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Grundy, D. (1999). A Review of Psychoanalysis, Behavior Therapy, and the Relational World: Paul L. Wachtel. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1997. xxiv + 484 pp.. Contemp. Psychoanal., 35(2):348-354.

(1999). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 35(2):348-354

Return of the Woolly Mammoth

A Review of Psychoanalysis, Behavior Therapy, and the Relational World: Paul L. Wachtel. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1997. xxiv + 484 pp.

Review by:
Dominick Grundy, Ph.D.

“WHAT HAS EMERGED IN MY WORK over the years is a more ‘seamless' integration … in which it is increasingly difficult to say which moments are the psychodynamic moments and which are the behavioral or systemic” (p. 393). Paul Wachtel is generally known for fashioning a kind of accommodation between behavioral and psychodynamic models of therapy, and in this present book, he pursues his goal of seamlessness. Twenty years have passed, however, since his earlier book, Psychoanalysis and Behavior Therapy: Toward an Integration (1977). During this period the anxiety of a therapist about whether a particular technique is owned and operated by psychoanalysis or learning theory, or by another theory, has diminished, although it has not disappeared. Crossdressing is no longer the big deal it once was. There are many developments, such as new understandings about human biology (including brain chemistry), developmental studies, and of course the new wave called postmodernism, which all make the old behaviorist-psychodynamic tensions look dated, at least in the form they took. Wachtel's current position can be compared to that of someone who valiantly advocated détente during the Cold War. When that particular was is over, what happens to his stance? Does the integration of models that he proposed then, when the Cold War was hot, help us find a way through the changed landscape, or has it itself become part of that period's history? His new book should give readers who have not followed his numerous intervening books and articles a chance to decide.

Before taking up its arguments, a word about the book's form is in order. It is not a new book, but an exact reprint of the 1977 one (page numbers unchanged), with an additional 148-page section called “The Relational World” at the end. Wachtel's 1977 work depended on effective summary and analysis of specific positions as they appeared then. What he concluded was as much shaped by what he paraphrased and compared as the other way around.

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