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Maximizing Effectiveness in Dynamic Psychotherapy Self-Compassion in Psychotherapy101 Healing StoriesA Clinician's Guide to Legal Issues in PsychotherapyA Map of the MindA Primer for Beginning PsychotherapyACT With LoveActive Treatment of DepressionAffect Regulation, Mentalization, and the Development of SelfAlready FreeBad TherapyBecoming an Effective PsychotherapistBefore ForgivingBeing a Brain-Wise TherapistBetrayed as BoysBeyond Evidence-Based PsychotherapyBeyond MadnessBeyond PostmodernismBinge No MoreBiofeedback for the BrainBipolar DisorderBody PsychotherapyBoundaries and Boundary Violations in PsychoanalysisBrain Change TherapyBrain Science and Psychological DisordersBrain-Based Therapy with AdultsBrain-Based Therapy with Children and AdolescentsBrief Adolescent Therapy Homework PlannerBrief Child Therapy Homework PlannerBrief Therapy Homework PlannerBuffy the Vampire Slayer and PhilosophyBuilding on BionCare of the PsycheCase Studies in DepressionCaught in the NetChild and Adolescent Treatment for Social Work PracticeChoosing an Online TherapistChronic DepressionClinical Dilemmas in PsychotherapyClinical Handbook of Psychological DisordersClinical Intuition in PsychotherapyClinical Pearls of WisdomCo-Creating ChangeCognitive Therapy for Challenging ProblemsCompassionConfessions of a Former ChildConfidential RelationshipsConfidentiality and Mental HealthConfidingContemplative Psychotherapy EssentialsControlConversations About Psychology and Sexual OrientationCoping with BPDCouch FictionCounseling in GenderlandCounseling with Choice TheoryCouple SkillsCrazy for YouCreating a Life of Meaning and CompassionCreating HysteriaCritical Issues in PsychotherapyCrucial Choices, Crucial ChangesDeafness In MindDecoding the Ethics CodeDeconstructing PsychotherapyDeep Brain StimulationDemystifying TherapyDepression 101Depression in ContextDialogues on DifferenceDissociative ChildrenDo-It-Yourself Eye Movement Techniques for Emotional HealingDoing CBTE-TherapyEarly WarningEncountering the Sacred in PsychotherapyEnergy Psychology InteractiveErrant SelvesEssays on Philosophical CounselingEssentials of Wais-III AssessmentEthically Challenged ProfessionsEthics and Values in PsychotherapyEthics in Plain EnglishEthics in Psychotherapy and CounselingExpectationExploring the Self through PhotographyExpressing EmotionFacing Human SufferingFairbairn's Object Relations Theory in the Clinical SettingFamily TherapyFavorite Counseling and Therapy Homework AssignmentsFear of IntimacyFlourishingFolie a DeuxForms of Intersubjectivity in Infant Reasearch and Adult TreatmentFoundations of Ethical Practice, Research, and Teaching in PsychologyFreud and the Question of PseudoscienceFrom Morality to Mental HealthFundamentals of Psychoanalytic TechniqueGenes on the CouchGod & TherapyHalf Empty, Half FullHandbook of Clinical Psychopharmacology for TherapistsHandbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual ClientsHandbook of Evidence-Based Therapies for Children and AdolescentsHealing the Heart and Mind with MindfulnessHeinz KohutHelping Children Cope With Disasters and TerrorismHigh RiskHistory of PsychotherapyHow Clients Make Therapy WorkHow Psychotherapists DevelopHow to Fail As a TherapistHow to Go to TherapyHypnosis for Inner Conflict ResolutionHypnosis for Smoking CessationI Never Promised You a Rose GardenIf Only I Had KnownIn Others' EyesIn SessionIn Therapy We TrustIn Treatment: Season 1Incorporating Spirituality in Counseling and PsychotherapyInside the SessionInside TherapyIs Long-Term Therapy Unethical?Issues in Philosophical CounselingIt's Not as Bad as It SeemsItís Your HourLearning from Our MistakesLearning Supportive PsychotherapyLetters to a Young TherapistLife CoachingLogotherapy and Existential AnalysisLove's ExecutionerMadness and DemocracyMaking the Big LeapMan's Search for MeaningMetaphoria: Metaphor and Guided Metaphor for Psychotherapy and HealingMind GamesMindfulness and AcceptanceMindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for DepressionMindworks: An Introduction to NLPMockingbird YearsMoments of EngagementMomma and the Meaning of LifeMotivational Interviewing: Preparing People For ChangeMulticulturalism and the Therapeutic ProcessMultifamily Groups in the Treatment of Severe Psychiatric DisordersNarrative PracticeOn the CouchOne Nation Under TherapyOur Inner WorldOur Last Great IllusionOutsider ArtOvercoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and BehaviorsOverexposedPathways to SpiritualityPersonality and PsychotherapyPhilosophical CounselingPhilosophical Counselling and the UnconsciousPhilosophical Issues in Counseling and PsychotherapyPhilosophical PracticePhilosophy and PsychotherapyPhilosophy for Counselling and PsychotherapyPhilosophy PracticePhilosophy's Role in Counseling and PsychotherapyPillar of SaltPlan BPlato, Not Prozac!Polarities of ExperiencesPower GamesPractical Psychoanalysis for Therapists and PatientsPrinciples and Practice of Sex TherapyPsychologists Defying the CrowdPsychology, Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis, and the Politics of Human RelationshipsPsychosis in the FamilyPsychotherapyPsychotherapyPsychotherapy and ConfidentialityPsychotherapy As PraxisPsychotherapy for Children and AdolescentsPsychotherapy for Personality DisordersPsychotherapy Is Worth ItPsychotherapy Isn't What You ThinkPsychotherapy with Adolescent Girls and Young WomenPsychotherapy with Children and AdolescentsPsychotherapy without the SelfPsychotherapy, American Culture, and Social PolicyRapid Cognitive TherapyRational Emotive Behavior TherapyRational Emotive Behavior TherapyRationality and the Pursuit of HappinessRebuilding Shattered LivesReclaiming Our ChildrenRecovery OptionsRelationalityRent Two Films and Let's Talk in the MorningSaving the Modern SoulScience and Pseudoscience in Clinical PsychologySecond-order Change in PsychotherapySelf-Compassion in PsychotherapySelf-Determination Theory in the ClinicSelf-Disclosure in Psychotherapy and RecoverySerious ShoppingSex, Therapy, and KidsSexual Orientation and Psychodynamic PsychotherapySigns of SafetySoul Murder RevisitedStaring at the SunStraight to JesusStrangers to OurselvesSubjective Experience and the Logic of the OtherTaking America Off DrugsTales of PsychotherapyTales of UnknowingTalk is Not EnoughTalking Cures and Placebo EffectsTelling SecretsThe Behavioral Medicine Treatment PlannerThe Body in PsychotherapyThe Brief Couples Therapy Homework Planner with DiskThe Case Formulation Approach to Cognitive-Behavior TherapyThe Challenge for Psychoanalysis and PsychotherapyThe Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Clinical Child Documentation SourcebookThe Clinical Documentation SourcebookThe Complete Adult Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Couch and the TreeThe Couples Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Crucible of ExperienceThe Cure of SoulsThe Death of PsychotherapyThe Education of Mrs. BemisThe Ethical Treatment of DepressionThe Ethics of PsychoanalysisThe Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Gift of TherapyThe Great Psychotherapy Debate: The Evidence for What Makes Psychotherapy Work The Healing JourneyThe Heart & Soul of ChangeThe Heroic ClientThe Husbands and Wives ClubThe Love CureThe Making of a TherapistThe Mindful TherapistThe Mirror Crack'dThe Mummy at the Dining Room TableThe Neuroscience of PsychotherapyThe Neuroscience of Psychotherapy: Healing the Social BrainThe New Rational TherapyThe Older Adult Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Other Side of DesireThe Pastoral Counseling Treatment PlannerThe Philosopher's Autobiography The Pornographer's GriefThe Portable CoachThe Portable Ethicist for Mental Health Professionals The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday LifeThe Problem of EvilThe Problem with Cognitive Behavioural TherapyThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Psychotherapy Documentation PrimerThe Psychotherapy Documentation PrimerThe Psychotherapy of HopeThe Real World Guide to Psychotherapy PracticeThe Schopenhauer CureThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Talking CureThe Therapeutic "Aha!"The Therapist's Guide to PsychopharmacologyThe Therapist's Guide to Psychopharmacology, Revised EditionThe Therapist's Ultimate Solution BookThe Trauma of Everyday LifeThe UnsayableThe Way of the JournalTheory and Practice of Brief TherapyTherapy with ChildrenTherapy's DelusionsTheraScribe 3.0 for WindowsTheraScribe 4.0Thinking about ThinkingThinking for CliniciansThinking for CliniciansThoughts Without a ThinkerThriveToward a Psychology of AwakeningTracking Mental Health OutcomesTrauma, Truth and ReconciliationTreating Attachment DisordersTreatment for Chronic DepressionTreatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety DisordersUnderstanding Child MolestersUnspeakable Truths and Happy EndingsWhat the Buddha FeltWhat Works for Whom?What Works for Whom? Second EditionWhen the Body SpeaksWhispers from the EastWise TherapyWittgenstein and PsychotherapyWorking MindsWoulda, Coulda, ShouldaWriting About PatientsYoga Skills for Therapists:Yoga Therapy

Related Topics
On the CouchReview - On the Couch
Great American Stories About Therapy
by Erica Kates (editor)
Atlantic Monthly Press, 1997
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Jan 3rd 2004 (Volume 8, Issue 1)

There are some excellent pieces in this mixed collection, although the subtitle of On the Couch, "Great American Stories About Therapy" is an overblown claim.† Most of them were originally published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's Magazine or in original collections of stories.† The authors include Amy Bloom, John Updike, Charles Baxter, and Lorrie Moore.†† The book is divided into five sections, Loss; Secrets and Lies; Power and Dependence; Limitations; and Love.†

In Lorrie Moore's very funny "If Only Bert Were Here," about a woman mourning the loss of her cat, the author makes a joke that not all readers will get.† "She had already -- carefully, obediently -- stepped through all the stages of bereavement: Anger, Denial, Bargaining, Hšagen-Dazs, Rage, Anger to Rage -- she said she wasn't making progress?" Her husband suggests that she should see someone.† She shoots back to him, "Are we talking a psychiatrist or an affair?"† She phones a number of possible candidates and asks them how long it will take them to get her over the death of her cat, but is told "we don't work that way" by all but one, who has a special offer.† "You feel better by Christmas or your last session's free."†

Many of the stories use psychotherapy as a way to help their main protagonists come to a central revelation about their lives, rather than as a way to understand psychopathology.† In Rebecca Lee's "Slatland," a women goes to a psychologist with letters sent to her Romanian boyfriend simply because the psychologist is able to translate them.† In Francine Prose's "Imaginary Problems," a family takes a trip suggested by their psychologist to create a mourning ritual for their recently deceased hamster.† In Charles Baxter's "Surprised by Joy," a couple go on holiday in attempt to come to terms with the death of their child, again at the suggestion of their therapist.† There's very little sense of the quality of the therapeutic interaction here, and indeed, the role of therapy as such is minimal in the stories.† The focus is on the ways the patients deal with their problems.† In one of the best stories of the book, "The Age of Analysis" by Lynne Sharon Schwartz, a fifteen-year-old boy deals with his anger at his father's affair in his therapy; the twist is that his parents are themselves both clinical psychologists, and Schwartz suggests how a belief in the psychotherapeutic stance can distort plain truths.†

Some of the pieces are works of fantasy, such as the two that have patients systematically lying to their therapists by Lawrence Block and Stephen McCauley.† Ironically, in these one gets a clearer picture of the creation of a relationship between therapist and client precisely because the essential basis is conspicuously missing.† In Jonathan Baumbach's "The Psychopathology of Everyday Life," a therapist has an affair with his patient, and again we see what therapy should be through a depiction of its failure.†

Two stories by Daniel Menaker feature Dr. Ernesto Morales, "the short, bald, muscular black-bearded Catholic Hispanic tyrant-genius of East Ninety-third Street."† Morales is an unusual therapist, expressing himself very directly to his patients and making practical suggestions about how to live, and Menaker describes the dialog in the therapy showing the play of wits between client and therapist.† But this of course is hardly typical therapy.†

The editor Erica Kates suggests in her introduction that these written accounts of therapy provide a more sympathetic picture than their counterparts in film in TV, but it is far from clear that this is true.† Very few of the stories give much sense of the week-to-week repetition and working through involved in psychodynamic therapy, but instead tend to assume knowledge of the character of the therapeutic experience, and indeed, of theories of therapy.† Many films have depicted psychotherapy.† Good Will Hunting and Sex, Lies, and Videotape are two memorable examples, and while both obviously give very stylized and partial portrayals, I'd suggest that they are more sympathetic and realistic than those in this collection of stories.† One advantage of film is that it is able to convey the silence and physical relationship of two people talking to teach other much more directly than literary fiction.† However, probably the best source for depiction of psychotherapy is memoirs or tales of psychotherapy by therapists or patients.† It is surprisingly difficult to think of many good novels in which psychotherapy plays a central role.† August by Judith Rossner is one example, Phillip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint is well known, and one might look to Irvin Yalom's works Lying on the Couch and When Nietzsche Wept.† On the Couch does convey our ambivalent attitudes towards psychotherapy but in the end, this rather random collection is unrevealing about the experience of the powerful relationship between psychologist and client or the place of therapy in contemporary culture.† It would be wonderful to have the most powerful portrayals of psychotherapy in American short fiction collected between two covers, but it would be disappointing if On the Couch is the best one could do.

 

© 2004 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

 

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.


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