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by Jeffrey Kottler and Jon Carlson
Jossey-Bass, 2003
Review by Patricia Ferguson, Psy.D. on Feb 1st 2005

The Mummy at the Dining Room Table

As indicated in the title, this book is the presentation of clinical examples 32 therapists found illustrative and interesting to the point of uniqueness. Although many of the examples are unique, I think in some cases the titles are more unique than the examples. But the book is still worth reading, very much so, since it includes therapists who are all renowned for their theories. As a writer and editor myself, I think this book does a fine job of following the adage given to writers: "Show, don't tell." The book is written following interviews by Kottler and Carlson with the therapists.

   Another basis clinicians could use for choosing a case was choosing one they felt unprepared to treat.  One of the ways I've conceptualized my decision to work as a psychologist is that I love to figure out the puzzle in the presented case, and solve it. To my amazement, Kottler has similar motivations as stated in his case chapter, "I had chosen my profession because I enjoyed playing detective and getting at the root of matters."

The other aspect of these stories is that the chosen examples are "as transformative for the therapists as they were for their clients." This is true for me too. I think I've learned something about myself from just about all of my clients.

Some of the therapists in this book include Frank Pittman, Arnold Lazarus, William Glasser, Albert Ellis and Jay Haley. Jeffrey Kottler and Jon Carlson are the two who put this book together. Carlson has already produced numerous videotapes of professionals "showing their theories in action." These are the kinds of things I would have liked to have seen when I was in graduate school--my own professors practicing therapy.  In all my years in school, that never happened.

But I have seen some of the therapists from this book in trainings and conferences I've attended, and they are all interesting individuals. This is to be expected since they are creative enough to have come up with unique approaches to treatments. I and others have wondered if it is their particular personality that makes their approach work for them, more than it may work for the majority of clinicians. However, many of them have done significant research on their methods, in order to reveal the effects.

A brief biography, focusing on clinical work such as therapy and publications, is given at the beginning of each chapter. This is the only time the reader learns what the unique approach the therapist is using.  Also, this book is about psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, and therapists from every persuasion.  This book is one of the best views of therapy from the inside mind of the therapist that I have read in a long time.


© 2004 Patricia Ferguson


Patricia Ferguson, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist, author, and editor-in-chief of an award-winning ezine,  She has numerous publications in the area of psychology, nuclear medicine, aggression between teenage girls, and rape. She writes book reviews for several online ezines and is currently working on a book about writing with several writing colleagues due in 2005. She is also working on another book of her own. She and her husband and son reside in northern California.

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