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Talk is Not EnoughReview - Talk is Not Enough
How Psychotherapy Really Works
by Willard Gaylin
Little Brown & Company, 2000
Review by Margo McPhillips
May 22nd 2000 (Volume 4, Issue 21)

The stated subject of this book is, "what it means to get help through psychotherapy." Early on, Dr. Gaylin, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons and cofounder of the Hastings Center, discusses why psychological illness has never been given the same respect that physical illnesses have. Two developments in the field of mental health during the twentieth century--the expanding definition of mental sickness and the decline in the reputation of psychoanalysis--have helped exacerbate this negative perception, Gaylin believes.

Chapter by chapter Gaylin educates the reader about the stages a successful therapy goes through as well as the tools the therapist uses to help a patient. The book provides both a useful checklist for those in therapy to compare their experience by and, I would think, a good orientation or manual for a beginning therapist or someone training to be a therapist.

In addition to the practical, basic information on what therapy is and what therapists actually "do" to help a patient, the author helps the reader understand the history of therapy in the twentieth century and how psychoanalysis and the many therapies we have today all fit together. Gaylin argues that there are only so many basic therapy principles or beliefs and that these basic tenets are included in all good therapy practices. The seeming differences in therapies offered today, he suggests, are merely differences in the "story" the therapist ascribes to and works from, not differences in the means used to help the patient or client. It is these basic means that the book sets out and discusses.

The only problem I had with this book was its title. I approached the book with some trepidation, believing it would be about how talk therapy is not enough or how talk therapy can fail a person. It quickly became clear that this was not the intent of the author. There is a very good beginning discussion on why just talking to anyone, someone not a therapist, is not like or as good as talking to a trained therapist. The title would be more accurate, but less elegant, if it was "Talk-in-general-with-just-anyone Is Not Enough."

Talk is Not Enough is educational and well written. It is also comforting in that, if the reader is in a good therapy situation it confirms that and eases any doubts or, if the opposite is true, the reader learns why to quit and how to find another, better therapist. I have known I was in a good therapy situation for the last several years and this book explained to me why I felt that way and how good my therapist actually is and what she has been doing on my behalf. From reading this book, I feel I have a more solid base from which to continue and finish my therapy. I recommend this book to anyone with interests or questions about talk therapy, where it came from or how it works.


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