Friday, June 28, 2013

Review: Welcome to My Country

Slater, a therapist who has suffered from mental illness of her own, recounts stories of treating severely mentally ill patients. She tries to show that the severely mentally ill yearn for friendship, love, and companionship just as much as their healthier counterparts do. This hardly sounds groundbreaking, but it does contradict certain psychological treatises-- most notably, Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Slater works with severely schizophrenic men. These men suffer hallucinations, their linguistic abilities have been stolen by disease, they are sometimes catatonic. In these conditions Slater uses talk therapy to find desire for connection, though it is often deeply hidden. Slater manages to convey the sadness and despair that surround profound mental illness, though there are glimmers of hope too.

The writing in this book is too florid at times, but Slater always approaches her subjects with grace and humanity. I enjoyed Slater's discussion of her academic training and the theoretical universe in which she works. Readers get to see how she uses academic training to make treatment decisions. We get to see how she thinks as a practitioner. This is a fascinating memoir, though perhaps not as groundbreaking as it was in 1996.

Lauren Slater, Welcome to My Country (Random House, 1996) ISBN: 0679447857

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