Both the name, Gabor Maté, and the word, trauma, have become synonymous and ubiquitous in recent years.
Dr. Maté is a Hungarian born physician and author of ‘In The Realm of The Hungry Ghosts’, which was first published back in 2008 and offered a compassionate and insightful understanding of addiction as a response to trauma. Since then Dr Maté has steadily risen to fame as an addiction and trauma expert. He has now released a documentary film entitled ‘The Wisdom of Trauma’, which was brought to my attention by a couple of my clients. I decided to watch it.
The film follows Dr Maté on his journey of defining trauma, most specifically, childhood developmental trauma (CPTSD) and covers his work and learnings from treating street addicts in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
As a mental health professional and clinician, I am all in favour of any well-researched productions that aim to highlight the impact of CPTSD, educate the masses and ideally bring about change at a societal level in how we conceptualise trauma and treatment. I therefore had high hopes for Dr Maté’s oeuvre. Sadly, as the film progressed, I became increasingly uneasy with the content and was ultimately left with the impression that the film was more about glorifying Dr Maté and his self-professed ‘new’ trauma informed approach to treating trauma, than a piece of work aimed at bringing together the teachings and learnings of many clinicians over the years on whose shoulders Dr Maté, like the rest of us, stand (see Alan Shore, Babette Rothschild, Pat Ogden, Steven Porges, Antonio Damasio, Daniel Siegel to name a few).
There is a powerful sequence in the film filmed in a prison where Fritzi Horstman, founder of the Compassion Prison Project, undertakes some meaningful work with inmates based on the ACE principles (see Adverse Childhood Experiences study 1995 – 1997, conducted by Kaiser Permanente). The work of the Compassion Prison Project is clearly meaningful, research based and healing, however, the link between this project and Gabor Maté remained at best utterly unclear and secondly, there was no reference to the original ACE study and the importance of it so viewers were left in the dark around context and thus perhaps invited to imagine that this was somehow connected to Dr Mate. To be clear, the ACE study has nothing to do with Dr Maté.
As the film progresses, Dr Maté moves into sharing his experiences of healing through the use of psychedelics, namely Ayahuasca, with footage shown of a ceremony taking place in Peru. The study of psychedelics and their possible use in treating mental health problems is in its absolute infancy and the research being conducted is done so in strictly controlled environments where participants combine the use of medical doses of psychedelics with psychotherapy – no mention was made of this. Whilst promising in specific clinical settings (as opposed to the Peruvian rain forest) and for specific applications, psychedelics can potentially do more harm than good,
particularly for patients with weak egos or personality disorders. There also remain valid questions about the long-term benefits of psychedelics in treating trauma, with most studies showing that symptoms tend to return over time once psychedelic use was suspended (generally 6 months to a year).
There is then a sequence wherein a man in his early 50’s with a stage 4 prostate cancer diagnosis appears to enter into remission through therapy with Dr Maté with the implied cause of his previously terminal illness being put down to trauma. I am a clinician who profoundly believes in the body-mind connection as have many more learned clinicians before me (see Winnicott and psyche-soma integration), however, whilst our emotions are experienced through the body and the ACE study has shown correlation between adverse childhood experiences and illness,
correlation is not the same as causation.
Finally, there are numerous sequences where Dr Maté is conducting his own brand of ‘trauma informed therapy’ which he suggests is in some way unique and the way to heal trauma. And yet again, trauma informed therapy is neither a new phenomenon nor something that has been invented by Dr Maté; indeed, any well-trained and experienced psychotherapist who works with trauma (and we all do), should be educated in understanding the presentation and defensive structures around CPTSD.
The message of the documentary – a trauma informed approach to healing society as a whole – is a positive one and yet despite his profile, I was disappointed to see how Dr Maté fails to engage and influence policy makers, educators, physicians and mental health professionals and actively seems to undermine his own message through an irresponsible focus on psychedelics, terminal illness being healed through trauma talk-therapy and a guru-esque approach to practicing his own therapeutic approach.
The sad reality of relational trauma is that it occurred in relationship and so can only be treated and worked through in relationship. And working through is not necessarily the same as ‘healing’. Good psychotherapy is painful and slow and the main reason it takes time is because the traumatised part of the patient (client) needs to overcome resistance and form a dependent relationship on their therapist; thus the client dictates the speed of therapy.
The Wisdom of Trauma seemed to me to subscribe to an all too common narrative of recent years – there is a ‘fix’ for everything and it can be quick. This is not my experience of working with trauma and nor is it that of my clients, many whom learn to live with their trauma rather than somehow leave it behind. Perhaps a better title would have simple been: ‘The Wisdom of Gabor Maté’ as the documentary was essentially about him and his views, despite the enormous work in this field undertaken by the likes of Freud, Winnicot, Bowlby etc., all the way through to ordinary psychotherapists like myself and all my ‘ordinary’ colleagues.
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Mark Vahrmeyer, UKCP Registered, BHP Co-founder is an integrative psychotherapist with a wide range of clinical experience from both the public and private sectors. He currently sees both individuals and couples, primarily for ongoing psychotherapy. Mark is available at the Lewes and Brighton & Hove Practices.
Further reading by Mark Vahrmeyer
‘The Wisdom of Trauma’ a film by Gabor Maté – A Critical Review
Do Psychotherapists Need to Love Their Clients?
Unexpressed emotions will never die
What is the purpose of intimate relationships?
Why ‘Cancel Culture’ is about the inability to tolerate difference
Laura Murray says
If you had listened to any of the interviews following the broadcast of the movie, you would have learned that Gabor Mate himself takes issue with its being so focused on him and his own work. He expresses that he wishes other trauma therapists could have been included and named a number of them. However, many do interviews following the movie; and part 2 is coming up in October 2021 with even more renowned names. I agree with you, that it’s not perfect. But it does help to bring awareness of how trauma, in its many presentations, impacts every aspect of our lives. Perhaps the biggest take-away is that, for those of us who have been traumatized and live with its aftermaths, our response was a normal (survival) one to abnormal (abusive, life-threatening) circumstances back then, and that underneath our residual wounds is a healthy human being. Having worked in community “mental health,” I found that this was all too lacking as we, through state guidelines for financial reimbursement, had to focus on problems, rather than the human in front of us (problem-focused rather than strength-based approach). Victims were often blamed. Perhaps, and hopefully, this has changed by now? — Retired NY Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Brighton and Hove Psychotherapy says
Thanks for taking the time to comment Laura. You are correct in that I did not listen to subsequent interviews, however, my review was based purely on the documentary and my suspicion is that the average lay person will not necessarily have delved into subsequent interviews either. I also took particular exception to the focus on hallucinogenics and their application to trauma as this is in its infancy and I have worked with patients who have had psychotic episodes induced by poorly administered hallucinogenics in a “therapy’ setting.
Thinking of this review as an accurate description of what this documentary is about and totally agree – yes, the topic is of utmost importance but unfortunatley it is way too much about this guy, it is no broader picture and it left me with the feeling of having watched a branding/marketing session for Mates follow-up work. Waiting to get an invitation for his „workthrough“ programm – LOL Not really.
The review is well written and gives a short hinsight on that many researchers etc. ob whom’s shoulders this documentary and this Dr Maté Stands and who should have been acknowledged.
The review already said it all – unfortunatley the documentary is not worth the fuss.
Brighton and Hove Psychotherapy says
Thank you for sharing your reply Elisa. Glad you liked my review.
Becky Henderson says
I have watched the film 3 times… Dr. Mate mentions very clearly that psychedelics be used with “adept therapy”, not on it’s own. He says several times that therapy and medicine need to be used together. Not one or the other. I feel you missed some very key points and use them as professional opinions. Which bothers me.
I never once believed he ever implied that this is all a quick fix. That his findings on his own trauma started the conversation into a better understanding in himself, which took work. It starts as an understanding and then you need to figure out from there.
The purpose of the film is to introduce a better knowledge of how trauma works within us. The system in Canada ignores trauma through all upbringing and addiction are treated with punishment and that only causes more trauma. The system needs to approach things a lot different… this film is just showing a piece of his work.
As for the cancer patient, my own husband was fighting stage 4 cancer and his cancer stopped growing along with chemo and removing stress. COVID took away his ability to fight the cancer stress free. Services were reduced which I believe should have never happened… and the stress took hold of his body allowing the cancer to take over. I 100% believe that if he still had the things available to him to be stress free, he would still be here with me. I truly believe that in my heart…. the system took that away in the name of COVID.
Brighton and Hove Psychotherapy says
Thank you for your comment Becky. Firstly, my condolences for the loss of your husband. There is an inextricable link between chronic illness and stress and it sounds like the stress of COVID exacerbated your husband’s condition. This was not disputed in my review. However, that Stage 4 cancer can be cured through meditation/ mindfulness and shamanic approaches is an unhelpful suggestion on the part of the documentary.
Re the use of psychedelics and ‘adept’ therapy – the jury remains out on this. The trials that have taken place show missed results with the benefits wearing off over some months and up to a year. Psychedelics are no substitute for damaged attachment patterns and relational trauma can only be healed in a lreationship (hence relational psychotherapy).
Lastly, there is little in the documentary that constitute Dr Mate’s ‘findings’. He is riding on the shoulders of a great many researchers, clinicians and neuroscientists – none of whom were mentioned.
I think it’s a shame that you have come away with such a negative view of this documentary and it has clearly left a bad taste in your mouth – you even note how gabor’s portrayal comparatively makes you and others in your field seem ‘ordinary’ which I don’t feel is the case. You may not agree with all of his opinions or methods but personally I am grateful that his fame has made trauma-informed practices more prevalent and accessible to the masses, as it is so important that we begin to address the roots of our societal trauma on a wider scale.
I work in homeless services and have found both Gabor’s work and this documentary relatable and thought-provoking, inspiring me to constantly re-evaluate my approach to frontline work and to my connection with extremely traumatised individuals. It doesnt appear to imply that a quick fix is possible but it is hopeful and optimistic in its outlook, which I feel is crucial to creating positive change. I’m not sure it is particularly healthy for clients to ‘form a dependent relationship on their therapist’ either but perhaps this was not what you meant?
I also don’t think the documentary was suggesting that the potential therapeutic benefits of psychedelics and alternative methods of healing physical ailments are either foolproof or the way forward for everyone; it was simply exploring those possibilities. However they are areas of research I’m particularly fascinated by so perhaps I’m biased…
Brighton and Hove Psychotherapy says
Thanks for taking the time to reply. No need to find ‘it a shame’ that the I do not think the documentary balanced or considered and is essentially narcissistic in nature – we are free to disagree.
I think you misconstrue the word, or my use, of ordinary. Dr Mate positions himself as some sort of guru and the reality is that there is nothing very original in his work in that it draws on many who have gone before him – he, however, fails to credit anybody else.
Re client dependence on a therapist – this is exactly what I mean. We call it ‘building up transference’ and it is an established principle that traumatised individuals can only move through relational trauma through being dependent in a relationship. True independence only comes via true dependence first. Attachment damages individuals have never been able to be dependent on another and so depend instead on substances or behaviours to regulate their emotions.
I think if you re-watch the documentary you will find that the section on psychedelics and the fact it was given this much significance essentially an advert for the use of these substances. Good for you that you are fascinated by these substances but they are no long term way out off trauma.
Shalini Cameron says
An interesting review..I wondered if you could clarify what you term’ ordinary ‘?..and ordinary psychotherapists??..
It seems you are suggesting Gabor isn’t an ordinary psychotherapist?
As an ethical therapist wouldn’t you agree that our work is to accept the unique and diverse humanness that makes us our own individual ‘ordinary ‘?
Of course the film was steered towards Gabor..it was about HIS work -HIS discoveries..not Freud or Bowlby etc..introduced this key pioneers into a short film that’s bears no relevance to his qualitative discovery..that is for another day and other training room ..
Going back to equality and diversity..as psychotherapists, we are encouraged to bring in other modalities that make out work congruent and authentic to us ..that’s exactly what he is doing ..interesting you name him a ‘guru’ ..why?..because he integrates psychedelic practices ,mindfulness and embraces spiritual..it is evident your culture and values are different to see ..but again ,surely as psychotherapists, we embrace the rich and diverse culture and ‘ordinary ‘ to him??
As for relational .i se nothing but relation in the film ..with this peers,students and clients..authentic..down to earth..real..humble (what a modest house and wife he has) for a man who made a documentary for showing off ..
Perhaps your own judgements..rather than understand is triggered here.and perhaps your own counter transference of the film and what it is about him that stirs in you
However,thank you for sharing your review and opinion. And as you have shared yours -I am sharing mine of yours
Brighton and Hove Psychotherapy says
Thank you for sharing your perspective on my blog. I shall try and answer your questions:
The term ordinary has a particular meaning in the world of analytical psychotherapy and is in contrast to being ‘special’ which is a narcissistic position. First off, I would not classify Dr Mate as a psychotherapist. He is a medical doctor with many years of working with chronic psychological trauma. He has positioned himself as a healer of sorts utilising a wide range of approaches including it would now seem psychedelics. I have concerns about how Dr Mate positions himself in the documentary as a sort of ‘guru’ on trauma and my references to this can be found in my blog.
I am unclear about what you are asking in your second question but if you are referring to working with a client’s experience then yes, providing that does not mean colluding with behaviour that is unhelpful. If I had a severely traumatised client who had a weak ego, I would strongly recommend they steal clear of using psychedelics for example. I would also quite possibly be wary of meditation in the traditional sense of the world as both the former and later can trigger a psychotic break.
Your third point is in contrast to the premise of my whole blog – none of these are Dr Mate’s discoveries. He is intimating they are but failing to recognised those who went before him. This was particularly apparent where no reference was made to the ACE study.
Fourth point – Dr Mate is of Hungarian descent. Culturally he does not come from the Amazon and so he has no cultural reference to using psychedelics. Psychedelic practices as espoused in the film have no place in psychotherapy. And integration on psychotherapy as a methodology does not include ‘spirituality’ but other psychological approaches.
We can Agee to differ. I am unaffected by the documentary as I can see it for what it is. My concern is that vulnerable people will start to believe that they should be able to shed their trauma by employing practices that may trigger psychosis. Secondly, as much as mindfulness is useful, it has to my knowledge never cured stage 4 cancer but I may be missing some peer reviewed studies that show I am wrong.
Thanks again for taking the time to write.
rachelle muschamp says
It’s really so interesting to see that people react sideways to Gabor and his message. Either they are blown away by it and work with it, or they see him as a self proclaimed Guru/ healer. Aka, get triggered by him.
Now, if you have the time, I suggest you meet up with a compassionate Inquiry practitioner and look at your feelings around Gabor. You could call it an experiment as a psychotherapist. If you have ever met Gabor or any of the people around him, you would know that he is extremely humble, does in no way want to be seen as a Guru, and never ever has stated that he invented the childhood trauma link. He just wants to educate as many people as possible about the root problem through compassionate Inquiry. He always explained where he gets his information from, he is super transparent and again, extremely humble. Something we all have to learn in my opinion.
Also I would point you in the direction of Bessel vd Kolk, Alice Miller, and of course a name you are extremely aware of, Judith Herman. These have written books that (if you want look a little beyond and be a little less judging) Gabor speaks of, and some of these people are his teachers. Like Peter Levine and many others. I understand that some of these names are not a real psychotherapist, and therefor will sometimes be frowned upon by the community, but change does do that. Yes the methods are not new, but it is about time we address this instead of popping everyone with meds and finishing a diagnose with “brain chemistry balance”. We should work together, be curious and inspired by everything. I mean in the end we all want the same right? Help those who are in need.
He never said he invented anything, nor that it can cure cancer. What he says is that the disease is trying to tell us something, which does not mean we should stop treatment. He explicitly says this.
Yes, I study with Gabor, so you could see me as biased. But, after decades of different therapist, psychiatrists, psychologists, and many others I never seemed to get to the root of re-accuring anxiety, ptsd issues and more. Compassionate Inquiry did more for me, as for thousands of others atm than regular psychotherapy. And I am extremely blessed to study this method.
It is about time that we look at the psyche through a more spiritual lens, that we adres trauma in a way that we have failed for many decades, and also that we see how big pharmaceuticals are in charge. And without using a right or wrong story, these are just facts. So what are we going to do about that?
I truly invite you to try it for yourself. Like I said, for the sake of an experiment. No need to share it with anyone if you do not want to. Just try it out 🙂 If you wanted to make a review about the movie, and you are perceiving Gabor to make it around himself, it could have helped if you did a little more research instead of criticising someone who is just like you, helping people.
Wishing you all the best!
Brighton and Hove Psychotherapy says
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on Gabor (as you refer to him) on our website. You make some interesting points but I think firstly we should agree that the review I wrote was about the documentary ‘The Wisdom of Trauma’. I think you missed this fact. Your comment is a defence of Dr Mate’s work from someone who studies with him. I have no interest in commenting on Dr Mate as a person beyond how he comes across in the film. As it happens I have read most of Dr Mate’s books and have found them of interest even where I disagreed.
Your first paragraph should raise some ‘red flags’ even for you – why would people be either ‘blown away’ by him or see him as a ‘guru/healer’? Most clinicians do not create this type of split – and yet most guru’s do…
Let’s remain on topic which is the documentary. Most, if not all folks, watching this oeuvre will be doing so from a lay perspective and with no prior knowledge of Gabor or his work. Therefore it is important to consider the message and implications of the documentary on face value.
On face value, Gabor makes correlations and implies causation between psychedelics and healing from trauma which I see as a dangerous position to publicly espouse. I have no idea whether you are clinically trained, however, if you are and have worked with patents who have suffered psychotic breaks from trying to ‘self heal’ through using psychedelics, you would understand that this comes across as somewhat irresponsible, even if Gabor does not mean it to.
You are correct that he did not specifically claim to have invented anything, but nor did he reference where the ACE study came from and the thousands of hours of work that went into this study which had nothing to do with him. In fact, he ferenced nobody else which was interesting.
Having spent four years working at the coal face of palliative care in a psychotherapy capacity (in a hospice setting) I and my colleagues would be concerned about the implication (I use that word specifically and carefully) that a man with stage 4 cancer can go into remission through spiritual practice. You can’t cure cancer with carrots or meditation. That said meditation is important and has its place, just not as a cancer cure.
As to whether it is ‘about time we look at the psyche through more spiritual lens’ you are stating a value proposition here. I do not like the word ‘spiritual’ as, frankly, I have no idea what it means and it seems to mean something different to everyone I encounter. I prefer ‘meaning’ as a word as it removes the expectation for people to believe in deities or gurus.
A basic tenet of my profession is to ‘do no harm’. Practices that may seem harmless like meditation, can in some instances, push a person into psychosis. I am therefore very careful about espousing them as something all should engage with. I saw no reference to any sort of risk assessment with traumatised patients as to the integrity and strength of their ego with regards to starting a meditative practice.
Lastly, I am very familiar with Levine and Van De Kolk’s work as well as many, many others. None of these people seem to evoke the same extremes of emotional response as Gabor does – ‘saint’ or ‘sinner’. I wonder why that is?
Wishing you all the best too.
Alex W says
What a fascinating discussion. Appreciate the effort invested in writing the helpful review and the measured response to different viewpoints on the blog. And the decision of whether to invest my time watching the film has been resolved.
One question I have from reading the blog was why those with a weak ego may be at heightened risk of harm from meditative practices, psychedelics etc? Could you elaborate further plz? By the term weak ego, are you referring to a weak sense of self, or is there another meaning?
Many thanks Al
Brighton and Hove Psychotherapy says
Many thanks for taking the time to write a comment and ask the question you have – it’s an important question. A weak ego is similar to a weak sense of self but on a psychological level goes deeper. Someone with a weak ego or lack of ego strength is likely to struggle between prohibitive thoughts (superego) and impulse control (id). Having a strong enough ego means having the ability to think about what one is feeling and to know the difference between your own thoughts and those of another. It is the capacity to remain tethered to reality.
Those with a weak sense of self and thus a weak ego have no ego to lose through meditation of psychedelic trips and thus rather than getting in touch with something in the collective unconscious that they can bear, they may fragment – clinically become psychotic.
Paradoxically it is often those with weak egos that seek ways to ‘heal’ that may do them more harm than good. A solid sense of self and thus a robust ego is developed though relationship at a developmental stage. If this goes awry, then open-ended psychotherapy aims to help the patient or client construct this from the therapeutic relationship.
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Thank you so much for your review of “The Wisdom of Trauma”. I came across this site after having completed “The Myth of Normal” which I thoroughly enjoyed. I haven’t watched the film yet, but, interestingly, your review matched my impression of the book. It was written in Malcolm Gladwell style: unlike academic work in psychology (which tends to be more tentative in its conclusions) the statements were much more authorative and ‘black and white’. While the situations described are clearly not as clearcut, easy and neat as the book makes it out to be I didn’t mind. In this way it likely gets more people to question their views (especially about parenting, education and society) – which I think is more important than to highlight all nuances.
The book seemed to become less backed by research as it progressed. Similar to you, I became really concerned when it came to the part on psychedelics and spirituality. Here, the references to scientific studies became replaced by pseudo-science. It very much mirrors what you wrote about the film. In fact, I found it so cringeworthy that I was tempted to stop multiple times.
There was one aspect towards the end of your review which – based on my personal experience of dealing with CPTSD – I could not relate to: “the traumatised part of the patient (client) needs to overcome resistance and form a dependent relationship on their therapist”
In working with therapists over 15 years I was unable to get beyond a certain, quite superficial point. Instead, I had an aha-moment after reading Bessel Van Der Kolk’s book: His thesis that CPTSD manifests preverbally suddenly clarified as to why therapy had not worked for me. I had attempted to explain on more than one occasion during therapy that I myself could not access what I knew was at the core, that I was unable to describe it and needed the therapist’s help to access it. It was because it was in my preverbal memory!
Based on my experience, a dependent relationship on the therapist is not a necessary requirement for overcoming CPTSD. I am now convinced that reactions manifested in early, early childhood cannot be worked out through verbal interactions with a second person/through transference. As a highly functioning individual at work and in social interactions, who has perfected the coping mechanism developed in response to early, prolonged trauma (disconnect from self paired with being highly competent in adopting situation-appropriate responses) I have found “talking therapy” largely ineffective. Non-verbal forms of therapy, including the self-insight questions provided by Gabor Maté towards the end of “The Myth of Normal” have been much more effective at getting me to re-connect the dissociated parts of my self.
It has affirmed my belief that different forms of trauma therapy can be appropriate. For some, quick fixes like cognitive behavioural approaches might work, for others more longterm, psychodynamic approaches might be required, for some indigeneous approaches might work best, others might need medication or a combination of approaches. Assuming that it has to be one type of process can be very frustrating and discouraging if it is not the right one for the person – and leave the person feeling defeated if they are not aware that there are different ways.
Brighton and Hove Psychotherapy says
Thank you so much for taking the time to both read my review any for writing such a considered response. We seem largely on the same page re how Gabor Mate can come across and his definitive approach to dealing with trauma.
I wanted to spend a little more copy space acknowledging your points in the second part of your comments. I too have read Vasn Der Kolks books and have a mixed perspective on them. On the one hand they are very useful in considering alternative and embodied approaches to trauma. On the pother, he seems to have a limited understanding of depth psychotherapy.
I read with interest and sadness (to some degree) your experience of pre-verbal trauma and that this cannot be accessed through talking therapy. Psychoanalytically speaking this is exactly what we work with as these early experiences are stored in the unconscious and conveyed in the relationship (transference and counter-transference).
I take the position (which is now increasingly underpinned by neuroscience) that damage that happens in relationship can only be fixed in relationship. That is the goal of the psychotherapy that I practice.
However, you are correct that ‘one size does not fit all’ and nor should it. I am glad that you found a way to work through your trauma and experience – that is ultimately all that matters.
It is rare that depth psychotherapy in the way I offer it is unhelpful to patients – not because I am anything special, but because I apply my training and the frame rigorously. However, should it not, then I shall always support a patient in finding what they feel may work for them – as long as I consider it safe. In the case of psychedelics, I believe the traumatised and vulnerable are the last people who should be venturing down this path.
I wish you well and thanks again for your contribution!
THANK YOU SO MUCH for your article. This documentary seems to follow the basic rule book of emotional appellation, opening and closing with close-ups of babies and smiling elderly people. I hoped at first it was just a mediocre piece of storytelling, but after listening to “Dr” Mate live after the launch of this documentary in Berlin, it became clear to me that the filmmakers were not the only ones to blame. Dr Mate seems to think all other doctor are stupid. It is clear that there are correlations between trauma, nature, nurture, genetics, and so on, and those have been spoken and studied. But, as you said, correlation doesn’t mean causation. Gabor borders pseudoscience when he determines every disease as a result of trauma. I’ve heard him say at this speech in Berlin that Steve Jobs had cancer because he had issues with his mom. I was shocked. He never even met Steve Jobs. How can a physician claim such things without ever meeting the patient? I feel sorry for all those who suffer of cancer, being blamed for not having solved their traumas and therefore gifted with this disease.
I hope more doctors like you gather together to expose that a lot of claims from Gabor Maté dont hold any scientific value. I would love if a group of peers lists his claims and point the inconsistencies. But on another hand, who has the time to spend on this amount of book-selling crap?
Again, thank you.
Brighton and Hove Psychotherapy says
Thank you for your comments. I am glad you found the article useful. Dr Mate is clearly a divisive figure and his latest decision to interview Prince Harry and ‘diagnose’ him on a livestream broadcast has brought further criticism to his approach by many.
I found your open and honest response to Dr Mate’s incredibly insightful. Having read a considerable amount of his material, and listened to a number of his talks, I was left filled with doubt as to his own authenticity as a practitioner. I personally take a dim view of his certainty as to the causal link between emotional trauma and systemic illness. Futhermore, his assertion (in his mind, it’s an indisputable fact) that ADHD and other neurological disorders arise as a direct result of previous emotional trauma is not only irresponsible but dangerous. Dr Mate is NOT a neurologist nor a geneticist and therefore I feel it is both reckless and cursory to make such sweeping statements without sufficient scientific evidence to back them up. During one of his talks, he referenced the excessively caring and self sacrificial personality type, and made mention of the fact that people in that category “get cancer.” Again, where is the empirical evidence? His theories bely his status as a physician, and are bordering on pseudoscience. The egocentric way in which he instantly translates his beliefs into facts is in my opinion a significant cause for concern in itself. His self styled (not to mention incredibly rich) “guru” status makes it even harder to view his work with anything but a hefty pinch of cynicism.
Brighton and Hove Psychotherapy says
Thank you for taking the time to write such a thoughtful and considered reply to my piece. I share your views and these have recently been compounded by Dr Mate’s interview with Prince Harry where a diagnosis of Harry was offered on air – and surprise, surprise, it was ADHD…
I am in full agreement with you. I was incredulous over that one. ADHD is a complex neurological disorder and one that requires a meticulous diagnostic approach. I have extensive personal experience of the condition and its array of implications, and the way Mate “diagnosed” Harry was appalling. He was not equipped to do so. He had zero clinical data with which to base a diagnosis upon. It was nothing more than random clumsiness. Harry had been traumatised at a young age, therefore in Dr Mate’s eyes, he would automatically be ADD/ADHD. What would Dr Mate say to all those individuals who had had trauma free early years but who are still diagnosed with ADHD? I think it’s fairly safe to assume that he would ascribe it to either unacknowledged trauma or trauma denial. Once again, thank you for writing such a thought provoking piece.