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White, K. (2000). Sisters: An Anthology edited by Penelope Farmer. Published by Allen Lane/The Penguin Press, London, 1999; 454 pages; £20.00 hardback. Brit. J. Psychother., 17(1):121-123.

(2000). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 17(1):121-123

Sisters: An Anthology edited by Penelope Farmer. Published by Allen Lane/The Penguin Press, London, 1999; 454 pages; £20.00 hardback

Review by:
Kate White

I have a very personal interest in a book about sisters, being the youngest sibling in my family with an older brother and sister. The topic of siblings has been one I have both reflected on and puzzled over for a number of years, and my interest has grown because of the relative absence of theorizing within the world of psychotherapy about the impact of this relationship. I note that the editor of this anthology also comes to her subject from deeply personal experience, both as a twin sister and having a younger sister and brother. It is this autobiographical thread which, I think, is the book's strength, drawing on personal experience to introduce each chapter.

As a psychotherapist I have been fascinated, concerned and sometimes shocked by the powerful impact of sibling relationships on the life of my clients as together we reproduce, experience and unravel their ghosts in the therapeutic encounter. I would describe individual psychotherapy and specifically psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy, unlike group analysis and family therapy, as being ‘parentocentric’. The focus on and scrutiny of the parent-child dynamic may miss altogether the impact of a brother or sister in a client's struggle for intimacy and attachment. It is notable that current attachment research seems to be bearing out the significance of an association between a person's security with regard to their primary caregiver and their capacity for collaborative and more harmonious sibling and peer relationships (Volling & Belsky 1992).

I think that the apparent absence of sibling narratives in the arena of individual psychotherapeutic work is possibly a reflection of the relative invisibility of this relationship in Western cultures generally.

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