Intercultural Therapy and Ethnopsychoanalysis: are They Both 'Possession'?


The assumption that such a delicate practice as therapy is universal is a fault belonging to the past. The universality of therapy has been questioned for a long time without any consistent or final answer. The biggest contribution of Anthropology to therapy has been to open up new approaches to and points of view about therapy. Therefore the problems linked to assumptions about therapy’s universality have been overcome partially through the analysis and the understanding of differences and peculiarities of cultures. Ethnopsychoanalysis and Intercultural Therapy are two approaches to therapy that have been developed in response to the Anthropological critique and its identification of cultural variance. They both give effect to Littlewood’s suggestion (1990), which was developed in his article that promoted the rise of a new cross-cultural psychiatry: According to Littlewood, ‘we need to take into account the whole context of a particular experience and its personal meaning even if it leads us to such areas as local politics or social structure’. Each of the new therapies referred to above give effect to Littlewood’s suggestion in different ways. On the one hand, Intercultural Therapy, starting from the Western traditional theories, has been modeled on other cultures; on the other hand, Ethnopsychiatry has been based on traditional therapy belonging to non-Western cultures, with some help from psychoanalytic theories. Both these therapies are an attempt to overcome the problems caused by the assumption of universality. A question still remains: is this effort just another way to make therapy fit into non-Western cultures? Is this effort simply another way to ‘possess’ cultures?



How to Cite

Zanatta, F., (2008) “Intercultural Therapy and Ethnopsychoanalysis: are They Both 'Possession'?”, Opticon1826 4. doi:







Francesca Zanatta (UCL)





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