The Art of Psychotherapy
The Family Therapy Networker is a magazine for mental health workers, and the case studies presented in this collection began life in its pages. Each case is described by the therapist concerned, together with their choice of treatment and how the therapy turned out. This is then followed by a commentary from another one or two therapists, who might agree with the approach taken, or vehemently disagree. Sometimes the original therapist then responds with justifications or extra information.
It all sounds pretty dry, but it's absolutely fascinating! I've always been a sucker for those collections of case studies, more literary than this, by author/practitioners like Oliver Sacks or Irvin D. Yalom. This material is less polished, but comes direct from the coalface of the therapist's consulting room. Mistakes are admitted, not all cases are successfully resolved, sometimes huge issues are left completely unaddressed (eg the role of gender in reinforcing a wife and daughter's 'caring' for an alcoholic husband; the possibility that a young boy who 'acts out' being a girl may actually be trans). Published in 1999, it was clear that social norms have shifted dramatically in some areas in the last twenty years, and were in the process of shifting on these pages. Some new and apparently exciting therapy techniques (EMDR, Thought Field Therpay) have now been debunked.
But what remains constant is the complex, intriguing, troubling field of relationships and mental health -- however they are tackled, those problems will always be with us. It's sobering, but also weirdly comforting, to learn that there is no one 'solution' to any client's difficulties; but that sometimes, it doesn't really matter what the therapist does, as long as they do something.