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Meaning Systems and Mental Health Culture critiques the objectification of clients and concomitant abandonment of meaning systems that characterize contemporary counseling and psychotherapy. Hansen provides a scholarly overview of trends in talk therapy through a cultural, historical, empirical, and philosophical examination of mental health care.
The creation of meaning is a central feature of human life. The full spectrum of experience, from joyful, devoted living to unbearable psychological suffering, is orchestrated by the meanings that people endorse and create. Meaning Systems and Mental Health Culture: Critical Perspectives on Contemporary Counseling and Psychotherapy examines the intersection of meaning systems, mental health culture, and counseling and psychotherapy. By viewing mental health care through the lenses of culture and history, James T. Hansen argues that a defining element of mental health culture, throughout various eras, is the relative value placed on meaning systems. Contemporary mental health care, with its idealization of symptom-based diagnostics, biological reductionism, and the medical model, severely devalues meaning systems. This devaluation has led modern counselors and psychotherapists to largely abandon the factors that should be central to their work. Meaning Systems and Mental Health Culture weaves together empirical, historical, cultural, and philosophical perspectives to raise awareness of the need for counseling and psychotherapy to revalue meaning systems, even while operating within a culture that disregards them.
James T. Hansen is professor at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan.
Preface Acknowledgements Introduction Chapter 1: Meaning Systems and Psychological Suffering Chapter 2: Conceptualizations of Meaning System Chapter 3: Meaning Systems and Mental Health Culture Chapter 4: Contemporary Culture and Objectification Chapter 5: Training for Talk Therapists Summary and Further Reflections References
Dr. Hansen provides a masterful analysis of the significance of client meaning systems in the helping professions. His provocative examination of the role of meaning systems in mental health culture employs a wide array of highly engaging pedagogical methods, ranging from humor and personal reflections to thought experiments and case illustrations, and culminates in a gratifying discussion of the implications for the education and training of talk therapists. Meaning Systems and Mental Health Culture is an important book for counselors, psychologists, and social workers that is at once compelling, edifying, and unifying. -- Mark B. Scholl, Wake Forest University James T. Hansen is probably the most percipient scholar in the area of mental health culture, and this book is a genuine tour de force. The writing is engaging and challenging. His focus on therapeutic talk, the counseling relationship, and the manner in which people operate out of meaning systems is as needed as it is unique in this medicalized epoch. This book should be mandatory reading for all students and professionals in each of the helping professions. -- Matthew E. Lemberger-Truelove, PhD, University of New Mexico Meaning Systems and Mental Health Culture is a wake-up call to the counseling profession, which has been asleep for too long. It challenges the counseling profession's ideological positions as it has moved away from its philosophical roots. This book does the much-needed work of challenging a mental health culture that demands over-diagnoses and over-prescription. -- Brian Hutchison, University of Missouri-St. Louis
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