In this review five dictionaries or chronologies are described. While it may be unusual for such reference books to be reviewed in the journal, these works have many unique features, and some surprises as well, making them worth a look here.
Dates in Medicine, edited by Anton Sebastian, is a chronology laid out from 8000 BC through AD 1999, with as many entries for each year listed as the editor thought appropriate. Each entry is headed by the year; more specific dates are not given. In his foreword Sebastian both humbly and correctly indicates, "It would never be possible to list all the significant milestones in the advance of medicine, nor could there ever be general agreement about what has constituted the most important points of progress over the centuries." Nonetheless, Sebastian has put together an interesting and worthwhile chronology.
In the first entry, 8000 BC, the reader is informed that trephining of the skull was practiced by Neolithic man using stone tools. The next entry, 4000 BC, indicates that the Samaritans reported the euphoric effect of the poppy plant.
One learns that many individuals well known for a discovery were actually building on or "rediscovering" phenomena previously described by individuals whose names are much less recognized. For example, it was not Darwin but an English clergyman, Thomas Robert Malfis, who provided the basis for the concept of the survival of the fittest. Asepsis was not first proposed by the English surgeon Joseph Lister in 1865, but rather by the Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweiss in 1847.
One can open this book to almost any date and be fascinated by what happened at that time. For example, we learn that in 1776 the French physiologist who discovered the role of chlorophyll in photosynthesis was born; an Italian anatomist first described the structural organization of the cerebral cortex; the professor of medicine who first described the posterior column of the spinal cord was born, as was an Italian embryologist who wrote several important treatises on embryology; the first cecostomy was performed on a patient with carcinoma of the rectum; an Italian physicist who first described the molecule as the smallest quantity of substance was born; and the first case of osteomalacia was reported.
One can open this book to any page and find a historical reference that may interest psychiatrists. For example, I learned that in 1956 Ronald Kuhn first used imipramine in the successful treatment of depression. I discovered that 1972 was the year when the association between smoking during pregnancy, smaller babies, and higher perinatal mortality was demonstrated.
Dates in Medicine is obviously not a book one reads cover to cover while sitting by the fire. It is a well-done reference text that anyone interested in the history of medicine should own. It is a useful reference for readers who want to learn what was occurring in the world of medicine in a given period. However, it is not useful for readers who want to ascertain when a specific event took place, since there is no index to connect subject and date. The book presents a chronology of events, nothing more—but, more important, nothing less.
Douglas H. Yarn, a lawyer, with the assistance initially of graduate research assistants, compiled a draft of terms and definitions related to conflict and conflict resolution. The draft was reviewed by his colleagues at the Consortium on Negotiation and Conflict Resolution. Subsequent drafts were reviewed by chairs of specialized practice sections of the Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution. Yarn's objectives were to increase knowledge and awareness of the wide range of terms used in conflict resolution; to improve dialogue and understanding among professionals and theorists in conflict resolution; to preserve diversity in the range of meanings derived from various subcultures; and to promote uniformity and consistency in the professional language.
Three criteria were used to determine whether a term would be included: Is the term unique to the vocabulary of conflict resolution professionals? If it is not unique, has it been adopted into the vocabulary? If it is not a recognized part of the vocabulary, is it a potentially useful addition to the vocabulary? The resultant dictionary has about 1,400 headwords.
To understand what this dictionary is actually about, I extracted terms used in the preface and in other opening notes describing the dictionary to ascertain whether they were defined within the dictionary. By and large, they were. "Conflict" has a well-referenced definition that takes up four pages. It is followed by 21 other headings that have "conflict" as the first word, including the term "conflict resolution." "Resolution" has an entry, as does "negotiation"; the latter's runs five pages. "Mediate" and its various forms, such as "mediation" and "mediator," have entries that span almost 18 pages.
Organizations that are referred to in the book's introductory matter are often defined in the dictionary itself; those that are not are among the listings in the dictionary's first appendix, entitled "Conflict Resolution Organizations and Programs," which supplies the organizations' name, address, phone number, fax number, and e-mail or Web address.
This dictionary will be most useful to psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and others who work in forensic psychiatry. Examples of terms that the book includes are "consent decree," "special master," "common law," "coercion," and "lex loci." Few should rush out to purchase this book. Many will benefit from knowing it exists and being able to hunt it down in a nearby library when the need arises.
Raymond J. Corsini, a retired psychologist, indicates that this dictionary is based on interviews with about 100 psychologists randomly selected at psychological conventions. Dr. Corsini asked them what they did and did not want included in a dictionary of psychology. The resulting product, he says, is a dictionary with "more than three times the number of defined headwords, biographies, illustrations, and appendixes of any other dictionary of psychology ever printed in English."
Very short biographies of deceased individuals who were influential in the history of psychology are included, and attempts were made to keep definitions short—definitions average 31 words. Disorders, which constitute a specific category of inclusions, are listed without any inferences about causality.
In an attempt to evaluate this dictionary, I decided to seek out terms that would be relevant to public-sector mental health. Marching through the dictionary in alphabetical order I found the following.
"Advocacy" is defined as "individuals or groups representing clients who do not have the power or the know-how to act for themselves in dealing with the bureaucracy of local governments and related social institutions." This definition implies that "clients" cannot advocate for themselves and that the term "advocacy" does not apply to individuals acting on their own behalf. Self-advocacy also is not defined in this dictionary, despite the inclusion of 143 terms starting with the word "self."
"Assaultive behavior" is defined as "violent attacks on others (child beating, domestic violence, rape, unprovoked fights) often associated with such conditions as alcohol intoxication, dyscontrol syndrome, and isolated or intermittent explosive disorder." The diagnosis of isolated explosive disorder was eliminated when DSM-IV was published in 1994. A dictionary published in 1999 certainly should reflect DSM-IV terminology.
Assertive community treatment has no entry at all, nor does Program for Assertive Community Treatment.
The definition of "client satisfaction" begins with "the degree to which persons paying for service are happy with the result." This definition seems to imply that individuals who are not paying for services—for example, state hospital patients and outpatients whose treatment is funded by Medicaid or Medicare—have no claim to satisfaction for their services.
"Consumer" is defined as a "term that tends to be used by HMOs instead of client; a term generally resented by most psychologists." Ignored entirely is the use of the term "consumer" that was originally applied by users of the mental health system to describe themselves and is often officially used today by state mental health departments. Even if one uses the definition as provided, the implication is that psychologists resent this term, whereas psychiatrists, other physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals do not. I don't believe there are any data that support this view.
The term "dual diagnosis" is defined as "the combination of serious emotional problems and mental retardation." There is no reference to the more common use of the term today to indicate two diagnoses, a mental illness and a substance use disorder.
The definition for "involuntary civil commitment" describes how involuntary civil commitment takes place in a few states, but not how it takes place in many states, and there is no mention of the fact that a judicial process is usually necessary to keep an individual in the hospital on an involuntary basis.
The definition for "outpatient commitment" is confusing and inaccurate. The term is defined as "placement in a hospital via a legal decision that an outpatient/inpatient needs psychiatric or psychological care. In the United States, every state has a law for doing so, usually involves a complaint that is approved by a judge and usually one or more physicians." In fact, however, outpatient commitment refers to commitment to treatment outside of an institution, not placement in a hospital. Further, not every state has a law for outpatient commitment.
"Psychosocial rehabilitation" is defined as "programs for people with injuries, disorders, or diseases with treatment for regaining their prior abilities at home or in benign communitarian settings." Under "communitarian" this dictionary says, "Refers to a pattern of values that emphasizes both human rights and responsibility toward the community." Using this definition, I still don't understand, "regain abilities…in a benign communitarian setting."
This is a small selection of definitions from a dictionary that has 1,087 pages of definitions as well as ten appendixes. Given this sample of definitions, this dictionary cannot be recommended for its scope, its accuracy, or its timeliness.
Key Words in Multicultural Interventions contains words that are "typically used in the field of multicultural counseling and psychotherapy." Preparation of the book was taken on by a cohort of psychologists. The project was endorsed and encouraged in its development by the Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues, a division of the American Psychological Association.
The editors asked contributors to follow a simple set of guidelines. Each definition was to be limited to about 350 to 400 words. Definitions were to provide information that answered the questions: Where did the word come from? What are the alternative definitions? What is the preferred definition, and why? Also, each entry was to list primary sources that the reader could use to learn more. As is often the case when editors assign tasks to contributors, not all contributors follow the rules.
The editors do not hesitate to take on difficult issues. For example, 29 entries are included that start with the word "cultural" or "culturally." Included among them are "culturally disadvantaged," "culturally distinct," "culturally deprived," "cultural relativism," "cultural racism," and "cultural incapacity." One interesting question that is not directly addressed in the dictionary is whether it should focus on terms from nondominant cultures or from all cultures. The editors seem to have chosen the former. This choice can be defended on several grounds, particularly that of focusing on and highlighting areas in which the lack of knowledge is greatest. However, the choice should have been elucidated.
Even given the focus on nondominant cultures, the choices of entries for inclusion are not always clear. Many population groups are identified, including Alaskan native, Italian American, Japanese American, Korean American, Chinese American, and others. However, Hawaiian native or any reference to the original Hawaiian population receives no entry. On the other hand, the native Hawaiian population is mentioned, though only briefly, in such entries as "Pacific Islander." There is a discussion of a particular form of Hawaiian therapy used for families and groups, referred to as "ho'oponopono." This therapy is generally conducted by an elder (a kapuna) or a healer (a kahuna). The translation of the name of this form of treatment is, appropriately, "setting to right."
The dictionary is quite helpful in identifying, describing, and referencing culture-specific disorders, including windigo psychosis, ataque, amok, Arctic hysteria, ghost sickness, and latah.
The dictionary also has its share of surprises. I was delightfully startled by the definition of the next to last entry, "YAVIS." Wondering what esoteric culturally bound syndrome this might refer to, I learned that it was an acronym for the ideal psychotherapy patient's diagnosis: "Young, Attractive, Verbal, Intelligent, and Successful."
Key Words in Multicultural Interventions not only is a useful reference but also is fun to read. It is particularly useful as a source book because it has an index—unlike the other books reviewed here—and is a rich source of references.
In A Dictionary of the History of Medicine, Anton Sebastian has created a volume that essentially can function complementarily with his Dates in Medicine. In the dictionary, entries are in alphabetical order, which enables readers to locate a specific subject and learn information about it as well as the relevant dates. The dictionary, Sebastian says, is aimed at "medical researchers, presenters, and clinicians who could not afford to spend their valuable hours in the library looking for specific historic information on their topics." It also targets paramedics, medical students, and anyone else interested in health care.
The dictionary contains more than 10,000 entries, though again Sebastian notes that no single book can do justice to the history of medicine. He used his own vast private collection of 3,000 volumes, 2,000 or so other volumes, and hundreds of journals as sources for this book. He does not provide a listing of the sources, however, so readers who wish to follow up on information gleaned from the dictionary are on their own in that endeavor.
Psychiatry is not well represented in the history of medicine, and American psychiatry even less so. There is an entry for Freud—both for Sigmund, with a picture, and for Anna; their presence highlights the absence of so many others. "Deinstitutionalization," an international phenomenon, is not defined. S. Weir Mitchell gets an entry, including a picture. The well-known English psychiatrist John Conolly gets an entry that states in full, "A resident physician at the Middlesex Asylum in Hanwell who was the first in England to advocate the removal of all forms of mechanical restraints for mental patients."
"Asylum" has a fascinating entry that starts with the fact that Arabs were the first to show a more humane approach to persons with mental illness. Morocco, Damascus, and Baghdad had asylums as early as AD 800. The first European hospital set up entirely for the care and treatment of persons with mental illness was built in 1409 in Valencia, Spain. In 1402 one of the oldest hospitals in England, the Hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem, became an asylum for persons with mental illness. This entry also informs the reader that it was during the Middle Ages that patients were first discharged "to the community under the care of relatives and returned to the hospital when needed," and it describes the work of Chiarugi, Pinel, and Tuke in the late 1700s to remedy the abusive treatment of persons with mental illness.
While some physicians who had worked in the area of psychiatry get their own entries, others are referred to under entries relevant to topics of psychiatry. For example, the dictionary has an entry for "insanity" that describes the work of several individuals in the field. It is fascinating to learn that Felix Platter (1536-1614) and Richard Napier (1559-1634) included both biological and socioenvironmental factors in their writings.
Under the entry for "personality disorders," one discovers that Aretaeus described "prepsychotic personality" sometime around the year AD 100. Under the entry for "psychiatry," one learns that around 50 BC the Roman philosopher and orator Cicero suggested that body ailments could result from emotional factors. Refuting Hippocrates' work of 300 years earlier, he indicated that it was psychological difficulties and not black bile that caused melancholia. Psychiatry as a branch of medicine was probably first considered around AD 100, when Aretaeus wrote on such topics as melancholia and differentiating between mania and senile dementia.
Like Sebastian's Dates in Medicine, this dictionary also allows one to open to any page and read fascinating details. For example, one can learn that Alice Hamilton was the first female professor at Harvard Medical School in 1919. One learns under the entry for "Massachusetts General Hospital" that it was Reverend John Bartlett, the chaplain of the Boston Alms House, who pronounced in 1810 that there should be a hospital in Boston for the mentally ill, and it was only five months later that a call came out for a general medical hospital in Boston. The entry, unfortunately, does not go on to inform the reader that the asylum actually opened three years before Mass General, making the psychiatric hospital the older of the two.
A Dictionary of the History of Medicine can be recommended for the same kind of use as Dates in Medicine. It is a resource that should be owned by those who are interested in the history of medicine, and one that others should know about so that they can learn more about medical subjects they come across in contemporary literature.
Dr. Geller is professor of psychiatry and director of public-sector psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.