Self in Relationships: Perspectives on Family Therapy from Developmental Psychology

Editor : Astri Johnsen, Editor : Vigdis Wie Torsteinsson, Editor : Rolf Sundet

Self in Relationships: Perspectives on Family Therapy from Developmental Psychology

Book Details

  • Publisher : Routledge
  • Published : 2003
  • Cover : Paperback
  • Pages : 352
  • Category :
    Family, Couple and Systemic Therapy
  • Catalogue No : 17700
  • ISBN 13 : 9781855759510
  • ISBN 10 : 1855759519

Customer Reviews

Our customers have given this title an average rating of 5 out of 5 from 1 review(s), add your own review for this title.

David Pocock on 23/01/2005

Rating1Rating2Rating3Rating4Rating5 (5 out of 5)

Where is the next centre of energy in family therapy to be found? Following the hot spots in North America, Italy, Australia and New Zealand I would like to believe, on the evidence of this work, that Norway may be a good place to look. This book is an excellent addition to Karnac's Systemic Thinking and Practice Series. It is the fruit of a ten year collaboration by the three authors and is available for the first time in an English translation. It makes a substantial contribution to finding a way through some thorny theoretical difficulties that have arisen in the wake of the postmodern turn in our field. The motive in writing, however, goes well beyond the theoretical. It seeks to deepen appreciation of the experience of human connectedness: "The book is about understanding and reflection, but also about spontaneous companionship - the experience of the here-and-now - and about touching and letting oneself be touched by the individual on individuals one is with in the therapy room .." p2.

One starting point is a concern that social constructionism has been given too central a position in our field; that the privileged role for language can become reductionist and therefore limiting. This anxiety is not new and several recent writers have been concerned about apparently irreconcilable differences between the essential self and constructed self, the place of non-verbal communication, the difficulty of conceptualising feelings, the ethics of knowing and the role of empiricism. I think there is a strong case for saying that even before postmodernism the question of what it means to be a self in the system had not been adequately addressed in family therapy; that, in springing free of the constraints of one person psychology, the self has too frequently been reduced to a blank sheet to be written onto by systemic forces of one kind or another.

At the heart of this project is the use of the developmental psychology of infant researcher and psychoanalyst Daniel Stern. For Stern (1985) self and relationship remain intimately connected and therefore some well established battle lines - such as that between psychology and social constructionism - begin to feel redundant. Around a critical appreciation of Stern's ideas the authors weave a thoughtful consideration of many converging strands of recent thinking drawn from systemic theory, narrative, contemporary psychoanalysis and philosophy. This is a difficult theoretical meeting place but the writing rarely feels heavy going because of the sensitive use of case examples. I was particularly pleased with the exploration of feelings as a bridge between self and relationship. This area has been much in need of reappraisal from a systemic perspective.

The chapters are shared between the authors and it is a measure of their lengthy collaboration that the book retains a unifying style with a generally even quality of writing. It is worth listing the chapter headings to convey the scope of the book.

1. Daniel Stern's model of self-development.
2. Perspectives on the concept of self.
3. Intersubjectivity as a philosophical and psychological concept.
4. Understanding each other - what does that mean? On emotional exchange, self-experience, and interplay.
5. The traces of experience and the significance of time in narrative therapy.
6. Self-experience, key metaphors, and family premises: the relation between common and individual stories.
7. Senses of self and interplay as a metaphor for therapy with adolescents.
8. Differences and similarities: the relationship between siblings.
9. Together or alone: a both/and approach in work with eating disorders.
10. Involved thinking and concept formation as an aid in therapy.
11. Opposite and dilemma: reflection on therapy as a meeting place between psychoanalysis and family therapy.
12. To know or not to know - or how do we know that we know?
13. On understanding relation and ethics: an ethical perspective on the relational self.

I hope these speak for themselves. This is an unusually rich and rewarding book which deserves a place in every family therapist's bookcase and on every course reading list.

David Pocock, Consultant Family Therapist, Swindon CAMHS, and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist in independent practice.


Stern, D. N. (1985) The Interpersonal World of the Infant: A View from Psychoanalysis and Developmental Psychology. New York: Basic Books.

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