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Therapy with Children is a
misleading title for this book since it is actually more about the topic of the
subtitle, concerning the legal and ethical issues that arise in psychiatric
treatment of children. The authors are based in the UK and so the legal
details they provide apply only to the UK. The book is short, and it has two
main parts, starting with a discussion of theoretical frameworks and moving on
to case examples. A final short chapter discusses general issues about how to
The introductory chapter on
children's rights explains some of the legal and governmental issues as they
arise in the UK. It provides a brief history of the concept of childhood and
the development of children's rights, and some landmark decisions. In 1987, in
the town of Cleveland, 121 children were taken into care because there was
suspicion of physical and sexual abuse, and an official inquiry after this,
titled the Cleveland Report, recommended that children should be made
part of the decision-making process in such cases. This influenced the
Children Act of 1989, which was a very important reform of child care law for
the UK, introducing a concept of partnership between families and caregivers.
This move away from the priority of parents' rights was also apparent in the
well-publicized Gillick case. Victoria Gillick wanted assurance that
none of her five daughters would be able to get medical treatment or
contraceptive advice from doctors without her consent, but the courts decided
that she did not have the absolute right to this and there could be occasions
when her children might receive treatment without her knowledge. The decision
would depend partly on the psychological maturity of the child. This decision
has potentially important consequences for treating the psychological problems
of children and adolescents.
After a second chapter that
provides an overview of psychoanalytic approaches to therapy with children, the
third chapter addresses the excellent question of who is the primary client in
child therapy. Some readers may feel that there is too much mention of
psychoanalytic theory here, specifically the ideas of Melanie Klein and other
controversial theorists, but such discussions are brief, and are supplemented
by more empirically grounded observations. The authors' conclusion is very
plausible: maintaining confidentiality is at the heart of the therapeutic
Nevertheless, it is likely that the
fourth chapter on the law relating to therapy with children will be more
useful. They discuss confidentiality in school and therapeutic settings and
cover more of the important legal cases in which this issue has arisen. These
become even more relevant in the second part of the book where each of the four
chapters is devoted to a particular case example. These make fascinating
reading, and could be excellent examples for further discussion even outside of
So Therapy with Children
will be particularly helpful for clinicians in the UK who work with young
people, but it could be a valuable resource for others too. I have used the
cases when teaching ethical issues in clinical psychology, and they have
provoked some valuable discussions.
© 2004 Christian Perring.
All rights reserved.
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
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