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Sally Satel pulls no punches. In the last year, the conservative pundit and psychiatrist has criticized the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the juvenile death penalty, questioned the World Health Organizations HIV policy, and argued against grief counseling for tsunami survivors in southern Asia. Her op-ed columnsbearing such provocative headlines as I Am a Racially Profiling Doctor and Drugs: A Decision, Not a Diseaseappear in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today.

In April, St. Martins Press published Satels latest book, One Nation Under Therapy: The Rise of the Helping Culture and the Decline of Self-Reliance, coauthored with Christina Hoff Sommers, of Who Stole Feminism? fame. Satel and Sommers, both resident scholars at the American Enterprise Institute, argue that preoccupation with introspection is diluting such American virtues as stoicism, independence, and responsibility.

One Nation Under Therapy condemns the rise of therapism, a term Satel and Sommers coined to refer to the valorization of openness, emotional self-absorption, and the sharing of feelings. As evidence, they cite the banning of dodgeball and tag from elementary-school playgrounds, the self-esteem movement, and the boom in post-traumatic-stress diagnoses.

In theory, the authors write, therapism offers a compassionate and caring philosophy of life; in practice it enfeebles those it seeks to help. In the books final chapter, September 11, 2001: The Mental Health Crisis That Wasnt, Satel and Sommers argue that few Americans suffered the distress journalists and psychologists predicted.

Grief counselors and the trauma industry will be annoyed and defensive, Satel predicted in an interview the week after her books release, and I wouldnt be surprised if were accused of being insensitive. And they were. In the New York Times Book Review, Alissa Quart 94 called their tone frosty and Grinch-like, and dismissed their book as culture wars kitsch.

Its not the first time Satel has raised hackles. In a review of her 2000 book P.C., M.D.which condemned indoctrinologists for undermining everything from the delivery of services for the mentally ill to compulsory treatment programs for pregnant addictspsychiatrist Ivan Oransky dubbed Satel a conservative ideologue in a white doctors coat. But the forty-nine-year-old says that if anything shes apolitical: she didnt even vote until 1992, when she cast a ballot for Bill Clinton. The common thread to her writing, she says, is not a political agenda but dismay at how others deploy their ideologies to distort scientific understanding of medical issues.

Although Satel treats heroin addicts at a D.C.-based methadone clinic twelve hours a week, she spends most of her time at AEI, where colleagues include Lynne Cheney and Newt Gingrich. People say this is a right-wing think tank, Satel says from behind a vast desk dwarfed by overstuffed bookcases. It is right of center, theres no question about that, but people here are serious scholars.

At Brown, Satel studied under psychiatrist Peter Kramer, author of Listening to Prozac and this years Against Depression, who has called her the conservative I most like to debate. In 1997, the online journal Slate posted an essay Satel and Kramer had written debating the pros and cons of applying the Americans with Disabilities Act to mental-health problems. I dont know that theres another person with Sallys views that Im friends with, says Kramer.

In person Satel is soft-spoken and reserved, a sharp contrast with the tough tone of her prose. Im not mean on the page, she insists. People in my profession, because theyre so afraid of conflict, tend to read strong opinion as somehow personal. Granted, her work strays from standard academic discourse and bears little semblance to the conventional therapeutic scriptbut thats not her job.

Im paid to have opinions, she says. The rank-and-file in almost any profession, people on the front line, are very practical and they know PC rhetoric when they read it. Theyd like to roll their eyes or speak out, but they cant because their chairman buys into it or he has to toe some party line, or they need grants.





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