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Tobie Nathan

A Healing Influence

How can western psychiatry help immigrants who do not share the same cultural references? Why does western psychiatry fail when it goes outside the cultural framework in which it was created? Despite their irrational practices, traditional “healers” have a much greater success rate treating patients from Africa, North Africa and the Caribbean than western-trained doctors, with all their “science” and medication.
Tobie Nathan explains the methods used by traditional healers, and shows how western doctors can learn from them — without sacrificing scientific rigor — in order to really help patients from other cultures.
His book raises several questions: Could psychiatry, despite its scientific appearance, act simply as one technique among others to exercise influence? Could more productive methods of helping disturbed people be found among marginal or “different” practices?


Tobie Nathan teaches clinical and pathological psychology at the University of Paris VIII and heads the Centre Georges Devereux of ethno-psychiatry. He is the author of La Guérison Yoruba and La Psychanalyse Païenne (Editions Odile Jacob, 1998).