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Power, Interest and Psychology: Elements of a social materialist understanding of distress

by David Smail PCCS Books
Pub Date:
Pbk 116 pages
AU$42.99 NZ$43.47
Product Status: Available in Approx 14 days
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Conventional therapeutic psychology suggest that we are essentially self-creating and able (with a little help from a therapist) to heal ourselves of the emotional ills that beset us. This kind of view reflects the wishful thinking and make-believe that are necessary for the success of modern consumer capitalism, but it does not reflect the way things are. The alternative set out here, based on the author’s many years’ experience of practice as a clinical psychologist, offers a language and a set of concepts that enable us to understand ourselves as real, embodied beings in an equally real world that resists mere wishfulness. Our experience of ourselves, as well as much of our conduct, are accounted for in terms of the social operations of power and interest — and a framework is established for making sense of our emotional distress as the outcome of environmental pressures. David Smail argues that to take ourselves seriously as social beings, embodied in a real world over which as individuals we have very little influence, is by no means grounds for despair. Rather, it encourages modesty, appreciation of good fortune, compassion and recognition of our common humanity.

Introduction; 1. Looking Back; 2. A Societal Perspective; 3. The Cultural Context of Therapy; 4. Responsibility; 5. What Then Must We Do?; Epilogue

Challenging, disturbing, revelatory and genuinely original, Smail's work has had too little influence to date in the world of academic and professional psychology. Perhaps this is because it is 20, maybe 50, years ahead of its time and doesn't satify our contemporary demand for 'serious' (that is tunnel-visioned, involuted and introverted) psychology. There's a surging current of analysis here that should be read by all students of psychology. And it is beautifully written. It represents a rare thing amongst the dross that is churned out to satisfy the appetite of the Reasearch Assessment Exercise - a book worth buying. Prof Gary Thomas, Univeristy of Birmingham, UK. The Psychologist, October 2005.
David Smail was awarded a PhD in psychology by University College London in 1965. While working for the NHS as a clinical psychologist, he helped pioneer the 'therapeutic community' approach to mental disorder. He moved to Nottingham in 1968 he held the honorary post of Special Professor in Clinical Psychology at the University of Nottingham from 1979 until 2000. Other books by David Smail include The Origins of Unhappiness, How to Survive Without Psychotherapy, The Nature of Unhappiness, and Why Therapy Doesn't Work.