Michael J Bennett asks a provocative question in the title of
his book, then spends the remainder of the volume offering an important
positive and concerned answer to that question. The books
ending summarizes the answer by stating,
The purpose of the clinician, in partnership with the patient
and those others in the patients environment who will accompany
him or her on the journey from illness to health, is to treat:
to mitigate the barriers to healing and open the pathway to healing.
To do so successfully is the reward of the practitioner and the
fulfillment of the professional role. This was true in antiquity,
and is no less the case today.
Next, what does the author say in the 10 chapters that are between
these 2 quotations? In the preface, he regrets his 30-year
romance with managed behavioural health care. This deeply
disturbed his deep and enduring commitment to dynamic psychotherapy
as a basic tool of mental health intervention.
The following list of chapter titles describes the content of the
Chapter 1: The Health Care System Has Lost its Heart. The
author provides a working definition of clinical empathy.
Chapter 2: The History of Empathy in Mental Health Care.
Chapter 3: Empathy and the Listening Healer.
Chapter 4: Empathy: Facilitators and Barriers.
Chapter 5: Empathy and Ideology.
Chapter 6: Empathy and the Brain.
Chapter 7: Treaters and Healers.
Chapter 8: Empathy and the Focus of Psychotherapy.
Chapter 9: Focal Psychotherapy: The Process of Assessment;
Why Now? What Now?
Chapter 10: Empathy Redux: The Interpersonal Environment
and the Immune System; Virtual Empathy; Preserving an Endangered
This book shows clearly the great changes that psychiatry has made
in the past few decades. Scientific evidence is expected, even required
for academic and clinical assertions. Great confidence exists in
the potency of pharmacological substances, too often to the neglect
of psychotherapeutic modalities that are proven in both clinical
work and clinical studies. This situation, with all the good that
has resulted from the shift, has produced students, residents, and
practitioners who have little or no experience with working over
the long run, using chemicals when indicated. Learning how to employ
psychotherapy in empathetic, respectful, supportive, and patient
ways requires teaching and supervision during psychiatric residency
training. This allows the trainee to vastly increase the sucsess
that can be achieved through chemical means alone.
The author states
In this book, I have tried to present a way of thinking about
empathy that bridges the biopsychosocial gap created by dualistic
thinking, replacing dualism with du. Our nature is, in fact, dual.
We are biological creatures who are, at the same time, spiritual.
As Buber has taught us, the highest form of communication is the
interhuman. Empathy is the heart of such communication.
He also states
Empathy, then, is the indispensable bridge that links the subjective
world of the patient with the objective parameters by which we
identify the presence of a disorder of the brain. Only such a
balance of subjective and objective data can lead us to think
holistically about the work that we do.
I recommend this scholarly work to those who would gain greater
knowledge about that essential factor that we call empathy. This
book expands the element that most practitioners and many academics
accept as the singular importance in the their work.