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On Being Normal And other Disorders: A Manual for Clinical Diagnostics by Paul Verhaeghe

The Letter, Issue 37, Summer 2006, Pages 144 - 151



Paul Verhaeghe[1]

Cathal Morgan

Historically, psychotherapy began with the aim of consciousness- raising and insight; later, the emphasis shifted towards..... insight and cognitive restructuring. [......] Where the focus is solely on insight and knowledge, it will result in a caricatural subject who "knows" perfectly well why it is doing certain things, but without this knowledge effecting the slightest change in daily life.[2]


I begin with a short quote from the final passages of Paul Verhaeghe's book, On Being Normal and Other Disorders, which perhaps presents us with a note of caution concerning what clinicians of all creeds need to be alert to and which indicates the book's primary aim. This is to develop a much-needed metapsychology for the field of clinical psychodiagnostics. This one argues that psychic identity is created through one's primary inter-subjective relationships. The ramifications of such a proposition are wide-ranging not just at the level of clinical practice: it also strikes at the heart of some contemporary debates within the fields of psychoanalysis and psychiatry and at the plethora of psychological approaches to the treatment of mental suffering in use today.[3] Time does not permit me to cover the vast range of material presented within this four hundred and sixty-four page manual, so it will suffice for me to take only a small number of the more salient points raised and elaborate their implications for clinical practice, whether in the fields of psychology, psychiatry or psychoanalysis.

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