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Anderson, R. (1984). The Cry for Help and the Professional Response: By J. Kahn & E. Earle. Oxford: Pergamon Press. 1982. Pp. 130. £10.00.. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 11:240-242.

(1984). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 11:240-242

The Cry for Help and the Professional Response: By J. Kahn & E. Earle. Oxford: Pergamon Press. 1982. Pp. 130. £10.00.

Review by:
Robin Anderson

This book is written for the helping professions: doctors, particularly general practitioners and psychiatrists, social workers, probation officers, teachers, etc. and its declared purpose is to try to help them find a new framework of understanding within which help can be offered. The authors' view, which is widely shared by those teaching a psychodynamic approach to the helping professions, is that professional responses can often be highly inappropriate and indeed unhelpful. Although the term 'cry for help' has become something of a cliché, they feel it is still of value in describing the type of request for help that is made indirectly and unconsciously and, usually, in a way which will put pressure on the professional worker, threatening his sense of professional identity and, if heard, often giving rise to either hostility or despair in him. There is an interesting discussion of the evolution of the term 'cry for help'; that it came into being when current systems of diagnosis excluded an essential message in the actions of those for whom the professional services were set up; that it represented a new way of looking at a piece of behaviour which could extend the role of a profession in being able to encompass certain people whose behaviour had previously been dismissed often simply as badness. The problem is that, once so-called 'bad behaviour' becomes a 'cry for help', then certain unhelpful collusions can be encouraged. The bad behaviour may be internalized by the helper who may experience himself, and be seen, as 'bad' if he makes a value judgment or will give rise to feelings of guilt if he cannot help thus allowing the client to indulge in destructive acts which he need not take responsibility for, since it is now felt to be the responsibility of the professional worker.

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