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Eckhardt, M.H. (1989). Discussion of “Some Problems of Cross-Cultural Psychotherapy with Refugees Seeking Therapy,” By Carl-Ivar Dahl. Am. J. Psychoanal., 49(1):33-36.

(1989). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 49(1):33-36

Discussion of “Some Problems of Cross-Cultural Psychotherapy with Refugees Seeking Therapy,” By Carl-Ivar Dahl

Marianne Horney Eckhardt, M.D.

Dr. Carl-Ivar Dahl's paper recounts a courageous therapeutic venture into a situation which appears to be so different from our normal therapeutic setting that we may overlook its relevance to our own practice. Dr. Dahl indicates the more weighty intention of his paper when he states: “I intend … to bring forth some questions concerning the universality of our way of doing psychotherapy—and I am referring to psychoanalytic psychotherapy the way we presumably practice it.” This statement broadens the implication of his discussion of the problems he encountered as applying to our way of practicing psychoanalytic psychotherapy.

All papers on cross-cultural psychotherapy illuminate not only the many ways in which other cultures differ from ours, but they also illuminate our own cultural biases and value systems. A paper written from a psychoanalytic perspective in addition points to the biases originating in the theoretical preconceptions of our psychoanalytic culture, no matter whether they derive from one school of thought or another. I am using the word psychoanalytic culture advisedly because, while I will be talking about the constraints of our theories, I do not criticize their limitations as if these limitations could be avoided. Dr. Zaphiropoulos, in an article on cross-cultural therapy, quotes G.T. Baker, who wrote: “Culture is at once a prism through which and the prison out of which one views the world.” What a beautiful way to phrase an inescapable condition of our existence, and how true this is for our psychoanalytic culture with its theories and techniques which enlighten, orient, facilitate observations, but at the same time structure our vision and restrict our capacity for discriminatory exploration and evaluation.

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