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Review of "Compassion and Healing in Medicine and Society"

By Gregory L. Fricchione
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011
Review by Nassir Ghaemi, MD MPH on Dec 20th 2011
Compassion and Healing in Medicine and Society

This new book is an extensive attempt to apply attachment theory to the practice of psychiatry, grounded in a spiritual orientation to psychiatric work.  The author is active in mind-body research and a practicing psychiatrist with consultation/liaison specialization. The ideas presented here will be of interest to readers with an interest in spiritual aspects of psychiatry.  Interesting cases are presented and Fricchione's own thoughts and feelings are front and center, making for a highly personal reading experience.  These sections of the book alternate with others that are more academic and quite detailed scientifically, which may be more interesting to some readers rather than others.  Evolutionary speculations are included, which makes this work part of a genre of writings in medicine and psychiatry that try to link to evolutionary ideas.  Such thinking may seem excessively speculative at times, but the author tries to make links to more concrete biological research as well as clinical experience.

Fricchione is an experienced psychiatrist with a unique background ranging from prevention work to international health to consultation in tertiary-care academic centers to research in mind-body medicine.  He weaves these strands of his life's work together in one place, putting forth the mature thoughts of a rich academic life.  Readers will find many different aspects of the book to be of interest to them, though perhaps not all given the breadth of Fricchione's activities.  There will be something here for everyone who is curious about spirituality, evolution, and attachment theory.


© 2011 Nassir Ghaemi


Nassir Ghaemi, MD MPH, Professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology; Director, Mood Disorders Program, Tufts Medical Center