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by Deborah A. Lott
W.H. Freeman & Company, 1999
Review by Margo McPhillips on Aug 19th 2004

In Session

   A member of an online group asked had anyone read this book; she having noticed it in a bookstore, wondered if it were worth buying.  I read a few online reviews and decided it did indeed looking interesting and set out to buy it from Amazon.  Much to my surprise, Amazon said I had previously bought it back in 1999.  Searching through my books, I didn't find my copy, so bought another.

   I discovered the book was indeed familiar to me but was surprised because I had some questions I don't remember having the first time I read it.  Why just women and their therapists; why not clients or patients and their therapists?  Don't men form bonds with their therapists?  I also remembered how exciting the book was to read back in 1999, how, because I'm a woman, it taught me more about myself and my relationship with my therapist.  However, this time through, with five more years of therapy under my belt and being older and hopefully, wiser, I found the book somewhat Freudian stereotypical.

   Basically the book covers how women and their male therapists deal with fathers, power, and sex and, with their female therapists, mothers.  While it's not presented so dichotomously, and is dealt with in chapters on transference and "I'm in Love With My Therapist," wherein both male and female therapists are discussed interchangeably, nevertheless a dichotomy is the gist I felt.  Yes, male therapists also get the mother transference and female therapists the father, power and sexual ones but in this reading, I was wishing to find discussed why women choose or prefer a male or female therapist in the first place and how that impacts therapy.  I have mother issues and have found my female therapist extremely useful working with them.  However, I have also known women who avoid female therapists because they have issues with females (mothers).  My previous male therapist and I got into sexual difficulties.  None of that surprises me and I wonder why.

   With female therapists now experiencing a growing edge in numbers in this traditional male occupation, I was wishing for more about women and power, feminism and the changing roles of women.  Instead, there's two chapters on mothers and many of the other chapters cover power, love and sex, but it is "The Therapist's Power" and "Sexual Transgressions in Therapy," standard fare.  I consider my female therapist a sort of mentor and while "mirroring" is covered, mentoring is not.  The effect of the intimate relationship is discussed but the relationship itself is not.  The mirroring is therapist mirroring patient, not patient mimicking and wishing to be like the good they see in the therapist and being aware that that is so.  The discussion of transference was about how frightening and distasteful it is to many women, women's affect, with too little about how useful it is or about women clients' intellectual understanding of what is happening in the therapy relationship.

   Even though personally disappointed about its lack of forward-looking aspects, I like this book because it is well written and educational.  The chapter and discussion of transference is especially enlightening.  That the author is a journalist instead of a therapist, so easier for the average female therapy client to identify with and understand, is a plus too.  I would recommend this book to anyone interested in therapy and the relationship between therapist and patient.  It's a good start in a relatively new genre of psychology book.


© 2004 Margo McPhillips


Margo McPhillips is a 1972 graduate of the University of Maryland with a Bachelors degree in Sociology. She is currently interested in the use of books on the Web, bibliotherapy, genealogy as an online family/generational activity.

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