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Silverstone, J. (2013). Experiencing Endings and Beginnings by Isca Salzberger-Wittenberg. Published by Karnac, London, 2013; 208 pp; £23.99 paperback. Brit. J. Psychother., 29(4):549-551.

(2013). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 29(4):549-551

Experiencing Endings and Beginnings by Isca Salzberger-Wittenberg. Published by Karnac, London, 2013; 208 pp; £23.99 paperback

Review by:
Jennifer Silverstone

After the introduction and before Chapter 1 of this book there is an author's note in which Isca Salzberger-Wittenberg thanks her patients and explains that she will be using her brief intervention work with adults and children to illustrate her clinical vignettes rather than drawing on material from her long-term psychoanalytic work. She goes on to say that the book is structured chronologically through the life-cycle of human beings, and that in particular the psychoanalytic term projective identification ‘will be shortened and referred to as projection in the text as this may be less confusing to lay readers’ (p. xix). We are now prepared for a book written with a fresh approach that keeps the lay reader in mind and an eye on simplifying some cumber-some aspects of psychoanalytic language. Her decision to use clinical material from her brief intervention work rather than work with long-term patients enables her to be more direct and succinct, and diminishes the necessity for long clinical vignettes.

This is a thoughtful, intelligent and creative book written with a sense of vitality and overall optimism about the human condition. The author reaches into her lifetime of experience in working with individual adults, children, couples and institutions. The writing is clear, the clinical material vivid and often moving. Arriving at the last three chapters of the book, ‘Bereavement’, ‘Retirement’, ‘Growing Old and Facing Death’, the reader feels to be, as it were, hand in hand with the author.

Wittenberg introduces the reader in Chapter 1 to the events, both professional and private, that have stimulated her interest in the theme of endings and beginnings. Here we are presented with four pages of personal testament: ‘It may seem strange’, she writes, ‘that it was only very many years later that it dawned on me that my interest, my sensitive awareness of endings and beginnings, was likely to be due to my own dramatic experiences of having had to leave Germany - where I was born … I was nine years old when Hitler came to power …’ (p. 7).

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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