A review by Tana Dineen of

The Fallacy of Mother’s Wisdom:
A critical perspective on health psychology.

By Michael Myslobodsky

The 20th century saw significant changes in the practice of medicine. From an increasingly solid scientific base came striking discoveries, while, at the same time, patients became progressively more overtly demanding and distrustful of their doctors. Retreating from a besieged “paternalistic” identity, physicians, applying the ‘latest’ findings of scientific and pharmacological research, adopted new roles as impersonal, sometimes distant, technicians and became enforcers of governments’ health agendas. Patients, feeling generally abandoned, often criticized, frequently confused and never satisfied, insisted on playing a greater role in their own health care.

It was into the midst of these tectonic shifts that the sub-discipline of health psychology emerged. Back in the 1970’s, in those early days when it first called itself “new,” it exuded promise as it spawned a bio-psycho-social model, championed the fervour for “wellness,” and rose rapidly to become a thriving aspect of the “psychology industry.” Assuming the popularized public image of psychology as a science, it aligned itself both with medicine as a purveyor of medical knowledge and with patients (and potential patients) as a consultant and coach in healthy living. It was prepared to fill the interpersonal void in the doctor-patient relationship by offering a listening ear and caring presence as it empathized with the multi-layered aspects of sickness.

It is to this sector of psychology with its focus on physical health and “wellness” that Myslobodsky, in The Fallacy of Mother’s Wisdom: A critical perspective on health psychology, addresses his attention. Spanning the breadth, from psychological “cures” for cancer to psychological approaches to “the obesity epidemic” and the current quest for psychotropic prescription privileges, he looks critically at the role this sub-profession has been attempting to play in the health service arena....

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