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McCarthy, D. (2009). Relating to Relational Theory Review of Relational Theory and the Practice of Psychotherapy, by Paul L. Wachtel. Guilford Press, 2007, 338 pp.. Contemp. Psychoanal., 45(4):561-566.

(2009). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 45(4):561-566

Book Reviews

Relating to Relational Theory Review of Relational Theory and the Practice of Psychotherapy, by Paul L. Wachtel. Guilford Press, 2007, 338 pp.

Review by:
Dolores McCarthy, Ph.D.

This was a difficult book to review. The reason is that every time I finished a draft I found another section that deserved comment, and there I was, rewriting. It's that kind of book: rich with possibility. Consider this a book to read, reread, and then return to yet again.

Students of psychoanalysis, from doctoral candidates to senior psychoanalysts, are exploring the exciting developments in recent theory and clinical practice. In fact, relational psychoanalysis has entered the internet world of Wikipedia: Relational psychoanalysis is a school of psychoanalysis in the United States that emphasizes the role of real and imagined relationships with others in mental disorder and psychotherapy (retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wbeconiki/Relational psychoanalysis).

As a psychology professor, I have been searching for a text that explains relational psychoanalysis clearly, discussing what it “is,” rather than how it differs from traditional psychoanalysis. While there are excellent works that compile anthologies of relational writing (for example, Mitchell and Aron, 1999; Suchet, Harris, and Aron, 2007), there is little “textbook” material. Wachtel, an academic and a clinician, provides this for his readers. Relational theory, which may be seen as a form of postmodern theory, has many definitions. For example, De Young (1993), somewhat facetiously, explains relational theory as “Not's R Us: not a medical model, not individualism, not rationalism, not Freudian, not Jungian, not short-term solution-focused, not humanist, not narrative, not radical feminist” (p. 5); but then suggests that the position covers “self-with-other” and “self-with-other-in-action.”

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