Our Necessary Shadow: The Nature and Meaning of Psychiatry
By Tom Burns
Review by Marianne Szegedy-Maszak
The halcyon days of psychiatry — when this medical expertise had status, when the most intelligent interns and residents chose the mind over the body, when popular culture regarded the discipline with fascination rather than contempt — are long gone. In its place is a field that has been eclipsed by the glamour of neuroscience, the juggernaut of Big Pharma, and a general confusion about its place in both medicine and the crowded field of mental health professionals.
To use an expression that appears neither in the glossary nor the index of Tom Burns’s fascinating analysis of the scientific and medical exploration of the mind, psychiatry is suffering an identity crisis. But Burns is not one of the renegades, condemning from within. At the outset of “Our Necessary Shadow,” he marks his territory: Psychiatry is a “legitimate medical specialty” and a genuine and increasingly important “power for good.”