Critical Analysis Essay

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Elaine Kenny English 1121 Professor Shal March 26, 2010 An Analysis of Vaillant’s “We Should Retain the Disease Concept of Alcoholism” George Vaillant, M.D., psychiatrist and Director of Adult Development at Harvard University, is an expert in the field of alcoholism and has published extensively on the subject. In August 1990, the Harvard Medical School Mental Health Letter published his essay “We Should Retain the Disease Concept of Alcoholism,” in which he stated that alcoholism can rightly be called a disease because long-term abuse of alcohol creates medical conditions that are directly attributable to disability and even death (544) and that classifying it as a disease would facilitate successful treatment (545). (The first several sentences of this introduction gives the reader the attribution of the article as well as information about the topic that Vaillant wrote about. The statement that follows highlights the main idea or thesis of the the article.) Vaillant argued that the perception of alcoholism as solely a behavior was incorrect, was held by those who lacked direct experience with treatment for alcoholism, and was dependent on the value judgments of “less competent people” (543). (What follows is the student-writer’s thesis which is an evaluation of the effectiveness of the article.)Dr. Vaillant’s essay is effective and persuasive. He accurately compares alcoholism to other disease processes and credibly addresses the objections of his detractors with logic and understated emotional appeals. However, he does not lend much credence to other disciplines such as psychotherapy that are also effective in the alcoholic’s overall recovery, and his failure to consider a multidisciplinary approach to treatment could cause some readers to dismiss his otherwise excellent essay as one-sided or partisan.

Kenny - 2 Dr. Vaillant wrote to address the published opinions of other experts who disagreed with the medical model of alcoholism. (The paragraph begins...
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