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Furman, E. (1977). Psychotherapeutic Approaches to the Resistant Child: By Richard A. Gardner, M.D. New York: Jason Aronson, Inc., 1975. 384 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 46:537-538.

(1977). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 46:537-538

Psychotherapeutic Approaches to the Resistant Child: By Richard A. Gardner, M.D. New York: Jason Aronson, Inc., 1975. 384 pp.

Review by:
Erna Furman

Gardner's book conveys that he is, above all, a fine and enthusiastic educator who utilizes his psychoanalytic knowledge in a particular type of educational child therapy. In his general discussion he stresses the fact that many youngsters' maladjustments stem from an insufficiently developed or ineffective conscience, as well as from inadequate means of ego mastery. His many clinical vignettes show how he alerts them to these shortcomings, advises them on more appropriate moral and reality-adapted ways of coping with difficult situations, and encourages them to "incorporate" his "messages." Like any good teacher who is faced with disinterested and recalcitrant pupils, Gardner uses every possible device to libidinize this learning process or—as he puts it in Gilbert and Sullivan's words: "When they're offered to the world in merry guise, Unpleasant truths are swallowed with a will, For he who's make his fellow, fellow, fellow creatures wise, Should always gild the philosophical pill!"

His devices include a number of especially designed games, dramatizations, videotaping of sessions in the form of television shows for an imaginary audience, recording interviews so that patients can replay them at home for themselves and their families, and encouraging parents and siblings to participate in the therapy sessions. These tools provide various forms of gratification for the children and are intended to encourage and reward their cooperation. They also provide the therapist with an opportunity to get across his advice in a palatable, repetitive manner.

It seems to me, however, that Gardner's many successes with patients are not due to his devices but to two other factors. First is his personality as a teacher. His mature mutually respectful relationships with children and parents, his excellent reality testing and honesty of feeling, his genuine wish to help others toward a more realistic adaptation (devoid of sentimentality and balanced by his own healthy narcissism), and the model he offers of himself as a man who thoroughly enjoys and masters life are qualities which are admirable and "catching." They spark our enthusiasm and our wish to be like him. Identification with such a teacher-therapist is an important gain for patients and their families.

The second important factor is selection of patients. Gardner does not offer metapsychological diagnosis of his patients' disturbances.

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