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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 and Why Are Some Therapists Better Than Others?How Clients Make Therapy WorkHow People ChangeHow 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 GamesMindfulnessMindfulness 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 ArtOutsider Art and Art TherapyOvercoming 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 Trouble with IllnessThe 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
The profession of psychotherapy is pursued by a plethora of specialists, including psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, and counselors of various derivations. And theories about what goes wrong with humans -- and why -- are even more numerous than the professions that practice the treatment of such problems.
Until now the mainstream theories have been, in my opinion, necessarily incomplete, mainly because they typically approach human nature as though it has no meaningful past (and therefore no real connection to the world around us), and inherent psychological processes as though they can be simply and straightforwardly reworked if they seem problematic (with of course the help of a therapist).
Genes on the Couch is a collection of self-contained but well-matched chapters that place human nature in a much more salient and meaningful context -- that of human evolution. Contributors include such internationally recognized academics and theorists as Paul Gilbert (UK), Nicholas Allen (Australia), Kent Bailey (USA), Michael McGuire (USA), Alfonso Troisi (Italy), and Anthony Stevens (UK).
The chapters cover an assortment of topics, but share the common theme of connecting some aspect of psychology or psychopathology to evolutionary forces and evolved adaptations. For example, several authors address the functions of shame and guilt, the importance of social relationships and social intelligence to adequate psychological functioning, and the evolved (natural) tendency toward rejection-avoidance and status seeking.
In general, psychopathology might be said to be the result of natural but problematic responses to social or socio-environmental situations. "Try as we might to be rational and reasonable in facing our personal, social and ecological problems, our evolved nature can overrule common sense" (p. 4). Further, emotional responses can actually change the physiological functioning of the body, e.g., depressed serotonin levels are correlated with depressed mood (p. 5).
One of the more important introductory points made by the editors is that we are designed to serve distal causes but, as people, we are motivated by our own proximal causes. The flexibility built into our minds and bodies has made us a wildly successful species, in evolutionary terms, but this same flexibility allows misdirected responses to occur in individuals (and groups). "
[G]enes are the fundamental building blocks of life and . . . shape and (distally) predispose organisms to do certain things. But it is these proximal 'things' in a single individual's life that tells us most about normality and abnormality, joy and sadness, and relief from suffering" (p. 8).
Why, when it comes down to us as individuals, should we suffer depression, anxiety, and all the other host of emotional difficulties common in our species? Why should we struggle with love, social status, peer relations, and the more abstract but powerful drives toward "success"? If evolution had merely relied on reproductive success - - the numbers of surviving offspring and linear descendants - - to motivate us, why do humans seek so many different goals, and why are we so prone to unhappiness when these goals are thwarted? "[T]o achieve the ultimate goal of enhancing one's own reproductive success, a person must correctly execute a variety of adaptive behaviours including identifying, selecting and acquiring a mate, accurately interpreting his or her need and desires, and arousing his or her sexual interest. Each of these activities is a short-term goal that may be primarily rewarding [italics added], not simply secondarily rewarding because of its contiguous relationship to the ultimate [distal] goal" (p. 29).
Nature has provided us with an inner compass of sorts: when the achievement of primary (proximate) goals is frustrated, or our behaviors are maladapted or misdirected and don't appropriately serve such goals, we suffer corrective psychological distress. (However, this hypothesis may not adequately address all the functions of emotional distress. For example, just as a burned finger continues to hurt long after the damage has been done, psychological reactions to loss of status may drag us down into seemingly non-productive depression. Theorists have devised various hypotheses to explain this process, but these won't be covered in the current review.)
The "mainstream" theories of Jung and Freud, and the practical ideas and techniques of cognitive-behavioral therapies, are clearly shown in this book to be compatible with evolutionary theory as it is applied to human psychology.
For example, a psychoanalytically-oriented contributor (Daniel Kriegman of the Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis) notes that an understanding of evolutionary psychology can help correct the tendency in the analytic process for the analyst to indoctrinate patients with their own core beliefs and biases. "The evolutionary perspective can help to correct this detrimental bias .... the evolutionary psychoanalyst/psychotherapist must struggle -- often against his or her own natural impulses -- to help patients find, define, uncover, and develop their own unique configurations of interests, abilities, talents, and beliefs" (p. 87-88).
Anthony Stevens, who has written extensively on Jungian therapy, notes that "In practice, the Jungian analyst, like the evolutionary psychiatrist, looks beyond the personal predicament of the patient and relates it to the story of humankind . . . . This perhaps is the most important conceptual contribution that evolutionary psychotherapy has to make: it grants an expanded view of the self" (p. 104).
Representing the cognitive approach, Nicholas Allen and Paul Gilbert observe, "Unlike standard cognitive therapy, we suggest it is important to consider the (possible) adaptive (strategic) significance of certain types of beliefs, and not view them as simply errors in reasoning" (p. 164).
This is just a small sampling of the excellent material found in this collection. The writers are uniformly facile in presenting their positions, and the writing is therefore a pleasure to read. There is much here from which therapists, researchers, clients and potential clients will benefit, and the book is heartily recommended.
© Keith S. Harris, 2001 Keith Harris, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and supervisor of Victor Valley Behavioral Health Center in San Bernardino county, California. His interests include clinical supervision, the empirical basis for psychotherapy research (and its design), human decision-making processes, and the shaping of human nature by evolutionary forces.