Transcultural psychotherapy studies the relationship between mental health and culture. The current society, mobile and pluralistic, places the individual in front of new and complex challenges: cognitive, affective, psychic, spiritual ... and the transcultural therapist is trained to grasp the complexity inherent in each individual person.
The relationship between cultural changes, adaptation processes and development of new mental pathologies finds the necessary correspondence in the renewal of individual care practices and community intervention. Psychoanalysis and anthropology are therefore the sciences of reference, to grasp the psychic structure produced by local culture. This reality, more evident for foreigners present in Italy, also characterizes the indigenous population.
The cross-cultural reading of human experience recognizes its origins in the first half of the 1900s, when scholars from different disciplines (psychologists, sociologists, psychoanalysts, anthropologists, linguists ...) begin to wonder about the influence of context, daily experience and practices cultural activities on the individual and social development of the person. From the studies on "culture and personality" that in the USA have involved illustrious names such as, Frank, Kardiner, Dollard, Fromm, Mead, Sapir, to Malinowski's research in Cuba, the transcultural approach (originally "transculturaciòn", a term coined for first time by Ortiz, and then taken up by Maliniowski) was born as a reflection on the influence of daily contacts between cultures on the process of building identity and personality, contacts during which each subject gives and takes something to the other. Within this nosological framework, transcultural psychotherapy was born a few decades later, which originates from the thought of Georges Devereux, a Hungarian psychoanalyst and ethnologist who migrated to the USA in the 1940s. Devereux, in his long and rich psycho-anthropological research, clearly reveals the complexity of the links between culture and individual, and the implications that derive from them for the understanding and treatment of psychic suffering. According to the author, only by becoming aware of the inevitable influence of the observer on the observed can the cross-cultural relationship between patient and therapist originate, in which transference and cultural countertransference play a leading role. At the same time, different cultural (or disciplinary) visions of the same experience will require a complementary approach, establishing a double discourse in which the reading of the suffering of the individual can take advantage of different explanations that cannot be integrated but which will in any case contribute to giving a vision. richer than the situation in question. Having discovered the dynamics of culture as the foundation of psychism (for everyone, Western and non-Western), Devereux says that the transcultural therapist does not need to study the thousand cultures of the world, but can use the knowledge of what culture itself is to treat various pathologies that he encounters from time to time. In the mid-1900s, interest in the theme of culture developed in Italy starting from the rapid socio-economic changes of the post-war period, with particular attention to internal migration processes and to neighboring Switzerland. Ernesto De Martino's work dates from this period and, with regard to the experience of migrants from the countryside to large industries, he coined the term "crisis of presence". At the same time Michele Risso studies the experience of cultural shock that workers from Southern Italy suffer in Switzerland. In a more purely psychiatric setting, in 1972 Luigi Frighi called Rosalba Terranova-Cecchini to write a chapter of his text of Mental Hygiene (1972): it is the first treatment in Italy of transcultural relational forms.