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Book Forum: Psychotherapy   |    
The Art of Psychotherapy: Case Studies From the Family Therapy Networker
STEPHEN FLECK, M.D.
Am J Psychiatry 2000;157:846-846. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.157.5.846
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Edited by Richard Simon, Laura Markowitz, Cindy Barrilleaux, and Brett Topping. New York, John Wiley & Sons, 1999, 315 pp., $37.95 (paper).

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This book is a compilation of 26 case studies published originally in the Family Therapy Networker. In addition, it includes an even larger number of observations by commentators, who, for the most part, pull no punches in discussing and criticizing many of the case descriptions and the techniques employed by the authors or—in less than half the cases—express approval or admiration for an author’s sensitivity and inventiveness.

As for the latter qualities, I find this collection of case reports rather lacking in focus and consistency, as might be expected from more than 20 therapists, but many of the cases hardly can qualify as examples of psychotherapy. The collection is divided into five chapters on couples’ issues, working with children, psychotherapy in modern life, "the tools of the trade," and "the impossible case." The selection of case material seems rather arbitrary if not idiosyncratic. For instance, in the chapter on couples’ issues we have a white/black marriage presented as if it were a common or typical occurrence. In at least two problematic examples presented, I would suggest that inadequate attention was paid to the depression of the husbands.

Many of the cases selected seem unique rather than typical. Sometimes an author-therapist slips, e.g., writing about treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder instead of treating people. Some of the treatment protocols assert that although the main actor in a family’s difficulty is not even present (in the situation of alleged incest, for instance), the presumed but absent perpetrator was participating in the treatment anyway. However, in most instances the commentators pick up on these deficits, and among these responses are some outstanding statements, especially by Frank Pittman, Lee Combrinck-Graham, and Michael Shernoff.

In conclusion I would say that this volume is of interest to those intrigued by simplistic and even bizarre forms of therapy (there is very little psychotherapy), but I would not recommend it for a beginning and learning therapist. The introduction reads like a sales blurb.

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