IPT Book Reviews

Title: Beware the Talking Cure: Psychotherapy May be Hazardous to Your Mental Health  Positive Review Positive Review
Author: Terence W. Campbell
Publisher: SIRS, Inc. 1994

Upton Books
SIRS, Inc.
P.O. Box 2348
Boca Raton, FL 33427-2348
(407) 994-0079
$13.95 (p)


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 references.


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 client.

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.

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