When I was beginning as a psychotherapist, I combed local bookstores
searching for a therapy cookbook that would fill in the informational gaps
left out of my classes. I found books that were helpful in alleviating
some of my anxieties, but I never found the book that I was looking for.
There are many books out there that purport to be written for the neophyte
therapist, but most are bogged down with the esoteric prose and dogmatic
jargon that make some of the classic writings in the field difficult to
A Primer for Beginning Psychotherapy by William Goldstein, is
as close the book that I was searching for when I was in graduate school
as I have found. The book is divided into 14 chapters that lay out
many of the theoretical underpinnings to some forms of psychotherapy, including
transference, counter-transference, intervention guidelines and main ideas
that separate the different psychodynamic schools of thought. In
addition, the book gives several bits of practical advice including when
to collect payment, how to arrange the office and what to do when given
a gift. A discussion of the practical aspects of therapy is a difficult
undertaking, given the subtleties of therapy and the large number of events
that could be written about (I would imagine that this is why it is not
done too much). Goldstein does a good job at focusing on relevant practical
issues, while only occasionally posing and answering questions that are
relatively meaningless (e.g.. question -- what type of person goes to therapy?
His answer -- everyone.)
The focus on the practical aspects of therapy and the clarity in the
description theoretical notions of therapy are the two main features that
separate Goldsteins book from the other beginner books in the field.
The psychodynamic therapies are as nebulous to teach as they are to practice,
but this book is written in a very accessible style that explains difficult
psychodynamic concepts in a relatively simple and straightforward manner.
Though not explicit in his clinical orientation, Goldsteins ideas seem
firmly rooted in modern ego psychology which is a very solid and popular
framework in more psychodynamically oriented circles. Goldstein delineates
his beliefs very clearly, however, a weakness in this book is the omission
of any in depth discussion of cognitive or behavioral approaches that are
so practiced in our field. The general omission of cognitive and
behavioral techniques as well as the omission of a clear delineation of
Goldsteins perspective may be a bit misleading to those looking for a
less dynamically oriented book. A better title for the book might
have been A primer for beginning dynamic psychotherapy.
Except for the omission of behavioral and cognitive techniques, I was
very impressed with Goldsteins book. I especially liked the presentation
of his ideas in question format and his inclusion of relevant research
to support his ideas. I imagine that this book will both alleviate
many-a-beginning therapists anxieties. It is a book that will also
be informative to therapists practicing other types of therapy who want
to learn about modern notions of ego psychology.
© 2001 Michael Sakuma
is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Dowling
College, Long Island, New York.