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Hendricks, R.C. (1949). Psychiatry in General Practice: By Melvin W. Thorner, M.D. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders Co., 1948. 659 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 18:380-381.

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(1949). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 18:380-381

Psychiatry in General Practice: By Melvin W. Thorner, M.D. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders Co., 1948. 659 pp.

R. C. Hendricks Author Information

The current appeal of 'self-help' books is evident from the 'best seller' lists. As advertised, this book is beamed to the general practitioner as a 'self-help' to psychiatry, to provide 'the kind of treatment you can use, with frequent and explicit explanations of what the patient will say and what you should say in return… psychotherapy slanted your way, interpreted so it is applicable to your problems, your needs, your limited time'. It proposes 'to lift psychiatry out of the realm of terra incognita, to remove the aura of mystery from the practice of psychiatry'. Here, then, in six hundred fifty-nine pages would appear to be the quintessence of psychiatry tailored to meet the needs of the general practitioner; however, the content is ill-fitted to the real need of the general practitioner, just as 'self-help' books in their generality and inexactness fail to ameliorate the specific.

After reading this book, one is forced to the author's own conclusion: 'There is a common tendency in mankind to attempt to simplify all ideas to an ultimate degree. Such simplification inevitably introduces inaccuracies and theoretical concepts which, far from being useful, may actually be misleading. Often the oversimplification of a rigid system of definitions and classifications may be inaccurate.' To avoid descriptive phenomenology, the author presents a new classification of patients, illustrating them with prosaic case histories, quixotic and puerile, with bold marginal extracts that challenge the intelligence of the reader. His comment on psychoanalytic theory is better suited to his own material, 'that patients on paper may be squeezed into a predetermined mold, but patients in the flesh are often refractory to such treatment'. The contrast between these histories and the rest of the text is on the order of literary schizophrenia.

His attitude toward psychoanalysis follows a similar pattern. He subscribes to, and recommends, the use of the couch and free association,

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