an age-old practice found in virtually all cultures across space and time. No culture stands by idly in the face of human suffering; all human societies have evolved methods aimed at restoring physical health, promoting psychological contentment, and achieving spiritual serenity. Healing as a concept then refers to the

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