Meaning Systems and Mental Health Culture: 
Critical Perspectives on Contemporary Counseling and Psychotherapy
James T. Hansen, Ph.D

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Hansen, J.T. (2016).  Meaning systems and mental health culture: Critical perspectives on contemporary counseling and psychotherapy. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. ISBN: 978-1498516303

The creation of meaning is a central feature of human life. The full spectrum of experience, from joyful, devoted living to unbearable psychological suffering, is orchestrated by the meanings that people endorse and create. Meaning Systems and Mental Health Culture: Critical Perspectives on Contemporary Counseling and Psychotherapy examines the intersection of meaning systems, mental health culture, and counseling and psychotherapy. By viewing mental health care through the lenses of culture and history, James T. Hansen argues that a defining element of mental health culture, throughout various eras, is the relative value placed on meaning systems. Contemporary mental health care, with its idealization of symptom-based diagnostics, biological reductionism, and the medical model, severely devalues meaning systems. This devaluation has led modern counselors and psychotherapists to largely abandon the factors that should be central to their work. Meaning Systems and Mental Health Culture weaves together empirical, historical, cultural, and philosophical perspectives to raise awareness of the need for counseling and psychotherapy to revalue meaning systems, even while operating within a culture that disregards them.

Dr. Hansen provides a masterful analysis of the significance of client meaning systems in the helping professions. His provocative examination of the role of meaning systems in mental health culture employs a wide array of highly engaging pedagogical methods, ranging from humor and personal reflections to thought experiments and case illustrations, and culminates in a gratifying discussion of the implications for the education and training of talk therapists. Meaning Systems and Mental Health Culture is an important book for counselors, psychologists, and social workers that is at once compelling, edifying, and unifying.
— Mark B. Scholl, Wake Forest University

James T. Hansen is probably the most percipient scholar in the area of mental health culture, and this book is a genuine tour de force. The writing is engaging and challenging. His focus on therapeutic talk, the counseling relationship, and the manner in which people operate out of meaning systems is as needed as it is unique in this medicalized epoch. This book should be mandatory reading for all students and professionals in each of the helping professions.
— Matthew E. Lemberger-Truelove, PhD, University of New Mexico

Meaning Systems and Mental Health Culture is a wake-up call to the counseling profession, which has been asleep for too long. It challenges the counseling profession’s ideological positions as it has moved away from its philosophical roots. This book does the much-needed work of challenging a mental health culture that demands over-diagnoses and over-prescription.
— Brian Hutchison, University of Missouri—St. Louis

About the Author
James T. Hansen is a Professor at Oakland University in the Department of Counseling.  His primary scholarly interests are philosophical and theoretical issues in counseling and critical examination of contemporary mental health culture.  Dr. Hansen has published over fifty articles in leading counseling journals and several books.   Two of his books have won awards for their contributions to humanistic philosophy in counseling.  Dr. Hansen has over twenty-five years of experience as a practitioner, supervisor, and consultant.  

Additional Information
If you would like additional information, please feel free to contact me or visit my website.

James T. Hansen, Ph.D.
Coordinator, Mental Health Specialization
Oakland University
Department of Counseling
450E Pawley Hall
Rochester, MI 48309

Phone: (248) 370-3071