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McKee, B. (1988). The Complex Secret of Brief Psychotherapy: By James Paul Gustafson. New York: W. W. Norton. 1986. Pp. 454.. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 15:391-393.

(1988). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 15:391-393

The Complex Secret of Brief Psychotherapy: By James Paul Gustafson. New York: W. W. Norton. 1986. Pp. 454.

Review by:
Braxton McKee

Toward the end of this very personal book Dr Gustafson talks of 'leaving home to go looking for something better'. He has in mind leaving the home provided by his teachers, many of whom were psychoanalysts, to find 'better' ways of doing, and thinking about, brief psychotherapy.

As someone who chose to stay at home, to work within the field of psychoanalysis, I found Gustafson's book quite interesting. We can profit, I think, from his account of his travels and be grateful to him for telling us his story, a story particularly suited to the experienced clinician who, like Gustafson, has worked hard to find a way of thinking about brief psychotherapy.

Gustafson invites his reader to join him on his odyssey, to take part in his examination of the work of people who have toiled in this field. He does this in an intriguing way. He begins by placing each writer in an historical context; then presents a detailed example of his work; follows this with an account of how that person thinks about what he does; and concludes with his own thoughts about the work and an example of his own work in which he has made use of the writer's ideas. In doing this Gustafson focuses on a particular aspect of each writer's work, usually one that has been important in the development of his own thought. In making these very personal and idiosyncratic selections his method is more that of the essayist fashioning an argument than that of the scholar thoroughly exploring a body of work.

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