Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

Talking about Therapy

Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

Talking about Therapy

Article excerpt

DONNA D. COMAROW AND MARTHA W, CHESCHEIR: Talking About Therapy. Bergin and Garvey, Westport, CT, 1999,217 pp., $26.95, ISBN 0-89789-537-1.

It is generally understood that psychotherapists, during the course of their professional careers, receive their formal training principally from their instructors, supervisors, training analysts, and from reading scholarly psychological texts. It should require no act of condescension or disingenuousness, however, for therapists to acknowledge that their preeminent teachers and mentors are their very patients. Given the inherent richness and complexity of the psychotherapeutic enterprise, all patients possess the unique potential to broaden and enrich the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom of their therapists-often, of course without realizing how well they themselves actually fulfill this potential. In Talking About Therapy, Comarow and Chescheir have collected vignettes told by psychotherapy patients about their experiences in treatment. These poignant and fascinating vignettes, if carefully heeded by therapists, can teach much about the general fears, aspirations, vulnerabilities, and courage of people who enter psychotherapy.

The chapters of this book are organized by discrete decades, beginning with the 1940s and extending through the 1990s. In introducing each chapter, the authors provide a sociopolitical context by highlighting the major social and political events and trends of the decade. This is a handy literary device for it enables readers to more richly understand the salient social forces that impinged upon and shaped both the personalities of the patients, as well as the diverse therapies they had undergone in each decade.

As for the patients, they are a rather diverse group of people who answered the authors' published queries asking for volunteers to be interviewed about their priornot current-experiences in psychotherapy or psychoanalysis. Volunteers from a wide range of professions and thirty-four states proffered their narratives. Regrettably, there is a paucity of information about the ethnicity of the patients, although one draws the clear inference from the accounts that these former patients are predominantly white and placeable in the middle and upper-middle classes. To some extent, this detracts from an otherwise excellent book because one does not gain a perspective here of how those patients from the lower socioeconomic strata, who tend to undergo psychotherapy in public clinics, perceived and evaluated their treatment. …

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