One day I was assigned a new patient. She was from Ecuador. The many meetings I had with “Maria” taught me how poor training, a lack of cultural sensitivity, an inability to fully grasp what it is like for an immigrant to adjust, and the all-too-frequently crude paradigm of modern psychiatry could lead to faulty, even dangerous diagnoses. At a deeper level I learned to understand Maria and her disorders in her own terms and context—and the perils of a therapist or doctor approaching a patient as an object, describing her according to an objective palette of western terms. What my experiences with Maria taught me is echoed beautifully in Jessica Benjamin’s and Rose Marie Perez Fosters’ works, namely that a mentally ill patient is a person whose personhood and subjectivity are centers in themselves and hold meaning irreducible to an objective model. The only way of truly understanding Maria was to see her in her “intersubjective context” in which meaning, but also disorders, are defined, understood, and addressed (Benjamin, 1995).



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