The Transcultural Psychology of George Devereux

Jonah Lester
The Transcultural Psychology of George Devereux

"Caresses, expressions of one kind or another, are necessary for the life of affections as leaves are necessary for the life of a tree." Nathaniel Hawthorne

Childhood is not only a stage characterized by pink hues. Children also present certain ailments that are generally transmitted by their family environment, symptoms that can transform into diseases by not being approached from the child's ego, and from a continuous dialogue that allows them to understand who they are..


  • Types of therapy according to George Devereux
  • Transcultural Psychology, basic foundations
  • Ontological Matrix: its nature
  • Etiological matrix: making sense of the disorder
  • Matrix of doing: thinking and acting
    • References

Types of therapy according to George Devereux

Against this background, the precursor of ethnopsychoanalysis George Devereux, based on the contributions defined by psychology and anthropology, lays the theoretical foundations and defines the method of complementary analysis and at the same time recognized the following types of therapy:

  1. Intracultural: The therapist and the patient are immersed in the same culture. However, the therapist will take into account the socio-cultural dimensions of the patient's problems and the development of the therapy..
  2. Intercultural: The therapist and the patient are not immersed in the same culture, but the therapist knows the culture of his patient and uses it as a therapeutic instrument.
  3. Metacultural: The therapist and the patient are immersed in two different cultures. The therapist does not know the culture of his patient, but understands the notion of culture and uses it to establish the diagnosis and treatment of his patient.

Transcultural Psychology, basic foundations

Likewise, Devereux is the pioneer in the conceptualization of cultural media for therapeutic purposes. For him, cross-cultural psychology is based on two axes: The first is the principle of psychic universality that defines the human being, his psychic functioning and will be the same for all, which allows establishing the need to give the same ethical and scientific to all human beings, including their mental and cultural productions, their ways of living and thinking, although on different occasions they are disrupted. It should be noted that announcing this principle can become redundant for the implicit results of some "scientific" investigations that remind that this principle is not always respected..

To which Devereux will suggest that there is a universality from the functioning and the processes, a pragmatic and structural universality. Bearing in mind that if every man tends towards the universal, he will only be able to do so from the particular of his culture. The second is the methodological principle called complementarity, it consists in not excluding any method or theory but in combining them; According to this principle, some human phenomena should not be forcibly integrated into the field of psychoanalysis or anthropology exclusively, since due to their specificity they require a double discourse.

When arriving here, it is important to establish some of the active cultural processes in cross-cultural psychotherapy aimed at parents and children that can serve as a methodological alternative in the infant-teacher relationship. It should be noted that the study of therapies for parents and children in a migration situation shows that functional cultural parameters can be defined, that is, processes that generate a discourse around the child. These representations are supports given by insight Moro in the year 1994, these are:

Ontological Matrix: its nature

It is one that designates the representation made by the parents of the child, of his nature or, as Devereux would say, the nature of the infant as imagined, fantasized, by adults and parents. Manufacturing the nature of their identity, their origin, the modalities of their development, their needs and family ties. This type of representations will determine how the social and cultural relations of the child will be..

Etiological matrix: making sense of the disorder

It is characterized by giving a culturally acceptable meaning to parent-child relationships. Without forgetting that etiological theories are contained within a structured system that allows determining culturally representable coincidences and meanings..

Matrix of doing: thinking and acting

It is established from the previous matrices as a therapeutic act by someone culturally enabled to give meaning as; a teacher, healer, midwife, priest, etc. These therapeutic actions are internally related to the cultural air and sometimes to religion. It is about rituals, dances, offerings, etc. The child's representation system is based on a set of collective representations that ensure the coherence of the group. In this regard, it should be said that intersubjectivity and the mother-child bond are nourished by these therapeutic acts mentioned above. And the structuring that the child makes subjectively belongs to a network of real, affective and phantasmatic ties that unites his parents, siblings, grandparents and significant characters of his present history and that in which he was enrolled in the past.

From the above, it can be affirmed that cultural representations are essential to structure the interactions of parents and children. Most of these interactions are made from the Western representations of anthropologists, historians and psychologists who have only managed to reach a descriptive level in which key elements that could help to understand and act firmly in the face of the symptoms that afflict the child are ignored. On the other hand, those representations that need to be studied and made visible in a society such as Colombia, that there are minority, excluded or marginalized groups that share other codes, other representations, other meanings; a co-construction of the child's representation should be done. Without this beginning, all work based on the children is impossible because if there is not this commitment in common between professionals and parents, speaking of the same child they will not know what their need is and the reason for their discomfort.

Thus, the cultural context structures the child's interaction initially with his mother, with his parents and then with the world, without the existence of this context there can be no interaction and consequently humanization. Which means that most of the ailments that children suffer are the result of not understanding the needs they go through, among which are: their origin, their tastes, their questions, their fears, their dreams, etc. The key will remain the same to put yourself in the place of the child, otherwise the world will remain singing the hymn of children with ailments that end up becoming illnesses..


Bothert, K. (2005). Child's Psycho-affective Development at the Frontiers of Cultural Differences. Fahima, the Chosen girl. Editorial: UNESCO Chair in Child Development Notebooks. University Francisco Jose de Calda. Faculty of Science and Education.

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