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Wittenberg, R. (1965). A Study of Brief Psychotherapy. By D. H. Malan. Springfield, III.: Charles Thomas, 1964. 312 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 52C(3):157-158.

(1965). Psychoanalytic Review, 52C(3):157-158

A Study of Brief Psychotherapy. By D. H. Malan. Springfield, III.: Charles Thomas, 1964. 312 pp.

Review by:
Rudolph Wittenberg

This volume describes a venture which grew out of the enthusiasm of seven therapists at the Tavistock Clinic in London, who, inspired by Michael Balint, had formed a workshop to explore various aspects of brief psychotherapy. While the workshop had originally intended to test criteria for patient selection, techniques of brief therapy, assessment of results and other urgently needed data, they found themselves more interested in service than in research so that, as the report states, “as far as selection of criteria as well as techniques (is concerned) we were not able to hold to the original intentions. We tended to choose the patients in whom we were interested and we used the techniques which came naturally to us.” (p. 41)

The total sample of patients treated between January 1955 and 1958 was twenty-one, with two dropouts. They were seen from 10 to 40 weeks. Data were collected on the basis of therapists' notes, case summaries and minutes of the weekly workshop meetings. With a sample of nineteen patients and this informal collection of data the authors' caution that “none of the correlations presented here is significant in the statistical sense at all,” is understandable. They nevertheless attempt to construct an evaluation scale as well as a follow-up and, unfortunately, make this rather sensational claim in the introduction and on the jacket: “there is strong evidence that quite far-reaching and lasting improvements can be obtained in relatively severe and long standing illnesses.” It is difficult to understand why such generalizations had to be made, since even by the authors' own criteria, only three patients showed what they choose to call “substantial resolution in the main problem.”

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