||Beware the Talking Cure: Psychotherapy May be
Hazardous to Your Mental Health
||Terence W. Campbell
||SIRS, Inc. © 1994
P.O. Box 2348
Boca Raton, FL 33427-2348
This 262-page book by Terence Campbell, a clinical and forensic
psychologist in private practice, critically examines psychotherapy as it
is practiced today. The book, which is intended for a lay audience,
is divided into four sections and 27 chapters and is written in a clear
and accessible style. Campbell reviews the research on the
effectiveness of psychotherapy, the training of psychiatrists,
psychologists, social workers, and other therapists, the nature of
relationships between clients and therapists and what can go wrong.
He carefully describes traditional psychotherapy approaches —
psychoanalytic, humanistic, and behavioral — and notes what can go wrong
with each. The problematic therapeutic relationships that often
develop are described and explained. The book ends with a
description of the type of therapy that can be effective and a guide to
hiring and firing a therapist. Endnotes for each chapter contain the
This is an excellent and provocative book which fulfills the author's
goal of providing practical and usable information about psychotherapy.
The brief chapters and catchy titles and subheadings along with frequent
examples make the book easy to read and understandable. He
communicates his arguments very effectively.
Campbell makes strong statements and the book is likely to be controversial.
He criticizes the training and supervision of traditional psychotherapists and
notes that the great majority of therapists ignore research, instead, preferring
to depend upon their intuitions. He discusses the problems with incest
resolution therapy and urges caution with recovered memory claims. He
harshly condemns some approaches. For example, in discussing therapy that
blames the parents and has as its goal experiencing and expressing emotional
pain, he notes:
One can only shudder at the long-term future consequences
for clients who are treated in this manner. Once a therapist engages in
these cruel, irresponsible indictments of a client's parents, how will that
client relate to his family in the future? What is the likelihood of
such a client ever enjoying mutually supportive relationships with his family?
After they dismantle any harmony or trust that a client might enjoy with his
family, are primal therapists prepared to adopt that client? (p.82-83).
Despite the controversial assertions, Campbell provides ample documentation
for his claims. Also, anyone who has been in the position that we have
been in of reviewing large numbers of therapy records will immediately recognize
what he is describing.
But Campbell also believes that therapy can work and he makes a strong
argument for a therapy approach that addresses the problems between the client
and significant others: "When psychotherapy focuses on the resolution of
problems between people, it also effectively alleviates the psychological
distress within people" (p. 223). He also stresses the need for
well-defined goals and action. He recommends a family therapy or systemic
therapy approach as the most likely to succeed and he notes that effective
therapy will include or consider a variety of people who are important to the
Campbell sees his recommendations as constituting a paradigm shift that he
fears traditional therapists will neither accept nor make. But he believes
if they resist changing their thinking and practices) they are likely to not
only lose prestige and influence, but also to face increasing malpractice suits.
He anticipates that the future viability of psychotherapy will be severely
compromised if wholesale changes are not made soon.
This book is strongly recommended for anyone considering therapy for
themselves, a family member or for anyone who may be questioning the
effectiveness of their therapy. Although it is intended for a lay
audience, professionals will also benefit from its clear, frank and forthright
discussion of the issues.
Reviewed by Hollida Wakefield, Institute for Psychological
Therapies, Northfield, Minnesota.