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Eckardt, M.H. (2011). The Embedded Self: An Integrated Psychodynamic and Systemic Perspective on Couples and Family Therapy, by Mary-Joan Gerson. Routledge, NY, 2010 291 pp., $35.95. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 39(3):573-576.

(2011). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 39(3):573-576

Book Reviews - Edited by C. A. Alfonso and J.R. Silvio

The Embedded Self: An Integrated Psychodynamic and Systemic Perspective on Couples and Family Therapy, by Mary-Joan Gerson. Routledge, NY, 2010 291 pp., $35.95

Review by:
Marianne Homey Eckardt, M.D.

This book highlights the dramatic differences in perspective, awareness, and focus when engaging in psychoanalytic-oriented psychotherapy or family and couples psychotherapy. The author, growing up in a multi-ethnic environment, was deeply impressed by the degree to which the individual was invariably intricately embedded in his or her family and immediate environment. This outlook influenced her choice of professional training. She simultaneously obtained psychoanalytic as well as family therapy training and became a sought-after therapist and teacher in individual, family, and couples therapy. She brings ideal qualifications to the project of this book, which is to provide an orientation to psychodynamic-minded psychotherapists in the theory and practice of work with families and couples. She introduces us to the feel and texture of how system theory perceives the way families function or how they get mired in dysfunction.

This book is timely. The psychoanalytic climate is changing, leaning more to pluralistic points of view and varied clinical activities. The author engages our attention with a balance of precise, theoretical overviews and a rich flow of clinical illustrations. We become observers of other therapeutic modalities, other ways of perceiving, other tactics, and how changes are brought about. We are encouraged to reflect, to widen our perspective, and to become more creative in our own therapeutic approaches. Gerson juxtaposes with great clarity the family or couple therapy positions to the psychoanalytic, adding a sense of drama to our reading journey.

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