George Devereux's Transcultural Psychology

George Devereux's Transcultural Psychology

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

Childhood is not only a stage characterized by pink nuances. Children also have certain discomforts that are usually transmitted by their family environment, symptoms that can be transformed into diseases by not being approached from the child's self, and from a continuous dialogue that allows him to understand who he is.


  • 1 Types of therapy according to George Devereux
  • 2 Transcultural Psychology, basic foundations
  • 3 Ontological Matrix: its nature
  • 4 Etiological matrix: giving meaning to the disorder
  • 5 Matrix of doing: think and act

Types of therapy according to George Devereux

Against this background, the precursor of the ethnopsicoanalysis George Devereux from the defined contributions of psychology and anthropology, it bases the theoretical bases 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 their patient's culture 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

Also, Devereux is the pioneer in the conceptualization of cultural media for therapeutic purposes. For her cross-cultural psychology is based on two axes: The first is the beginning of the psychic universality that defines the human being, to its psychic functioning and will be the same for all, which allows establishing the need to give the same ethical and scientific regulation to all human beings, including their mental and cultural productions, their ways of living and thinking, although on different occasions Be upset. It should be noted that announcing this principle can become redundant for the implicit results of some “scientific” research that remind us that this principle is not always respected.

To which Devereux will suggest that there is a universality from functioning and processes, a pragmatic and structural universality. Given that if every man tends to the universal, he can only do so from the particular of his culture. The second is the methodological principle called complementismo consists in not excluding any method or theory but in combining them; According to this principle, some human phenomena must not be integrated forcefully into the field of psychoanalysis or in the field of anthropology, 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 may serve as a methodological alternative in the infant-teacher relationship. It should be noted that the study of therapies of parents and children in a situation of migration 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 of 1994 these are:

Ontological Matrix: its nature

Is that which designates the representation of the child's parents, their nature or, as Devereux would say, the nature of the infant as they imagine it, fantasize it, adults and parents. Making the nature of their identity, their origin, the modalities of their development of their needs and family ties. This type of representation will determine how the child's social and cultural relations will be.

Etiological matrix: giving meaning to the disorder

It is characterized by give a culturally acceptable sense to the relationships of parents and children. Without forgetting that the etiological theories are contained within a structured system that allows to determine the culturally representable coincidences and senses.

Matrix of doing: think and act

It is established from the previous matrices as a therapeutic act by someone culturally enabled to make sense how; a teacher, healer, midwife, priest, etc. These therapeutic actions are internally related to the cultural air and sometimes with 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 and 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, brothers, grandparents and significant characters from his present history and from the one in which he 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 against 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 like Colombia, that there are minority groups, excluded or marginalized that share other codes, other representations, other meanings; a co-construction of the child's representation should be made. Without this start, all work based on children is impossible because if there is no common commitment between professionals and parents, talking about the same child will not know what their need is and the reason for their discomfort.

So that,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. What does that mean? the majority of discomforts children suffer are the result of not understanding the needs they are going through Among those that are counted: their origin, their tastes, their questions, their fears, their dreams, etc. The key will remain the same as putting oneself in the child's place, otherwise the world will continue singing the anthem of children with discomforts that end up becoming diseases.


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