What Psychotherapists Should Know about Disability
Rambo, Anne, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy
Olkin, R. (1999). What psychotherapists should know about disability. New York: Guilford, 368pp., $35.00
The title, the plain cover, which has an abstracted design of a wheelchair, and the author's calm, reasoned tone of voice initially disguise what a revolutionary book this is. It is one of the few books on psychotherapy that I can safely promise you will not be able to read without having your therapy practice, and at least some of how you look at the world, changed forever. The author is a professor of clinical psychology at the California School of Professional Psychology. In addition, she is on the staff of Through the Looking Glass, a Berkeley agency serving families with disabilities, and on the staff of the National Resource Center for Parents with Disablities. In addition, she is a survivor of polio and is married to a man with multiple sclerosis. In her life, as in her practice and her research, she thus identifies with the minority community of those who identify themselves as having disabilities.
On one level, the book is a practical guide to working with disabled clients without misjudging them, misdiagnosing them, or unwittingly offending them-and the author provides numerous good-humored examples of how psychotherapists too often manage to do all three. With this goal in mind, the author gives clear, descriptive examples of what is likely to be useful and what is not. I did find these suggestions for the most part quite helpful and practical; I do not know of another book where one can find such specific instructions as `You don't need to worry about word choices.. examples might be, `Do you see what I mean?" to a person with a visual impairment," but on the other hand "Don't touch someone's assistive device (wheelchair, voice computer, prosthetics, crutches, etc.) without permission .... Touching the device is like touching the person, even if the person has no physical contact with the device at the moment" (pp. 193-194). Her tone of voice is matter of fact and often humorous: "Wheelchairs are like one's legs, and I can only presume you don't rub a client's legs" (p. …