The University of Wisconsin Press


Therapeutic Discourse and Socratic Dialogue
Tullio Maranháo

Psychoanalysis, Gestault therapy, object relations, ego therapy, family therapy—all treat human disorders by therapeutic discourse.

In this thought-provoking book, Tullio Maranhão examines the rhetoric of therapeutic discourse, focusing on psychoanalysis and family therapy and using samples of Socratic dialogue, as he addresses the critical question, “What is is that cures?” Are these sciences of the psyche—or rhetorics of communication?

Since every school of therapy that bases treatment on verbal actions can claim a certain degree of success in “treating” its patients, one cannot proclaim with conviction one school to the exclusion of all others. There are, Maranhão demonstrates, common rhetorical elements among all such therapies. He examines both psychoanalysis and family therapy, each in its own theory, in its repertoire of rhetorical maneuvers, and in the way it uses the power hierarchy of the therapeutic interaction. Maranhão begins by analyzing each discourse as a relationship among knowledge, power, and rhetoric. He then progresses to a series of comparative analyses, eventually demonstrating the fundamental unity of the two discourses and, more broadly, illuminating the very nature of discourse in Western society.

The last part of the book ties together the complex argument developed earlier and includes an extremely provocative discussion on how communicative consensus is achieved through fundamental operations labeled as comprehension, acceptance, and approbation. The result is a stimulating and challenging examination of two of the most distinct traditions of therapeutic practice, their theories, their rhetorical modes of practice, and their uses of the power hierarchy in therapeutic interaction. Maranhão’s work will be of interest and value not only to students, scholars, and practitioners in the field, but to all who have taken part therapeutic discourse of any kind and wish to gain a better understanding of the sometimes subtle processes involved in such therapy.

Tullio Persio Maranhão, a native of Brazil, received his Ph.D. at Harvard University and was, when this book was published, assistant professor of anthropology at Rice University. He has lectured at Harvard and at several universities in Rio de Janeiro. His recent activities have included the ethnography of speaking, focusing on speech acts in a community of Portuguese immigrants in New England, and sociolinguists in two communities of immigrants (Russian and Portuguese) in Philadelphia. He has also studied Creole languages in the Cabo Verde Islands and Afro-Brazilian rituals of spirit possession in Estado do Rio.

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December 1986
LC: 86-040056 RC
256 pp.  5 7/8 x 9
ISBN-10: 0-299-10920-8
ISBN-13: 978-0-299-10920-2

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