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Osborne, K. (1987). Living with the Sphinx edited by Sheila Ernst and Marie Maguire. Published by The Women's Press, 1987; 265 pages; £5.95.. Brit. J. Psychother., 4(2):191-192.

(1987). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 4(2):191-192

Living with the Sphinx edited by Sheila Ernst and Marie Maguire. Published by The Women's Press, 1987; 265 pages; £5.95.

Review by:
Kate Osborne

Over the past decade therapists working with the Women's Therapy Centre (WTC) in London have developed radical innovations which challenge conventional psychotherapeutic theory and practice. Founded by Susie Orbach and Luise Eichenbaum, they have weathered storms over funding, accommodation, orientation and departures in addition to all the everyday stresses that providing therapy involves. With this book we now have a representative sample of the skills and interests of those who have been involved with the WTC both in its collective organisation, which Carole Sturdy describes, and in its practice. It provides a vital introduction, both for other therapists to learn more about psychotherapy with women and for prospective clients who can inform themselves of the choices available.

The basis of much of their work has been the development of a feminist psychoanalysis, critical elements of which are reiterated here by Eichenbaum and Orbach. They outline their grounding in object-relations theories using a perspective which emphasises the nature of mothering in Western societies and the differential impact of early childhood experiences for girls and boys. They focus particularly on women's problems with intimacy, discussing the legacy of conflicts over separation and individuation and their implications for therapy. These themes are developed by Sheila Ernst in her excellent chapter on the mother-daughter relationship. She provides three carefully considered case-studies to illustrate the complex way in which a woman's relationship with her own mother affects her responses to her daughter, and the way that these conflicts are manifested within the transference with a woman therapist.

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