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Here are some of the reviews I've written over the years for different journals

Pete Sanders & Paul Wilkins (2010) 'First Steps in Practitioner Research - A guide to understanding and doing research in counselling and health and social care'. PCCS Books, Ross-on-Wye. ISBN 978 1 898059 73 8. £18.95 (pb). 317pp.

Although this book is explicitly "about, and for, absolute beginners" (p.v), I think that it could be of interest to all readers of Counselling and Psychotherapy Research because it is as comprehensive as one book can be about the whys, whats and hows of introducing research into counselling practice. Certainly any practitioner who is about to undertake their first foray into research; any trainer who has students needing research instruction; even any practitioner who is happily pottering along thinking that they don?t need to trouble themselves with research, because it's irrelevant to them, would find this book to be of great benefit and wisdom. I guess that like any good researcher, I have to declare a bias at this point. I like the PCCS stable of publications. I have reviewed a number of their books, and find them to be well crafted and mostly well produced. This book is no exception. It forms the latest addition to the popular "Steps" series of books, and as with the others in the series, it has a particular style, both of writing and of presentation. The style of writing, in contrast to many such books, does not follow the usual conventions of academic writing which fact contributes to a style that is unpretentious and accessible, and certainly resonates well with this reviewer, whose PhD thesis was criticised by an academic supervisor for being too literary in style, but then received the accolade from both internal and external examiners "unlike other PhD theses we've seen, this one was a joy to read." The presentation also contributes to the accessibility of the book, since each page has an exaggerated margin within which are to be found references to the works quoted in the text - much easier than having to turn to the end of the chapter or the end of the book and searching through the references list to find the one(s) you are interested in consulting further. This referencing user-friendliness is further enhanced by the generosity of the authors (Pete Sanders is also the founder of PCCS Books) in giving directions and password to a protected area of the PCCS website, where the reader can find live links and/or copy and paste capability for much of the information found in the margins, including the references. The margins also contain a wealth of further information, such as a glossary of jargon terms that are necessarily used on that page, and a selection of notes which either illustrate anecdotally from life, research or practice or offer further explanation of points made in the text, often being a signpost to works offering a greater depth of exploration than can be covered within a generalist introduction such as this work. The only quibble I had with this use of the margins was that on a few occasions, where the same work was quoted or cited more than once on the same page, the full reference was also, unnecessarily, I think, included alongside each mention in the text (e.g. p 148). Once per page would have been sufficient, and especially so when, on p158, in a discussion of the value of case studies, the work of Freud, Piaget and Osgood was mentioned, but with no reference to help me to locate Osgood, in which I was interested. A similar deficit was to be found on p 93, when talking about statistics "If you want ... you will have to get another book (see margin)". Sadly, although the margin gave further elaboration, it did not suggest a suitable other book. The book is sensibly and logically structured, starting with the question "What is research and why bother?", before exploring the answers in a pretty comprehensive way. Although there is a clear bias towards qualitative research, the authors include a significant discourse on quantitative research before embarking on the much fuller exploration of qualitative approaches and how to work effectively, professionally and ethically with them. In the most accessible manner I have encountered, the authors give suggestions for everything necessary to get started on a research project - from how to think about the most suitable approach for what you want to achieve, to how to collect meaningful data/stories and what then to do with it/them, to how to present the findings to the profession, finally finishing with an appendix that tells the budding researcher click by click how to use power-point to draw graphs and charts. It also gives the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches and everyday examples that are helpful for the novice in demystifying research. Unfortunately, I have to mention my biggest quibble, a ubiquitous one these days, in that it applies to almost every new book I have read in the past few years. All the way through this book, it is dotted with typographical and grammatical errors (I counted 16, but was not reading it as a proof-reader, so there could be more). This is particularly sad when, in the acknowledgements, specific reference is made to the hard work of the copy editor and proof-reader. Notwithstanding these errors, these authors have shown their mastery of their subject by producing a book that is the book I wish I had had when I started out in research - simple, easy to read yet comprehensive enough to get the beginner through to publication. I strongly recommend this book.

Written for Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 2010

 

Ascending Spiral -- Humanity's Last Chance by Bob Rich.

Although I've never physically met Bob Rich, the author of this fascinating book, we've known each other online for about 10 years and have collaborated on a book on cancer survivorship. During that time I've come to know Bob as a wise, caring, compassionate and deeply spiritual human being, passionate about matters that are truly important -- the emotional health of other humans, the ecological wellbeing of the planet, living sustainably - and the astute reader may well recognise this description as applying to Dr Pip Lipkin, the main protagonist of Ascending Spiral. The work is described as a novel, but that immediately places it into a category, and I do not think that this unique book can be categorised. Indeed, I disagree with one of the reviewers quoted in the book itself, who describes it as genre-busting -- rather, I would call it genre-defying, since it contains elements of fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, spirituality, history, ecology and a very large dose of autobiography. The storyline is about the evolution of the soul of the being that becomes Pip Lipkin over 12000 years -- which might seem like sci fi to some, but not to those of us who have been around enough times to realise that life is a school, and the curriculum is too big for one lifetime, so we keep on coming back until the lessons are learned and wisdom is achieved. This is where Pip has now got to. He has done bad things in his past lives. He has paid the price in other lives. He has learned from his actions, and he now has the realisation that "There are two kinds of people on this planet -- Greenies and Suicides." Our currently unsustainable way of living in the 'developed' world has to stop and be replaced by a much more ecologically sound lifestyle, otherwise humanity is finished -- and within Pip's lifetime. This is one of those irritating books that is so compelling that the other things that were planned get sidelined, because you don't want to stop reading it. I thoroughly recommend it as essential reading for every person on the planet, and that way, we might all just continue to live here.

Written for Bob Rich and various review sites, 2013

 

William West (Ed.) (2011) 'Exploring Therapy, Spirituality and Healing'. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, Hants., UK. ISBN 978 0 230 55406 1. £22.99 (pb). 252pp.

Like any good researcher, I must first declare some biases. I know William West, having studied for my MA at Keele at the same time as him. I trained as a healer before I started training as a counsellor and arranged for many of my nursing staff in the NHS to be trained in Therapeutic Touch; I have been involved in spiritual exploration since I was a teenager and am now one of the original members of the Spiritual Companions network. Spirituality is a way of life and is therefore something which influences all aspects of one's life, and my approach to counselling is to deliberately set the intention of creating a healing environment within my counselling room. Naturally, a book with this title and edited by this editor sparked my interest, and I looked forward with eager anticipation to receiving it and exploring how other practitioners approached the sometimes tricky ethical and professional aspects of working as a spiritually aware, healer therapist. Overall, I was not disappointed. The book is divided into 14 chapters, with 14 authors or co-authors, divided into 3 sections - therapy and spirituality, therapy and healing; research and practice, and each chapter ends with a useful list of suggested discussion points. These are not only useful to stimulate discussion amongst a meeting of counsellors, such as in a supervision/peer support group or in a classroom situation, but also for an individual practitioner to reflect upon. The book is intended for anyone who is interested in therapy, spirituality and healing, but primarily for therapists/care workers of all types and for researchers, since the book is very much research and practice based, and all of the contributors are practitioners and researchers. At least in part, the purpose of the book is to further the work that West has already begun (eg see West 1995, 1998, 2000) in opening up the discussion around spirituality and therapy - "I have played a modest part in the whole process of making it more possible to talk about spirituality within therapy." (p.3). I think that the book largely succeeds in this, although with such a vast subject, the coverage is inevitably superficial in places and there are some significant omissions. The book begins with an underlying context that many clients and practitioners are discouraged from openly acknowledging their spirituality either in therapy sessions or in clinical supervision. This has not been my experience, either as a therapist or supervisor, nor, as far as I am aware as a client or supervisee. Unfortunately, it seems to have been the experience of many. Brian Thorne speaks of this antipathy in his foreword, William West speaks of it in his introduction and elsewhere, and in Chapter 2, Chris Jenkins describes his research into the consequences for clients when their spirituality is denied in therapy. Other research (Stokes, 2006) is quoted where the counsellor held the desire to £free clients from the fantasy of God"(p.36). Not only do I agree with Jenkins that this is unethical, I find it to be incredibly arrogant of the therapist to seek to impose their own views of the world on their client. Given that such attitudes seem to exist, then this book is long overdue. Terry Biddington, in Chapter 3, gives a useful, though necessarily limited, discussion of the tensions and issues around pastoral care and counselling and Chapter 4, logically follows the theme by looking at prayer in counselling. This chapter certainly caused me to question, reflect on and ponder my views, feelings and practice. Vivino and Thompson, in Chapter 5, explore the influence of compassion in therapy, and conclude that it is a healing force in and of itself, and therefore warrants more research and more attention in training. I like their statement on p. 88 that "compassion incorporates the potential of who the person can become" They also pose the discussion point of what is the difference or similarity between compassion, empathy and sympathy? For me, compassion is what I feel when your pain touches my love and sympathy is what I feel when your pain touches my fear (I wish that hadn't happened to you, but if it had to happen to someone, I'm glad it was you and not me!) I think that empathy occurs in the presence of the open heart and loving mind of compassion. With the exception of Chapter 6, which I found to be written in a style that left me unclear about what the author was saying, I found the book to be an easy read, and proof that academic writing does not have to be tortuous to be credible (I was once told that if, when you read your work, you thought "my God, this is boring", then you had probably got the style about right). Perhaps inevitably, it is not all good. In a work that explores spirituality within the context of psychological therapies, I find it curious that there is no mention of either Psychosynthesis, which is widely recognised as the first of the psychotherapeutic approaches to include the transpersonal aspect of life, or of Core Process Psychotherapy, which is explicitly Buddhist in its founding philosophy. Nor is there mention of Spiritual Emergency or Crisis, other than an anecdote by West in the introduction (p. 1), an omission that I found disappointing. Despite explicit warnings about conflating religion and spirituality, this occurred in a number of places, one example (and there are several others), being on p. 201, where West is looking at further research and suggesting that "studies focusing on particular spiritual or healing interventions." would be useful. He rightly includes things that are explicitly religious, such as prayer and reference to scripture, and things that are spiritual, but outside of religion, such as spiritual relaxation, but then includes religious bibliotherapy rather than spiritual bibliotherapy. There are the ubiquitous (these days) typos and other inaccuracies, which are sometimes severe enough to obscure meaning. Notwithstanding these matters, this book is a welcome addition to the literature on the much neglected realm of spirituality and therapy. It is research based, with many chapters being descriptive of research undertaken by the author(s), and section 3 is devoted to research and practice issues, opening with an acknowledgement that whilst researching therapy alone is challenging, adding spirituality into the mix makes it very much more so. West examines, albeit not at a great depth, but sufficiently to stimulate further thinking, some of the attitudinal and methodological issues around researching spirituality and therapy. It should be on the essential reading list of trainees and experienced practitioners alike.

Refs:- West, W. (1995) 'Integrating Psychotherapy and Healing.' Doctoral Thesis, Department of Applied Social Studies, University of Keele.

West, W. (1998) 'Therapy as a Spiritual Process.' In C. Feltham (ed.) Witness and Vision of the Therapists. London, Sage.

West, W. (2000) Psychotherapy and Spirituality - Crossing the Line between Therapy and Religion. London, Sage.

Written for Counselling and Psychotherapy Research 2012

 

 Paul Gordon 'The Hope of Therapy' PCCS Books, Ross-on-Wye. 2009 ISBN 978 1 906254 11 7

Unusually, I want to start this review with an expression of thanks to the editor, who sent the book to me unbidden, with a note saying 'I thought you might be interested in reviewing this, if not, no worries.' I really valued reading this work, despite a few quibbles and one large disagreement (of which more later). I found the book to be erudite, philosophically rigorous and yet immensely readable - a rarity in the realm of intellectually stimulating books, many of which lose their worthwhile message in the obscurity of their prose - or at least, they do when the reader is a simple soul such as myself. The fundamental premise of this book is that therapy is an inherently ethical activity which owes more to art and creative endeavour than it does to science and technique/specialist knowledge; it is a conversation, albeit a particular type of conversation, and as such it is a social activity rather than a medical/paramedical activity of the shape that current government policy is mistakenly attempting to legislate it into; it is a hopeful activity, carrying hope for the individual to be able to live life in a way which they find both more fulfilling and which makes more sense of their experiences throughout life. It also carries hope for a better world. From this brief description of Gordon's thesis, it will be clear that this book is, at least in part, (though it is more than just this) a further addition to the growing library of books arguing the case against statutory (state) control and regulation of therapy - a library that is conspicuous by the absence of a single volume in the 'Case for Statutory Regulation' section - and the book itself embodies the principles for which it argues. As Gordon says in his preface "Art can only flourish if it is free" This book is written as a plea for therapists freedom " along with the immense responsibility that it inevitably carries." (p. vii). This latter phrase is important, because whilst this book is about the hope of (and possibly for) therapy, it does not shy away from either the pitfalls of incompatible yet co-existent theories and examples of lamentable practice by assorted therapists. (I always think it is a salutary reminder of the potential for harm that therapy carries to remember the product of splitting the word therapist into two words!) The book is structured in a way that progressively develops the thesis over six chapters - 'The ethical space of therapy'; 'The limitless conversation'; 'The space of therapy'; 'An aesthetics for therapy'; 'A poetics for therapy'; 'The hope of therapy', and although the book is only 126 pages long, including the preface, each of these aspects is covered with sufficient depth to offer a cogent validation of the arguments proposed. The ethical space of therapy opens (p9) with an acknowledgement that 'it is an awesome responsibility to be asked to care for the soul of another' - the literal translation of psychotherapy, and an empathising with therapists who, when faced with such a challenge, meet it by becoming ever more distant from the human reality that confronts them, and by escaping into ever more developed theories and techniques. In a way that is accessible and meaningful for the everyday reader, Gordon then develops this theme, through reference to a number of writers and philosophers - Lomas, Smail, Levinas, Poole and Taylor, amongst others, before concluding (p19) that to avoid the fear and risk of truly meeting the other by hiding behind theory and ready-made maps and frameworks (sounds familiar, doesn't it) is to do a form of violence to that other person. The chapter then concludes with a brief exploration of, and plea for, what he calls practical wisdom in therapy 'a general ability to do the appropriate thing, at the appropriate time, in the appropriate way' for that particular relationship (p21) something which demands real and honest meeting. Drawing again on the thoughts of a number of philosophers and other writers, in the second chapter, Gordon explores the meaning of conversation and especially in relation to therapy, pointing out that conversation has its roots in being with, keeping company with, another whereas discussion has its roots in breaking up, analysing and 'batting ideas back and forth'. In terms of therapy, conversation enables a person to experience him or herself as authentic, to hear who they are as they hear themselves speaking, and to be valued as they are heard - a very different notion to that of discussion, where the protagonists batting ideas around do so with one purpose, to win. Gordon's therapeutic stance is, he says, neither neutral nor detached, but predicated on a conversation where 'truth-telling is experienced as a duty' (p39) and where truthfulness is a form of trustworthiness which enables difficult things to be said in an appropriate manner. Of course, this conversation has to happen somewhere, which brings us to the space of therapy. Once again, Gordon weaves a compelling case for his viewpoint. He covers the ethical, boundaried space, the temporal space, the emotional space and the attitudinal space, which he describes as one of compassion, a stance that sits very comfortably with me. I have always thought of compassion, which I would describe as what I experience when your pain touches my love, as being the opposite of sympathy, which I define as when your pain touches my fear, and I always attempt to hold a compassionate space in my therapy room. In describing the time element in therapy, Gordon argues powerfully for the fundamental nature of what it is to be human - not a machine that can be fixed according to the workshop manual in a set amount of time, but a person who needs to work through issues in their own, open ended time. The next 2 chapters follow a similar pattern, with relevantly articulated arguments supporting the cohesion of the overall thesis. Maybe a couple of examples will illustrate what I mean. In the aesthetics of therapy, for instance, Gordon speaks of the budding counsellors, who have all the right qualities to be good therapists, but then have these salutary qualities suppressed in the name of technique and scientific method. How can a stifled therapist nurture a client? In the poetics of therapy, he asks "Does our speech and thought 'disturb the language'" The therapist, like the poet, should be concerned not so much with what he knows, but with what he does not know.? (p93) The final chapter pulls all of the previous arguments together and crystallises the view that Gordon holds for therapy as something where 'the mantra of CBT' (p104) as a universal happiness creator, has no more place than did Huxley's soma in Brave New World; a place where statutory regulation is a fundamental violation of the human right to freedom of speech - to be able to hold a conversation of the type that we wish to hold and with someone with whom we choose to converse. As I said earlier, I have some reservations about the book. The least quibble is about the ubiquitous typographical errors such as p49, which has "we have to come assume" rather than "we have come to assume" and p54 which has 'those of' rather than 'of those'. On the next rung of the irritation ladder is the fact that throughout the book, having constructed a great argument against the medicalisation of therapy, Gordon consistently refers to the recipients of therapy as patients - which seems somewhat of either an inconsistency or an uncharacteristic confusion in his thinking. I have to admit to a certain ambivalence about the third rung of the irritation ladder, in that whilst Gordon rightly, in my opinion, prioritises the relationship above technique 'One of the central fault lines within the field of psychotherapy is between those who see therapy principally as a matter of technique, a science even, and those who see it otherwise, amongst whom I count myself' (p9, but numerous similar examples throughout the book) he does not allow for areas of therapy where techniques such as EMDR, EFT, guided imagery - the list goes on - provide a specific and valuable source of help to many clients. The climb to the next rung sees me disagreeing with Gordon's strong assertion that 'unconditional positive regard is of no more use to the patient than a stance of permanent suspicion' (p38). I am not a purist person centred therapist, but my experience is that UPR is of inestimable help in forming a good quality of therapeutic relationship, and can be held as a stance without compromising one's ability to challenge. The penultimate rung of this ladder sees me feeling somewhat irritated by the frequent references to the worthiness of the Philadelphia Association (PA), of which Gordon is a member. The claimed worthiness may well be justified - I don?t know, I'd never heard of the PA before, but I do not want to read a book on important matters such as this book covers, to then find myself reading what could easily be construed as a blatant sales pitch. This brings me to the top of this ladder. Right at the start of the preface (piii), Gordon says that some of the beliefs of therapy are 'seriously wrong-headed' and includes such as penis envy in women and recovered memories of sexual abuse. Now whilst I can agree that I have never yet met a woman with penis envy, though have met lots of men with gratitude at not having periods and not having children (and with some envy of the clitoris and multiple orgasms) to deny the validity of recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse is most definitely seriously wrong-headed. To elucidate further would be an entirely separate article, but those interested can check out the research at the following link. http://ritualabuse.us/research/memory-fms/recovered-memory-corroboration-rates/ So, where does this leave me overall? I still greatly valued reading the book, and found much of merit in there. Much of what Gordon says resonates closely with me, and I wish I had his gift of expressing his arguments so well (when he does so, well). Unfortunately, his dogmatic assertions without corroborative evidence devalue the rest of his thesis, so overall, I am left feeling somewhat ambivalent towards this work and think that perhaps Gordon echoes the nursery rhyme girl with a little curl 'when he is good, he is very very good, but when he is bad, he is horrid'.

Written for IPNOSIS, 2009.

 

Marlis Portner. 'Being Old is Different - person centred care for old people' PCCS Books, Ross-on-Wye, 2008. ISBN 978-1-898-05999-8. 96pp, £12.35. ( Previously published as Alt sein ist anders. Personzentrierte Betreuung von alten Menschen, Klett-Cotta, 2005)

The first thing to say before going on to the review proper is that after accepting the invitation to review this book, I read a review by Brian Thorne of (impressively) the original German edition, so given that I both like and respect Brian, I had to ensure that I put his positive review out of my mind and approach my reading of the book from as neutral a stance as possible. Having said this, I nonetheless find myself coming up with an equally positive view of this little addition to the generally excellent PCCS stable. There are some minor quibbles that I will describe later, but on the whole, this is a piece of work that is delightfully written by someone who clearly lives what she is writing about - and as she says, as a 70 year old herself, she has a personal interest in exploring how to develop best practice in working with old people. This is not a book written for therapists in an attempt to broaden their depth of understanding about the Person Centred Approach (PCA) - rather, it is a book written for anyone who cares for old people, for anyone who has old relatives and friends who need care and for anyone who intends to get old one day, and would like to plan ahead on the sort of care they would like to receive if or when necessary. It is a practical book, sensibly structured, and liberally sprinkled with real-life examples of the person centred principles in action - something that I find helpful and which enables dry theory to come alive and enrich my understanding of a subject. Right from the introduction, Portner addresses the central thesis, that being old is different, in many different ways and on many different levels, and whilst 'the basic person-centred principles of care are the same, the themes of life are different', and therefore demand a different perspective on care than, say, caring for someone with disability. Chapter 1 explores growing old from the author's personal perspective, and raises the important point of how subjective 'growing old' really is. When is 'old' I'm sure that I'm incredibly old from the viewpoint of the primary school children who walk past my house to school every day (and probably to their mothers' as well), but I don't feel any different than when I was in my 20's, and working on an acute medical ward at a hospital, when an old man rushed in, in a state of great agitation, looking for 'my little girl', his daughter who had apparently been admitted. I couldn't picture anyone who fitted the 'little girl' description, but when I calmed him down sufficiently to obtain his little girl's name, I could take him straight to her - she was 76! For carers who may not have encountered the PCA before, chapter 2 is an easy to read description of the essentials of person-centredness, and finishes with a really helpful summary box 'Working in a person centred way means:' and 5 bullet points as a reminder. Chapter 3 describes 7 principles concerning old people - principles such as clarity - and illustrated with examples such as Ms. B, who's carer told her that her son had called and would be visiting 'soon', without staying to define 'soon', so Ms B was in a state of agitation and constantly asking and on the lookout for her son until he came a few days later. Again the chapter ends with a useful summary box to bullet point the 7 principles. Having introduced the PCA and developed 7 principles based on this, the author then continues by turning these principles into concrete guidelines for everyday work, again, liberally illustrated with such examples as Ms L, who has Alzheimer's disease, and who is often disturbed, running through the ward and unreachable by the care staff, until a nurse tries body reflection and runs with her till she suddenly stops, hugs the nurse and sobs loudly. Again, in this and the next chapter on personal and professional competence, the salient points are bullet pointed at the end of the chapter. The remaining 4 chapters deal with various specific considerations, including some that are often avoided like death and dying, different realities, how things might be in the future, and finally, how to apply these principles in cases where old age has the added complication of mental disability. The gems throughout this book are too numerous to mention, but a few examples will illustrate the quality of the application of person centred principles : - 'Being old doesn't only involve a loss of the capacity formerly taken for granted; it also provides a certain degree of liberation. When a person is no longer responsible for the functioning of their daily life, they no longer have an urgent need for the corresponding skills and may develop other potentials' (p26) 'The last chapter of life is not simply a period of decline, it is also part of a process of growth leading towards life's end.' (also p 26, showing how replete the book is with such wonderful reframes and prizing of human potential), and how about 'Ms H and Ms D are good friends.One day, Ms D loses her door key. Ms H gets terribly upset and feels guilty - constantly repeats 'it's my fault'. The carer tries to talk her out of this, but in vain [then] tries something else: 'You are sad because Ms D lost her key' 'Ms H nods and calms down.' (p 36) as an excellent example of empathy in action. In speaking of working with people who have some dementia, Portner again reframes the assumptions that most people have about someone who has apparently lost their intellectual functions 'Reality is closely linked with perception, and the perception of each individual is different' 'What is dismissed as a 'loss of reality' might be a bridge towards that inevitable reality: death. Death is an 'other' reality, and I understand it without any esoteric touch' pp 65 to 67. The quibbles that I have are to do with apparent translation errors. There are a number throughout the text, but one will suffice as an example "because experiences, too painful and unbearable, had to be oppressed or reinterpreted in order to be able to survive" (p15) Surely oppressed should read suppressed. There were also some grammatical quirks, but notwithstanding these, this is an excellent book and should be required reading for anyone working with old people, or indeed, anyone with the ambition of becoming an old person.

Written for IPNOSIS, 2008.

 

Les Todres (2007) 'Embodied Enquiry - phenomenological touchstones for research, psychotherapy and spirituality' Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan ISBN-13: 978-0-230-51775-2. £45.

I was really excited when I received this book, since it is written to address the topics that interest me most - mind/body matters, spirituality and psychotherapy - and does so from a phenomenological-existential stance (which resonates with my approach to therapy) and, with the author being a professor of qualitative research, by employing a research paradigm which I feel is a generally more relevant methodology in psychotherapy research than is a quantitative research methodology. A quick flick through the book showed it to be apparently well structured. It is divided into 3 sections, each of which addresses the subheadings of the title - research methodology, psychotherapy and spirituality - and each of which then has chapters with interesting sounding titles, redolent with promise of exciting explorations. Titles such as 'The Qualitative Description of Human Experience: The Aesthetic Dimension' (C1, research methodology); 'The Rhythm of Psychotherapeutic Attention: A Training Model' (C6, psychotherapy); 'Embracing Ambiguity: Transpersonal Development and the Phenomenological Tradition' (C13, spirituality) whet my appetite for detailed reading. Each chapter has an introduction to describe the intention of the chapter, together with a summary and conclusion to pull together the arguments presented. The excitement burgeoned when I read the foreword, which, amongst other gems, described the work as 'a book that addresses us as embodied beings who seek a deeper appreciation of our existence' , and then further built when I read that Todres is a practitioner as well as an academic, so that his work is informed by the reality of therapeutic work with clients. The introduction does just that. It introduces the central tenet of the book, which is that true, full knowledge and understanding are much more than can be described and experienced through language, thought or abstract models, they have to be felt within the body 'embodied understanding is a form of knowing that evokes the possibility of its living, bodily-relevant textures and meanings.' Professor Todres describes how, over a period of 16 years, as a philosophically oriented psychologist, he has developed his own approach of existential phenomenology, drawing on the work of Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty and especially Eugene Gendlin. The work of Heidegger in part informed my own doctoral thesis, and I have always been impressed by Gendlin's focusing approach to psychotherapy, so the warm feeling towards reading the rest of this book was maintained, and I was already thinking that this could be a key book on the list that I've recently been asked to compile on the psychological and emotional aspects of spiritual growth and development. Sadly, the greatly encouraging start was not maintained for this reader. Within the structure of the book, there were some relatively minor quibbles, such as typographical/grammatical errors and larger quibbles, exampled by such as the concept of 'texture' being used in, for me, an idiosyncratic way in chapters 1 to 3, before being finally defined in chapter 4. However, of much greater concern was the style of writing of most of the book. I must have read this book half a dozen times, because I would read a paragraph, realise that I had gained nothing from it, read it again, and again and again, before thinking that I sufficiently understood what it meant to be able to move on to the next paragraph. Such was my difficulty in reading the book, that I began to think that the brain cell was no longer up to its task, and therefore asked family members of different disciplines to read random samples of the text. The disciplines covered were engineering, environmental science and theology, and between us, we have 1 doctorate, 4 assorted masters degrees and several lesser academic qualifications, so are used to a wide range of often abstruse or technical writings. All agreed that it is not an easy read, and one comment encapsulated the difficulty for me - I read the paragraph 3 times and was then able to understand it, but when I moved on to the next paragraph, the meaning of the first paragraph was lost.' There were parts of the book that were readable, mostly the introductions to each chapter, and the final chapter 'Concluding Thoughts and Touchstones: A Wide Embrace' was a delight to read and really clarified the meaning of embodied enquiry thus: -  'Embodied enquiry is a practice that attends to the relationship between language and the experiencing body - Embodied enquiry marries thought and feeling, 'head' and 'heart' - Embodied enquiry, by not relying on thought alone, opens itself to what is creative and novel - the pre-patterned 'more' of the lifeworld - The kind of embodied understanding that arises from the practice of embodied enquiry is humanising and is much needed in a world that too easily objectifies self and other.' Having read the final chapter, I might be tempted to read the whole again in the hope that I will be better able to capture the implicit meanings therein, for I think the reason for the difference in different sections of the book is that Todres has attempted to use poetic thinking and writing in order to create an embodying experience as one reads the book, and no doubt, for some people this will be meaningful. Me - I was left with a sense of intense frustration and a feeling, deeply embodied, that there was far more contained within the book than I had been able to experience. The legend of Tantalus lives on.

Written for Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 2008

 

Nick Baker 'The Experiential Counselling Primer - a concise, accessible, comprehensive introduction' PCCS Books, Ross-on-Wye, 2008. ISBN 978-1-898059-83-7. 123pp, £11.00.

This is the latest addition to the series of primers on different approaches to counselling, and, as the title indicates, is intended to give the reader a sound understanding of the approach. The target readership, according to the back cover, is students of counselling who require a theory bridge at different stages of training, or who need particularly focused material for essays comparing different approaches. So does it do what it says on the tin? I guess that I have to say that I'm not entirely sure. For certain, I've been procrastinating for a long time over writing this review, and even when duty and discipline took over, and I set some time aside to sit down and write, I found it very difficult to get started - and I'm not sure why. There were a few niggles, such as the lack of proof reading (eg "thinking I will not being able to handle" [p15]) and editorial glitches (eg 'Van Kessel and Lietaer identify four characteristics 'They are: 1. How the client talks' 2. The need for client elucidation' 3. The value of relationship'[p70]) which seems to be ubiquitous these days, in that the last 5 new books that I've read have all contained such errors, and another reviewer that I've read recently also found cause to complain of' editorial slip ups and proof reading errors' (Previn Karian, IPNOSIS 29). Given that the six books concerned represent three publishing houses, the charge of ubiquity seems pretty well deserved. Maybe it's because of an over-reliance on spell-checkers; maybe it's publishers saving money (or boosting profits) by not employing proof readers; maybe it's authors submitting work on memory sticks which go straight into press, rather than via the old type setter, but whatever the cause, it is irritating to an old pedant like me who values the English language in all of its richness, and doesn't like to see it diminished by incorrect useage or grammar. Another niggle was the editor's economy in writing, in that the introduction in this book was identical (except for substituting Person-Centred with Experiential) with that written for his own 'Person-Centred Counselling Primer'. Niggles aside, there are some good points to this book and the series, if I can assume that the two representatives of the series that I've seen, both of which followed a similar structure, are representative of the whole series. There is an introduction which defines counselling and locates it within the spectrum of helping strategies, saying what it is and is not useful for; jargon words and phrases are highlighted in the text, and defined in a glossary at the end; it assumes minimal knowledge of counselling so that everything is carefully defined; it is well referenced; the order of the chapters is logical, in that the book starts with definitions, introduces relevant history and characters, gives a transcript of an experiential therapy session (honestly analysed and critiqued by the author/therapist) and an example of experiential supervision, before ending with summarising different aspects of experiential work, experiential work as a whole, criticisms of experiential work, research into experiential working and learning resources. Certainly, it is concise, and packs a lot of information into around 30,000 words. Whether it is comprehensive I can't say, without reading everything else that has been written about experiential counselling, so I'll have to trust that Baker's claim is valid. I have to say that I didn't find it particularly accessible stylistically, and especially so in Chapter 4 - Process-Experiential Psychotherapy, where I got the impression that the author was struggling to explain what it was about perhaps because, as he says near the start of the chapter "The way the proponents of the process-experiential approach present their theory indicates that it is a 'work-in-progress'" Overall, I found the style of writing to be heavier than I would have expected, and found my eyes closing after reading only a few pages, so it took me a long time to read. However, none of this explains my procrastination, although I think I have now got some insight into this - an idea that has crystallised as I've been writing this review and partially re-reading the book as I did so. That idea is did the book need to be written at all? We are told in Chapter 1 that Experiential Counselling is closely allied to Person Centred Counselling (PCC), and we already have a book in this series dedicated to PCC. We are told in Chapter 2 that Gendlin's work with Rogers on the Wisconsin Project reinforced his ideas about experiencing and eventually led to his Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy, and again, we already have a book in the series on this subject (The Focusing-Oriented Counselling Primer by Campbell Purton). I?m not convinced from what I've read here that Experiential Counselling is distinctive enough to warrant a primer book of its own, and it may well be that this is a contributory factor in my difficulty in reading the book, a feeling of 'is what I'm gaining from this endeavour worth the amount of time that it is taking from my life?' Sadly, I think the answer is no, so whilst this book may have a use to someone writing that comparative essay, it is a book that I would recommend that they should borrow rather than buy, even at the online discount price of £9.97.

Written for IPNOSIS, 2008

 

Pamela J Burry 'Living with 'The Gloria Films' - A daughter's memory' PCCS Books, Ross-on-Wye, 2008. ISBN 978 1 906254 02 5. 170pp. £12.00.

I have to nail my colours to the mast straight away with this review, in that as soon as I saw the advance publicity for this book, I was fascinated by the concept and wanted to read it, so you can imagine my delight when I received a copy to review. In keeping with probably every counsellor in practice today, I saw the Gloria films, which were recorded in 1964, during my initial training (in my case, about 25 years ago), dutifully dissected them to examine the various skills on display, discussed whether Rogers was right to say 'You look to me like a pretty nice daughter', debated the relative merits of Rogers', Perls' and Ellis' approaches - even wondered, occasionally, about the effect on Gloria and what she felt about the interactions over time. I then included the film in the training packages that I later went on to write, and still do. Only a couple of months ago, I showed the Rogers film on the final session of a basic communication skills course, eliciting the comment 'Oh, he's good!' from one participant. What I never really thought about was the wider impact of this 90 minutes period of Gloria's life and how it affected not only her, but those around her, and especially 9 year old Pammy. This book fills in the gap, and does it well. 'Pammy', for of course it is she who is the author, writes with wit, perception, intelligence and insight, and an occasional sense of mischievousness "Then came psychotherapy and divorce and rough times, in that order, a sequence of events that can give me a smile, as I know who my readership is here, a select and meagre group. Slightly voyeuristic, aging therapists who saw the films in training and wouldn't mind a bit more of the story" (p44) Yep, got it in one. The book is well structured, and starts with setting a context for the ensuing series of recollections "I can't say Gloria had a happy life. She had brilliantly happy moments, devoted relationships, (especially with her children) and profound loss." (p14); "in her archaeological dig to self-awareness, what she learned and heard, what she lived and observed in her large Polish catholic family, was what, in the end, could not, as a whole, be dug out." (p20); "psychotherapy entered our home life and psychotherapy ended our home life as we knew it, with the divorce." (p40); "the first 'you need therapy' declaration came from the woman who lived across the street, a mother of three, in a family who was to become closest to us before, during and after the divorce" (and) "who recommended Everett Shostrom, and from Shostrom, eventually, sprung the films." (pp54-55). Having set the context, Burry then continues with her recollections of the consequences of the films, starting with a chapter subtitled 'Sue the Bastards' being her stepfather's response when the films went public, and were shown on morning TV, together with the roller-coaster of emotions which were experienced by the different protagonists at different times. When reading this book, it must be remembered that it is written now, but with the recollections being those of the time they were formed. Thus, in addition to Gloria's new partner's clear feelings expressed as a chapter title, we have Pamela saying (p58) "The bit about Shostrom being told he was 'nauseatingly phony' gave particular delight. The fact that this comment was directed to him from the mouth of Fritz Perls proved especially gratifying" "imagining Everett Shostrom squirm gave me simple pleasure" and speaking of Perls, she says "I valued his approach, then I loathed it. I thought him brave, then I thought him a coward. At the age of sixteen, I wanted him to die a slow death for how he had treated my mother" (p63), before coming to the point of "Gradually, as I began to understand what Gloria had gained from her contributions to the films, my feelings towards Fritz Perls and Everett Shostrom softened." (p71). Whilst Ellis, the Ellis film and Ellis' approach to therapy (REBT) are pretty much dismissed "During the Ellis film, Gloria squished up her face and tried very hard to comprehend what Ellis was imparting, but Ellis loses her" and, in reference to Ellis' apparent beliefs about homosexuality, as expressed in 'Homosexuality, its causes and cures' "I guess he figured he could just Rationalize their Emotion and Behaviourize gays and lesbians right out of their preference." (both p86), Rogers features large throughout the text, not least being in the title of chapter 6 - 'Two Fathers'. One, of course, was Gloria's Polish migrant father, and the other was Rogers, with whom Gloria maintained regular written contact from the completion of the films in 1964 until her untimely death in 1979 "The connection between my mother and Carl Rogers may have begun in an artificial manner, but it lasted, and their caring evolved and grew" (p97), evolving to the point that the correspondence included letters from Helen Rogers, Carl's wife, and eventually continued between Carl and Pamela, after the deaths of both Gloria and Helen. Gloria was proud of the relationship with Rogers, and seeing him as "an exotic, distant uncle from France, rather than a famous doctor of psychology, she wanted to see him, be in his company, and understand herself, in that magical way that can happen, through his eyes." (p118). The contextualisation and structure of the book is maintained throughout, with a brief chapter on how John Schlien found Pamela, and suggested the writing of the book, and a final few pages of timelines, to put personal events into the context of the wider world events. I have a few quibbles with the book. There are the now almost ubiquitous typographical errors that any good proof reader would spot  - things like 'the the' in Pete Sanders' forward (pvi), 'illicit', rather than 'elicit', (p24),' illusive', rather than 'elusive' (pp53 & 66) and 'fair' rather than 'fare' (p93). These such have been present in every new book I've read recently, so the blame must be laid at the doors of the publishing industry in general, rather than any particular house, and I can only think it is because of spellcheckers and the like leading publishers to save the costs of employing the proof readers! I also think that chapter 2 contributed little to the book, and whilst the early chapters setting of the context was overall a good point, it went on too long. However, these are quibbles, and relatively minor in the scheme of things. Overall, this slightly voyeuristic, aging therapist really enjoyed the book and would recommend it for it's unique insight into the effects of what, at the time, was a unique insight into the world of therapy. It is an insight which is told honestly, with a profound sense of love and affirmation and celebration of life.

Written for IPNOSIS, 2008.

 

Meredith Maran (2010) 'My Lie - A True Story of False Memory.' Jossey-Bass; San Francisco, Ca. ISBN 978-0-470-50214-3. $24.95 (hb). 260pp

The premise of this book is that the author suddenly, at the age of 37, remembered being sexually abused by her father, spent the next 10 years in survivor therapy, and then realised that she had not been sexually abused and retracted her original accusations. It seems to be written as some sort of cathartic confessional for the author. Whilst I can understand her need for this confessional, unfortunately, the book does not work for me on a number of levels. Firstly, it is abundantly clear that Maran never did have any memories of abuse. She seems to be an impressionable individual who was working as a journalist editing and writing papers about sexual abuse for several years, immersing herself in the work with enthusiasm and zeal. She was also working within what would now be described as a fundamentalist feminist paradigm, where all men are bad, and sexually predatory. It seems that the seed of her own historical abuse was planted when the director of an incest treatment clinic remarked 'we don't see a lot of reporters around here - I'm wondering - is this a personal issue for you?' As she says on p 45, she took up Roselyn's (book author) mission and made it her own, such that before long, she was asking herself (of her husband) 'How can I trust you, sleep with you, love you, knowing that men do these things?' When she stopped working with the feminists, and started looking at the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, who are set up to deny the realty of childhood sexual abuse memories, which are then recalled in later life, she then decided that her 'memories' were false! I suspect that if Meredith Maran, had been working in the field of cancer, for instance, she would have soon convinced herself that every little ache, pain or discomfort was a new cancer developing. Her 'memories' were not memories at all, but were the constructions of an impressionable, vulnerable personality, who had already spent years in therapy, and was then to spend many more years in further therapy - apparently with therapists who supported her paradigm. Secondly, the book is written in such a way that it provides much fodder for the FMSF, who even go so far as to accuse unscrupulous therapists of implanting those memories, presumably to ensure a regular cash-flow, by ensuring a more constant source of clients needing therapy. I will declare an interest here, in that I am a therapist, working with many survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Some have had the memories of their abuse for their entire life, some have recovered the memories in later life, after being triggered by an event which reminded them of the abuse. All of them have known their history before they came into therapy, and have come for the specific purpose of learning how to live with the pain and self-hatred that their abuse has created - and all of them have come with a history of trying to deny that it happened, of questioning their own knowledge and understanding, of trying desperately to persuade themselves that they have 'got it wrong', but eventually being unable to deny their feelings and their specific recollections any longer. For these people, this book may cause untold damage and create untold confusion, and for the real perpetrators, facing trial for their actions, it might serve to supply some of the doubt that they need to create to avoid conviction for their actions. The need for a restrained word count in this review prevents a full critique of the work, so suffice to say that I could not recommend it as being a worthwhile addition to the literature.

Written for Amazon, 2010.

 

Suzanne Keys and Tracey Walshaw (eds) 'Person-Centred Work with Children and Young People: UK practitioner perspectives' PCCS Books, Ross-on-Wye, 2008. ISBN 978 1 906254 01 8. 156pp. £19.00. 

This is, overtly, a very political book, and as such, it is a timely book in a number of ways. It is a source of great pleasure to me that the Person-Centred Approach (PCA) has once again started to 'stand up and be counted' in the modern therapeutic (and wider) world, after what seems like decades of gradual dilution and decline, and this book is the latest in a number of books which describe the value of the PCA in different applications within the current cultural contexts, which, as Maureen O'Hara (2007) wrote, 'are no longer stable and are being disrupted on an unprecedented scale', leading to a 'crisis of psychological coherence' to which she identifies three possible responses - 'reactive, psychotic and transformational'. She then references Carl Rogers as recognising those who respond in transformational ways as 'persons of tomorrow'. Whilst Rogers may have been thinking of adults with a particular set of characteristics (see p53 of the O'Hara paper for a fuller description) in coining this description, who can better be described as persons of tomorrow than our children and young people? Unusually, the book has two forwards, both of which help to set the scene, both of which, as the editors say in their preface (ix) 'help not only to put the work that we do in context but more importantly to emphasise its inherently political nature.' First up are Richard House and Sue Palmer, in an essay entitled 'The phenomenon of Toxic Childhood from a Person centred Perspective' wherein they talk about how the PCA might help to counter the 'unintended side effects of modern technological culture on children's well-being' (xi), about 'children suffering in modernity' and the 'increasing incidence of children's mental health problems' and how 'children's play has become seriously compromised - a particularly serious issue' (all xi), since 'it's (real play) rapid erosion is likely to have serious implications not only for children but for our collective future more generally.' That sounds like a clarion call for action to protect the 'persons of tomorrow' if ever I heard one. House and Palmer are followed by a forward 'The Politics of Adulthood' by Ashley Fletcher, who also contributed the chapter on person centred work with Rent Boys. This forward is beautifully and powerfully written with statements like 'in the context of working with young people, the experience of being human is forgotten in favour of the need to control and manage. Childhood itself is progressively being pathologised as a problematic condition that needs to be managed.' (xvii) and such wonderfully descriptive prose as 'The stitching of the fabric of community is left to fray as an irrelevance' (xix), written in the context of child protection pressures leading to adult betrayal of children's confidentiality as the norm, and adults fearing to model intimacy, so children never get to learn what intimacy is about. Wow, and we are still only in the forwards! The 15 chapters which follow, from 12 contributors, are all written by practitioners, so the work is real, rather than theoretical, and covers a wide expanse of settings - primary schools, secondary schools, 6th form college, play therapy and its training, sand play, adoption, rent boys, LGB young people, bereavement, challenging behaviours/exclusion, trusting the wisdom of children in decision making. Therapeutic work with children has long been a neglected aspect of counselling theory and training, so this book is a welcome addition to the now growing, albeit slowly, body of work that recognises that working with children is different, and not just a matter of working with simpler, less sophisticated little adults 'Although I always work in a way that provides psychological and emotional safety for a child, I also want to ensure that my professionalism does not get in the way of the humanity of the encounter - I feel I am more flexible about taking the risk of getting something wrong with children, because they have different cultural and developmental expectations of what is allowed in counselling.' (Kelly, p 14/15). Much of the writing is emotive and heartfelt. (Primary school) 'is one of the first places where professionals begin to label clients and respond to them accordingly. It is heartbreaking to hear a child who has come to me for therapeutic help saying 'I'm here because I'm a naughty boy.' ' (Walshaw, p 20), and demonstrative of the effectiveness and power of the PCA. 'what was important was trusting Andrew in his process. There was no need for directing or imposing an interpretation - Andrew went where he needed to go. Over eight weeks he had gone to a different place in himself. Trust in the child's actualising tendency is fundamental in working in this way.' (Woodhouse, p 36). Gill Clarke, in chapter 5, gives a vivid description of her internal tussle with the ethical dilemma of feeling an overwhelming urge to hug a child who was deprived of warmth and love elsewhere, yet being constrained by, and feeling angry at, the child protection protocol which prohibits such physical contact. Congruence finally emerged triumphant and the client, in feeling valued and respected, 'was able to value and respect herself (and thereby) was able to stop self harming.' (p46). A more pressing ethical dilemma is described by Ashley Fletcher in his chapter on working with rent boys where 'we were walking a tightrope in prioritising these young men, and the agendas they wanted us to work with over the conflicting, but ultimately counter-productive, demands of child protection legislation.' (p 109). I commented earlier on the quality of Fletcher's prose, and I cannot resist highlighting another example 'tolerance - itself an immaculate form of oppression'. There are really only two criticisms that I have of this book. One is with Chapter 8, written by the co-editor Suzanne Keys. Whilst there is nothing wrong with the chapter in the sense of its description of some of the actions needed to maximise accessibility to the target group (6th formers), for me it failed to show either implicitly or explicitly the application of the PCA and its principles, and I therefore felt that this chapter contributed not at all to the book. My other criticism, and especially in these times of relationship breakdown and reconstituted or blended families, is that there was not a chapter explicitly about work with children and young people whose parents are going through divorce/separation and the consequent family disintegration. Overall, this book is a welcome contribution to the current burgeoning of the Person Centred Approach and its applications, and especially in these times of impending statutory regulation of talking therapies and the official 'NICE ' sanction of CBT. It is well worth reading by all talking therapy practitioners, and is a must for anyone working with children and young people.

References

O'Hara, M., (2007) 'Psychological Literacy for an Emerging Global Society: another look at Rogers' 'persons of tomorrow' as a model'. Person Centered and Experiential Psychotherapies. 6, 1, 45 - 60.

Written for IPNOSIS, 2008

 

Nicholas Ladany, Jessica A. Walker, Lia M. Pate-Carolan, Laurie Gray Evans (2008) 'Practicing Counseling and Psychotherapy - Insights from trainees, supervisors and clients'. Routledge, New York, USA and Abingdon, UK. ISBN 978-0-415-95739-7. £17.95 (pb), £53.00 (hb). 306pp.

Although this book is explicitly for 'graduate students learning how to become mental health practitioners'(p.ix), I imagine that it will be of interest to all readers of Counselling and Psychotherapy Research because it is based on the quantitative and qualitative research study carried out by the authors in following 4 trainee therapists, their clients and their supervisors over a 2 year period - and not only is it based on their research, but they include the findings of the research in 94 pages of appendices for the interested reader to look in greater depth at the conclusions they have described in the text. The idea for the book was straightforward - the authors asked their students what type of book they wished they had had when they started their client work practice during their training, and then set out to write something that met the requirement of 'a practical, how-to-book that included real life examples' (p.ix). It is a tribute to the authors that they have not only succeeded, but succeeded well in producing a book that is eminently readable, sensibly structured, liberally illustrated with anecdotes (and I have to confess that I have always found real-life anecdotes more relevant and meaningful than constructed illustrations) and as descriptive, as any book can possibly be in describing a perennially unique experience, of what it is like for a beginning therapist in the counselling room with a real-life client in front of them. In short, I wish that I had had this book when I was training. The book is structured into 8 chapters, which, except for C7, form a logical sequence of the process of the journey to becoming a therapist, although C1 is really more of an introduction, and mostly describes the structure and process of the book. C7 is both unusual and interesting, in that it tracks the journey of one trainee, Lydia, from beginning her therapy practice over 89 client and supervision sessions, and shows not only how she deals with different client issues, but also with supervisory difficulties. At 46 pages, this must be the longest anecdote ever, but it is a useful illustration of the real-life trials and tribulations of our work. The stance of the book is pantheoretical, emphasising the development of skills, and to assist in this, the book is interactive, with each chapter ending with a list of useful, well thought-out discussion questions and exercises which invite the reader, individually and in their peer groups, to consider, reflect, discuss and role-play. The book also recognises the primacy of the therapeutic relationship - 'The foundation on which effective therapy is based can largely be determined by the therapeutic relationship.'(p.10) and 'The final component of the therapeutic working alliance is the emotional bond between the client and the therapist (which) consists of a mutual caring, liking, trusting and respecting between the client and the therapist.' (p.11), together with the importance of empathy 'If you do nothing else, empathize!' (p.13). Chapter 3, understanding yourself as a therapist, begins with a gem ('Although, historically, it has been proposed that therapists act as 'blank slates', modern theorists tend to agree that the blank slate exists more in the mind of blank people than in therapy') and contains one of the best descriptions and explanations of countertransference, and how to recognise and manage it, that I have encountered. The book is worth buying and studying by trainees for this chapter alone. Chapter 4, Conceptualising and understanding the client, does, as one might expect for an American book, feature DSM IV prominently, together with insightful discussions about to 'diagnose or not', 'assessment' and 'treatment'. For therapists from a purist humanistic perspective, such terms are anathema, but as I said earlier, one of the strengths of this book is its pantheoretical nature, and the discussion includes exploration of the issues from different perspectives. Other chapters consider case management, ethics and supervision, and give some examples of both good and bad supervision, and the final chapter looks at the onward journey towards becoming a master therapist, again using anecdotes from people recognised as masters of the profession. The biggest quibble that I have with the book is a ubiquitous one these days, in that it applies to almost every new book I have read in the past few years, and that is the complete lack of effective proof reading. No doubt this is as a result of word processing, spelling and grammar checks on the part of authors, and cost-saving on the part of publishers, but this book is riddled with typographical and grammatical errors, that can sometimes leave one guessing at the meaning of the sentence. Some are annoying to an old pedant like me "and a little a fuzzy " (p.4); "so to are the tasks" (p.11, should be 'too'); what is 'disingenuineness? ' (p52); what about using 'affect' instead of 'effect?' (p.62). Finally, though there are others, 'one measure that is proving quite useful for clinicians and methodology sound is the...' (p.84). In an otherwise excellently written book, these frequent errors detract from the overall experience, but notwithstanding this, I strongly recommend the book to all practitioners, since I think that everyone, new or experienced, will gain something from it.

Written for Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 2009.

 

 'Therapist and client: A relational approach to therapy', by Patrick Nolan Chichester Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. £29.99  (paperback). ISBN 978 0 470 01953 5.

 Back in 1991, when I started my MA in counselling with John McLeod, he used to speak of The Big Bang Theory of counselling/therapy, where we started with Freud's psychoanalytic work, then slowly expanded to encompass the 400+ distinct approaches that were identified at that time. The suggestion was that over time, the therapy field would stop expanding and start to coalesce. This book could well mark the start of that coalescence.

From his frequent references to the interpretations he makes in his work with clients, it is clear that Nolan is psychoanalytically oriented, but he is also the Director of the Irish Institute for Integrative Psychotherapy, and in this unique little book, he reflects both the breadth and depth of that integration.

 Starting with the premise that the role of therapy is to repair inadequate development brought about by less-than-optimal care of the infant by the primary caregiver, Nolan uses chapter 1 to develop his thesis, referencing widely from attachment psychoanalytic and other therapeutic theories, the social sciences, neuroscience and child development research. He emphasises the importance of affect regulation, proposing that as we learn more about the brain and affect regulation, so the focus of therapy is changing away from an emphasis on cognition and more towards affect.

 Chapter 2 continues the work by developing the notion of the importance of the interpersonal relationship, again drawing on infant research and highlighting the role of empathy, authenticity (congruence), attunement and working in the moment, and includes, as do the other chapters, useful case vignettes to illustrate the points with examples from the author's own practice. There is a valuable section on repairing the relationship when things, as they inevitably do, go wrong.

 Once again, this chapter is based on a wide range of research and previously published work, which continues throughout the book, with Nolan drawing on research and insight from many disciplines both within and without the therapeutic realm, and including neuroscientists, philosophers, Buddhist thinkers and a raft of diverse therapeutic thinkers and researchers. The book is meticulously informed by referencing, with, perhaps, a failing or negative bias where the Humanistic approaches are concerned. In talking about the importance of interpersonal relationship, Rogers (1942) is mentioned in the context of his belief in the self-actualising tendency of people (p 30), but the attribution is omitted from the list of references at the end of the chapter. Norton also mentions the Rogerian Core Conditions of empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard, seemingly as important components in developing an effective and authentic relationship with clients, but then references the concept to Gurman and Messer in 1995 (p 30) rather than the correct attribution of Rogers (1957).

 Chapter 3 provides a valuable discussion of the process of therapy - the space where it occurs, the need for creativity and play, the value of not knowing  'Unless we take a place of not knowing, we do not allow the space for possible new states and directions to emerge.' (p 59).

 - and a brief polemic against over regulation in therapy.

 The attention to process continues with a detailed exploration of the 'intersubjective experience' in Chapter 4, including a description in one of the vignettes of how attunement and reflexivity can lead to a creative 'act of freedom' (p96) to promote a therapeutic shift out of stuckness.

 Chapter 5 explores the notion of the body-mind - a most welcome addition to therapy literature, which all too often has looked at the mind as separate from the body -introducing a model of five interrelated and reciprocal modes or ways of experiencing the world, - emotions, body sensations, motor activity, imagination and cognition, the adoption of which enable the therapist to

 'use a wider range of what happens between us and our clients.' (p 114)

 Chapters 6 and 7 are devoted to an exploration of how to work with 'fragile clients' - people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder, and how to adapt therapy to meet the needs of different people. Whilst it may be axiomatic, it is worth restating that  'Each client, therapist and therapeutic journey is unique. Theories may be essential to practice, but none can fully capture the mystery of the individual client and therapist or their relationship.' (p 160).

 Overall, I enjoyed this book and found it useful and written intelligently. The quibbles I have are minor and to do with slight typographical and grammatical errors and, in one place (pp145 - 149) some unhelpful discontinuity in the formatting. Perhaps the biggest query I have, other than the criticism of Humanistic approaches is the relevance to most non-psychoanalytical practitioners today, since most, if not all of the vignette clients were in therapy for months or years, and the reality for most practitioners these days is short term work of 4 to 6 sessions.

 References

 Gurman, A. and Messer, S. (1995). Essential Psychotherapies, The Guilford Press, New York.

 Rogers, CR (1942) 'Counseling and Psychotherapy - Newer Concepts in Practice' Houghton Mifflin Company, USA.

 Rogers, CR. (1957) 'The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change', Journal of Consulting Psychology, 21 (2): 95-103

 Written for Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 2014



 

 

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