Dante's Cure: A Journey Out of Madness

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9781590511015: Dante's Cure: A Journey Out of Madness
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Catherine, nineteen years old and suffering from severe schizophrenia, sat in a mental hospital—mute, catatonic, and hearing voices. Her psychiatrist, Dr. Daniel Dorman, was convinced that his patient's psychotic behavior was not merely rooted in chemical imbalances but rather in the dramatic circumstances of her family history. He was therefore determined to avoid the mind-numbing medications that had been so detrimental to Catherine's well being. Dorman fought adamant opposition and criticism from his peers and superiors for a chance to guide Catherine out of madness. Dante's Cure is the riveting true story of a woman's triumph over her schizophrenia without medication, written by the psychiatrist who helped her.

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About the Author:

Daniel Dorman, M.D., is Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine. He has a background in family medicine, psychoanalysis and research in neurophysiology. Dr. Dorman has practiced and taught psychotherapy for over thirty years.

Review:

Booklist 2004

Donna Chavez
Psychiatry professor Dorman compassionately chronicles the remarkable life, from onset of illness through recovery, of one of his patients without stinting graphic descriptions of her struggles with madness. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, 19-year-old Catherine Penney was dangerously thin, tormented by self-destructive voices, all but completely withdrawn. By the time she was admitted to UCLA Hospital psychiatric ward, where Dorman was a young resident, she had already been taking antipsychotic drugs for several years to no apparent avail. Certain that her illness was treatable with psychotherapy and not a believer in pharmaceutical intervention, Dorman initiated his relationship with Catherine by interviewing her and her family. What he learned about her background reconfirmed his faith in therapy, and so the pair embarked upon a seven-year-long, six-day-a-week trek toward wellness. The upshot reads almost like fiction: 36 years later, Catherine has become a nurse and patient advocate. Her story bodies forth a convincing affirmation that, with enough determination and the unflagging tenacity of a committed psychotherapist, anything is possible.
Kirkus 2004


April 13, 2004

Using the story of an individual patient, a psychiatrist argues that schizophrenia is best treated not by drugs but by prolonged, intensive talk therapy that encourages development of the patient's unique identity.

Dorman (Psychiatry/UCLA School of Medicine) was a resident in psychiatry in 1969 when he first met Catherine Penney, an anorexic, schizophrenic 19-year-old who heard voices telling her to kill herself. He managed to persuade UCLA to keep her in its psychiatric ward until he finished his residency and opened his own practice three years later, at which time she entered a private mental hospital and he continued as her therapist. More than a case study, Dorman's dialogue-filled narrative begins two years before he met Penney and continues to her 50th birthday in 2000, decades after she ceased to be his patient. For eight years, however, they were in constant, sometimes daily, contact. Under Dorman's persistent and gentle care, Penney gradually recovered. She began speaking, stopped hearing voices, gained weight, ventured into the world, learned to socialize, acquired an education, and became a psychiatric technician, then later a registered nurse working in psychiatric units. Presumably she continued to share the particulars of her private life with Dorman, for the many trials of her adult romances are revealed here, although the relevance of these details is unclear. Penney shares Dorman's views on use of psychotropic drugs, and her refusal as a psychiatric nurse to administer drugs to mental patients has entangled her in job disputes, which Dorman chronicles with relish. He concludes his account with a chapter attacking the medical model of mental illness and describing the approach he used in different phases of his treatment of Penney.

Vivid and remarkable account of a psychotic young woman's recovery from schizophrenia, but a persuasive argument for talk therapy requires more than one patient's success story.
Publishers Weekly 2004

Dorman, a professor of clinical psychiatry, traces his patient Catherine's inspirational life journey from severe schizophrenia to health. When Catherine first came under Dorman's care in the 1970s at a UCLA hospital, she was an adolescent anorexic hearing suicidal and murderous voices. After fully investigating her family dynamic and diagnosing schizophrenia, Dorman began therapy sessions, but rejected the use of standard medications. Dorman describes his patient's various states during her years of crisis as a hospital inmate: her infantilism, physical deterioration, self-loathing and anger. He also describes her key dreams and the moments of interpretive breakthrough he and she made together, emphasizing the substance of their discussions and Catherine's humanity. Having successfully resisted pressure to medicate Catherine, Dorman set up private practice and continued sessions with her. This coincided with her gradual, albeit at first fragile, recovery. Living in an apartment, attending college and qualifying as a psychiatric nurse, Catherine grew in life experience, miraculously surviving professional and relationship pressures without further breakdown or recourse to medication. In her career, Catherine, like Dorman, opposed forcing drugs on her patients, becoming a mental health activist. Dorman and Catherine came to enjoy a relationship of mutual respect and shared philosophies. Dorman's epilogue sets out a readable and reasonable opposition to the now dominant view of schizophrenia as primarily a "brain disorder" that requires medication. His advocacy of a humanist approach that emphasizes patient-doctor collaboration and the growth of soul will be welcomed by all those who value the psychotherapeutic tradition.
Psychiatric Services

Journal of American Psychiatric Association
I applaud [Dr Dorman’s] method of thinking about pathology and therefore treatment in a psychodynamic context.

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