A HISTORY OF PSYCHIATRY: From the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Prozac

Editorial Review - Kirkus - Jane Doe

An opinionated, anecdote-rich history of a branch of medicine strongly shaped by culture. Canadian physician and medical historian Shorter (Univ. of Toronto) begins his lively account by describing the horrific treatment of the mentally ill before the advent of the custodial asylum. It was, he says, the discovery that asylums could have a therapeutic role that led to the birth of psychiatry at the ... Read full review

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I found this book to be very insightful and it built my foundation on the history of psychiatry. Needless to say it fills in some gaping holes left by introductory and intermediate psychology textbooks.
I noticed another reviewer refer to this work as Pop history, but I would defend Shorter (Professor at University of Toronto) as an academic in this case. His notations are meticulous and this is an example of scholarship; not pop lit.
That being said, there are certainly instances in this text where Shorter's interpretations and opinions concerning the philosophy of psychiatry shine through (I particularly liked his treatment of the Quaker 'Moral Treatment' and his criticisms of the medical model of psychiatry) but he's not exactly plotting with Tom Cruise and Scientologists.
Do you care about psychiatry? Are you considering a career in public health, mental health, medicine, or psychology? If so, reading this book is critical to building an understanding of mankind's struggle and ultimate inability to cure mental illness in the last 250 years. If you come into reading this book thinking that the solution to mental illness is simple and comes in pill form, you're in for a rude awakening. Even if you already know better than that, there is much to be gained by looking at the seemingly random history of psychiatry and the competing goals of curing vs. treating mental illness.

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