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Wilson, J.H. (1988). Psychotherapy and the Lonely Patient edited by Samuel M. Natate. Published by The Haworth Press: New York 1986; 120 pages.. Brit. J. Psychother., 4(3):329.

(1988). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 4(3):329

Book Reviews

Psychotherapy and the Lonely Patient edited by Samuel M. Natate. Published by The Haworth Press: New York 1986; 120 pages.

Review by:
J. H. Wilson

Loneliness is one of the most intensely human experiences. It is the price we can pay for loving and being loved and is the evidence we find in ourselves for the need of that capacity. From another perspective the awareness of being alone is an existential experience for all of us. It can be argued that it is necessary to confront this aloneness as a condition for authentic living. The positive side to loneliness is not emphasised in this book which concentrates more on negative aspects.

This is a collection of papers on loneliness by authors with very widely differing theoretical backgrounds. Exploration of the theme of loneliness is unusual in British psychotherapy circles and it is clear from this book that more work on the topic has been carried out in the USA. Approaches vary from the use of questionnaires to produce a ‘loneliness scale’, to therapy approaches based on behavioural, cognitive and rational emotive methods, to psychoanalytic contributions. In addition several papers address themselves to the relation between religion and loneliness. This complex relationship is clearly described. Religion may be a way of coping with loneliness on the one hand but can act as a barrier to relationships on the other. There are dangers in the solitary religious life.

As a psychotherapist I found myself more sympathetic towards the more dynamically orientated papers. Initially I found the theme of loneliness novel and exciting. It is not quite clear why I ended the book feeling disappointed. Perhaps the theme of loneliness is not as rich as might be expected. Maybe it is so complex and all embracing that it is difficult to tease out satisfactorily. Nonetheless, I think this would be a useful book for a psychotherapy library as it covers a little explored topic.


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