The idea of a master class, a forum in which experts reflect at length and pass on a distillation of their accumulated practice wisdom, is not new, although it may be more familiar in the arts than in psychotherapy. However, that is to some extent what this book is. 21 psychotherapists speak about personal approaches to therapy and offer pearls from their experience.
It is not a daunting book, and is structured in an accessible way. There are seven sections, eight if you count the concluding reflection on the therapeutic experience, each with a number of authors. Most of the major areas of clinical practice are covered, such as depression, anxiety, trauma, grief, children, couples and so on, and each contribution follows a set pattern. First is the pearls, a brief listing of three clinical pearls based on personal reflection and feedback the author has received often, a concentrated version of many years of practice. then each author gives a case example, a presentation of a case that best exemplifies the "pearls" in action. They also offer an analysis, a sort of commentary - why they did what they did and what they thought about it then, and now. Finally, each author provides a series of concluding remarks about the preceding material and offers readers a sense of their thinking behind their clinical work, and how this approach might be integrated into other people's client work.
It is not a book to read cover to cover, but rather one that from time to time can be dipped into. It is not academic in tone, and although the chapters are referenced it is not heavy reading. The writers all seem to take a friendly, conversational approach. They use the first person, and will often discuss their own reactions to the therapeutic event, or engagement.
Most of the authors seem to have an interpersonal, psychodynamic and psychoanalytic bent. The authors do not really favor a behavioral method. There is little by way of pharmacology and no consideration of the treatment of psychosis. It is also focused on individual therapy (or perhaps couples or families) but not groups, and makes more use of therapeutic approaches than clinical trials or examined evidence.
The book comes out of Leading Edge Seminars (Michael Kerman, who edits the text is the founder), a private organization that provides education and training workshops for mental health professionals through North America. It is, to that extent, an in-house publication, and the selection of authors is also limited to those mainly from the private sector. It may also be said that the whole text has something of a North American flavour to it, both in style and content. It is not a text book, and it is not a complicated or dense read. It may have sections that are reaffirming to the beginning therapist, and it will guide and prompt rather than instruct. For experienced therapists it may be more confirming than illuminating, more of a prompt than a revelation, and for many it will contain a small vignette that has resonance.
© 2010 Mark Welch
Mark Welch PhD, British Columbia