- Becoming Psychiatrists by Donald Light
Norton, 429 pp, £10.95, June 1981, ISBN 0 393 01168 2
In April 1979 a cover-story in Time Magazine, always a sensitive indicator of American public opinion, was entitled ‘Psychiatry on the Couch’. The verdict was unequivocal, even though expressed in the form of a mock-clinical formulation:
Vol. 4 No. 4 · 4 March 1982
SIR: Becoming Psychiatrists is the most detailed study extant of how graduate training in medicine shapes the values, self-image and practice patterns of the physicians who treat us. While Michael Shepherd (LRB, 17 December 1981) correctly identified the purpose of my book as examining the professional transformation of self, he judged its merit on whether it provides a good portrait of American and British psychiatry. In so doing, he neglected the main empirical and theoretical contributions of the book to understanding how the underlying structure of professional training programmes affects the behaviour and attitudes of future practitioners. Contemporary questions about the capacity of professionals for self-criticism, the ways they are trained to deal with uncertainty, and the sources of professional arrogance, are all addressed in Becoming Psychiatrists but ignored in Michael Shepherd’s review. Perhaps they were too close to the bone.
Princeton, New Jersey