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The Kitchen Shrink: A Psychiatrist's Reflections on Healing in a Changing World Hardcover – April 29, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; First Edition edition (April 29, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594487537
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594487538
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,402,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In a memoir that reads like a quest, psychiatrist Wang reports a decades-long mission to discover or, rather, rediscover the profession to which she once aspired and that is currently becoming more and more obscured by the burgeoning so-called health-care industry. Her personal story dovetails with an account of a medical profession floundering under an ever-increasing avalanche of paperwork, driven by and a consequence of the profit motive. This all began, she says, in the 1980s with deregulation, and it represents a 180-degree reversal of previously held notions about the medical profession, from a time when “courts repetitively ruled that it was ‘against sound public policy’ for companies to seek profit from medical care.” Insisting that for-profit medical care is counterintuitive to good medical care, this daughter of an economics professor notes that good medical care lessens the need for itself and does not look for repeat business. That the current health-care crisis has caused anguish and even physical illness in Wang and her like-minded peers registers near palpably. --Donna Chavez

Review

"A beautifully written memoir about the author's frustration with the transformation of the profession of medicine into the business of health care, and the unraveling of the doctor-patient bond...A thoroughly compelling message- without an ethical commitment to the value of every life, "the very humanity of our society" is at stake."
-Kirkus (starred review)

"In a memoir that reads like a quest, psychiatrist Wang reports a decades-long mission to discover or, rather, rediscover the profession to which she once aspired and that is currently becoming more and more obscured by the burgeoning so-called health-care industry. Her personal story dovetails with an account of a medical profession floundering under an ever-increasing avalanche of paperwork, driven by and a consequence of the profit motive. This all began, she says, in the 1980s with deregulation, and it represents a 180-degree reversal of previously held notions about the medical profession, from a time when "courts repetitively ruled that it was 'against sound public policy' for companies to seek profit from medical care." Insisting that for-profit medical care is counterintuitive to good medical care, this daughter of an economics professor notes that good medical care lessens the need for itself and does not look for repeat business. That the current health-care crisis has caused anguish and even physical illness in Wang and her like-minded peers registers near palpably."
-Booklist

Customer Reviews

Psychiatry is only a small part of the story.
Story Circle Book Reviews
Wang does a wonderful job of making us care about her patients.
Frances L. Dinkelspiel
This important book inspires as well as informs.
Janet Bickel

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amy Henry TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover
At first I thought that The Kitchen Shrink was going to be some sort of self-help book on how to find happiness at home, possibly meditating while doing dishes. I even put off starting it, because I feared it would be full of psychobabble and platitudes like "bloom where you're planted". I was wrong. Yet again.

Wang describes herself as "a doctor working in the medical profession as it became the health care industry." Trained as a psychiatrist, her training involved talk therapy, face to face communication, and a personal connection with patients that were seen over a period of time in order to determine what help would be best for their particular problems. However, as she admits "all my jobs since my training in 1994 have been to prescribe medication only." Wang uses this book to explore the processes of what used to be medicine and now could be considered nearly only a pharmaceutical business. While in the past, doctors would look for alternatives to prescribing medication, now the only question is what kind of medication to supply. It's basically a matter of time: talk is expensive, sending a patient off with a prescription is cheap.

She demonstrates, effectively, how the changes in the treatment of patients, due primarily to the influence of insurance companies that act like bullies, has harmed the most fragile of patients: those with mental problems and who need personal attention and interaction. According to Wang, "Insurance companies started to call the shots" in medicine, not only suggesting doses but also withholding approval of treatments that might aid the sufferers. In fact, at times their logic was so flawed that they'd refuse to cover a preventative procedure, which would save the money in the long term.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By NYNM on May 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Wang speaks from experience and speaks from the heart about tragic changes in the American medical system. She writes with grace and compassion from her perspective as a physician, more specifically as a psychiatrist.
The changes, as she describes, began with government support for private insurance companies insertion in health care driven by a profit motive (ie deny payments). The expected outcome was that many caring physicians, such as Dr. Wang, were pushed out of the field or forced to practice in systems where profit need preceeded patient needs. In spite of Obama's recent health care policy changes, this point of view still prevails.
Since Dr. Wang is a psychiatrist who also has a graduate degree in writing, her presentation focuses on the narrative, the point of the doctor and the patient, rather than on the staitistical. She also well frames her story in Albuquerque, with its Sandia Mountains and green chile stew. As an Asian woman, she combines a sense of place and a spark of enthicity to her tale.
I myself as a psychologist, although on the East Coast, can tell a similar story. I admire Dr. Wang's intergrity in writing as a caring physician, a true "healer" (yes they exist) pitted against an all too depersonalized system where money rather than human service, kindness and common sense rule. This story is one of many about the failures of early 21st century economic misdirection.
I hope well written and moving book goes on the make some real changes in health care. Thank you, Dr. Wang.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By LegalBeagle on September 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
No matter what side of the healthcare debate one is on nearly everyone agrees that the current medical system is unsustainable: soaring health care costs; overworked medical staff; and incomprehensible paper work -- to name just a few of the issues. The Kitchen Shrink by psychiatrist Dora Calott Wang explores the healthcare crisis as reflected through her personal career.

Wang argues that the healthcare is unlike any other industry and does not fit into the corporate for profit model. Sick patients are notoriously unreliable for getting well on an insurance company's timetable. Moreover, on a philosophical level, Wang muses, "Should everything need to make a profit?" The author convincingly contends that it is to everyone's detriment (apart from the insurance company's shareholders) that medical services have been taken over by for profit companies. In particular, Wang explores the evolution of the psychiatric field from the Sigmund Freud psychoanalytic model to the modern day psychiatrist as solely a prescription writer. On the personal front Wang, a Yale educated psychiatrist trained in psychotherapy, fights to keep a limited amount of counseling into her practice, but has largely transitioned to writing `scipts in fifteen minute appointments.

While I enjoyed The Kitchen Shrink and found Wang's story interesting, I do have several reservations about this book. First, at the end of the book the author acknowledges that "all patients in this book are composites of many persons, including actual patients, as well as people I have known outside my professional life." This disclosure should have been noted in the beginning pages. Also, as a personal preference, fictitious people and non-fiction don't mix.
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More About the Author

Penguin Books author Dora Calott Wang, M.D., is a graduate of the Yale School of Medicine and the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute. She has been a recipient of a Lannan Foundation Writer's Residency. Her memoir as a psychiatrist working amidst the health care crisis, was nominated by her publisher for the Pulitzer Prize. Her blogs have appeared on the Huffington Post and Psychology Today.

Dora Calott Wang was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She lives in Los Angeles.