Review Of "The Dilemma Of Psychology: A Psychologist Looks At His Troubled Profession" By L. LeShan

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LeShan laments both the condition of psychotherapeutic practice and the fact that psychologists have little to contribute to solving such big problems as the persistence of war, pollution, and population growth. His diagnosis points to the century-long attempt to model psychology on the physical sciences and also to a kind of professionalism that puts the interests of the practicing psychologist ahead of those of the patient or of the concern with deep human understanding. The proposed remedy is to align pyschology more closely to literature and the arts and to seek a mode of understanding that emphasizes human consciousness, purposes, perspectives, and interpretations. The argument is often suggestive though highly inconclusive, and the conclusions do not redeem the promise to show how psychology can be relevant to the big problems mentioned above. The book is written with charm and wit, informed by the author's long and broad experience of psychology and an obvious concern for those who seek psychotherapy. Its force, however, is diminished by weak scholarship, which tends to be disguised through the use of numerous quotes, and also by the failure to address the social and institutional forces that have supported psychology developing in the way that he challenges. This failure is crucial, given LeShan's account that "the goal of psychology is the kind of understanding that will help individuals to live fuller, richer, and more exuberant lives." Perhaps the living of such lives requires social transformation as well as therapeutical interventions. Recommended for advanced undergraduates in psychology.


This work is freely available courtesy of Choice Reviews. The review has been reproduced in full in the abstract field.

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