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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: William F. Gabrielli, Jr., MD, PhD (University of Kansas Medical Center)
Description: This book reviews psychiatry's evolution from its beginning as a medical specialty with therapeutic asylums, through the early biological era, the descriptive period, the psychoanalytic era, and finally the medical era.
Purpose: With the previous major chronicles of psychiatry more than 30 years old, the author sought to update the historical perspective. Despite contrary popular media references, the psychoanalytic era — championed for years by the psychoanalytic societies and institutions — is ended. Beginning in the 1950s, medical advances, improved diagnosis, and later, managed care sealed the transition. The author captures the changing discipline's character, presenting his perspective with eloquence, style, and riveting novel-like quality.
Audience: This book chronicles psychiatry for the student and updates professionals and others who may incompletely appreciate the field's paradigmatic shifts. Neither a psychiatrist nor a clinical psychiatry expert, the historian author objectively and credibly develops the story.
Features: Photographs of some historical characters are included, but some expected images are absent. Although the book describes a timeline, no figures, tables, or other graphs depict the paradigmatic shifts. Adequate references add to the excellent appearance, feel, and prose.
Assessment: Previously, no single source clearly and concisely captured psychiatry's evolutionary essence. The book identifies the asylum physicians' efforts to develop therapeutic interventions. It chronicles the ambitious hopes of those who sought to explain psychiatric illness with anatomy, pathology, and genetics. Documented is the descriptive era with development of a psychiatric illness nosology. The book fairly describes the psychoanalytic era and the analysts' motivations and contributions. According to the author, this period was a hiatus for the understanding and treatment of true psychiatric illness. The modern era, built upon the descriptive one, utilizes empirically sound pharmacologic and other therapies. If the book has weaknesses, they are partial appreciation for community psychiatry, incomplete acknowledgment of the impact of the rapidly evolving psychopharmacology, and minimal conjecture about the next era. Overall, this excellent book is for anyone seeking insight into modern psychiatry.