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Healing Stories—Narrative in Psychiatry and Psychotherapy.
  1. DUNCAN MCLEAN

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    Healing Stories—Narrative in Psychiatry and Psychotherapy. Edited byglenn roberts and jeremy holmes. (Pp 226, £47.50). Published by Oxford University, Oxford, 1999 ISBN 0-19-262827-5.

    Evolutionary biologists would probably tell us that the enchantment of stories is due to survival having been dependent on the passing of oral culture from one generation to the next. Information put in narrative form not only delights, but is easily recalled. Stories also construct meaning by interweaving observation, inference, motive, and consequence in a fashion that informs future action. Our experience of the world is constructed around such narratives. They define us as individuals, family members, professionals, and cultural groups.

    This book is a series of essays on psychotherapy, psychiatry, and also medicine that sees the awareness and use of narrative in clinical practice as a construct that can both deliver effective care as well as act as a conceptual bridge between the different disciplines. One of the great pleasures of being a doctor has always been listening to patient's stories, but the editors of this book fear that this essential art can be overtaken by dull scientific pragmatism. Roberts, in the most outstanding chapter, writes a lucid and well reasoned account of the need to search for and maintain narrative meaning in treating psychosis. This avoids the dehumanising effect to both patients and professionals of identifying individuals by their illness as in schizophrenics. Every psychiatric library should buy this book for this paper alone, which should be required reading for all psychiatric trainees.

    The rest of this book is of variable quality. There is a rather prosaic essay on gender issues, and there is repetition in various chapters concerning attachment theory, a useful but over worked paradigm. However, there are two very fine accounts of narrative in psychotherapy by James Phillips and Jeremy Holmes.

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