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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Family Therapy

The Good Father: On Men, Masculinity, and Life in the Family by Mark O'Connell (Scribner) Fathering is one of the most basic and profound human activities. Yet in addition to its many joys, fatherhood is often freighted with longing, sadness, anger, and misunderstanding. Most of us, men and women alike, are acutely aware of how difficult it is to father well, year after year, until, and even after, children are grown.

At the same time, the essential relationships between men and women and their children are under stress these days as never before, subject to the pressures of work, money, divorce, remarriage, and adoption. As a result, many fathers struggle with deep uncertainties about their parenting abilities. Meanwhile, society's definitions of masculinity appear ever more fluid, negotiable, and unreachable in today's media-saturated culture, which endlessly exposes men (and women) to a stream of images celebrating violence, war, hypermasculinity, athletic ability, corporate competition, alternative life-styles, "metrosexuality," and triumphant materialism.

Who, men might rightfully ask, are we expected to be? Do various pop-cultural definitions of masculinity really reflect what it is to be a man? What in men's true natures helps them be good fathers? Can aggression be useful? What masculine traits do fathers need to guard -- and guard against? How do men love their children, and how is being a father very different from and no less essential than being a mother? And how can women understand how men experience fatherhood?

This is the rich social reality that Dr. Mark O'Connell, a psychotherapist and father of three, addresses in his provocative, brilliant, and wise book. Drawing on both his professional case histories and personal experience, O'Connell describes the internal conflicts that many men feel about the difficulties of being a father but which they are often unable to discuss easily. Such issues include questions about authority, discipline, intimacy, physical contact, and sexuality.

In ways that are distinctly masculine, O'Connell says, fathers communicate standards, insist on respect for others, instigate necessary confrontations, and even engage in the kind of rough-and-tumble play that enlivens the developing neural structures in a child's brain. O'Connell contends that fathers play a crucial role in conveying the rules, expectations, and inevitabilities of life, and he describes how men can help their families by understanding and embracing their own masculinity. Men are different from women and must be allowed to parent differently as well.

The Good Father, however, is not just a very readable book for fathers struggling to find their best selves in relation to their spouses and children. Women will want to read The Good Father as well. All men and women have complex and important relationships with their fathers, whether or not those men were good fathers. Dr. O'Connell reveals how men and women alike bring these relationships to their parenting, and how we so often need to untangle these generational knots.

Filled with reassuring common sense, The Good Father opens a path toward happier, more satisfying relationships for the entire family while helping men become the good fathers they deeply want to be.


Family Therapy: An Intimate History by Lynn Hoffman (W.W. Norton) personal history of family therapy through the eyes of one of its most accomplished practitioners. Lynn Hoffman has been called the "Forrest Gump" of family therapy. Whenever something important was going on, she was there. For the first time, Hoffman gives a history of family therapy as seen from the inside. Learn from this internationally known theorist how family therapy has evolved and thrived over the past fifty years.

Part memoir, part text, this book will provide practitioners and psycho-historians trying to decipher and understand the cultural contributions of family therapy with their own version of the Rosetta Stone. Family Therapy: An Intimate History offers readers a map of the key concepts and theories that will guide our thinking and practices into the 21st century. Family Therapy is a much-needed sequel to family therapy's other flagship (also authored by Hoffman), Foundations of Family Therapy. In Foundations of Family Therapy Hoffman presented all the major developments and types of practice that have taken place in the profession in the last half-century (e.g., systems thinking, cybernetics, structural family therapy, etc.). In her latest effort she points out what I've come to think of as the "cracks in the foundation" that have resulted in our seeking new voices and more collaborative models of practice that put the voices of our clients before the voices of our theories. Ironically, driving this shift in thought and approach to the work are some very complex thinking and erudite concepts that fall under tent terms with names like narrative, constructivism, social constructivism, and social constructionsim. Hoffman unpacks the history of the ideas and events that brought postmodern thinking and concepts into the therapy arena. Documenting its migration from philosophy, biology, literary criticism, cultural anthropology, and other disciplines Hoffman provides some of the best interpretation and commentary available on the ideas of such heady thinkers as Foucault, Derrida, Bateson, and Maturana and Varela. The wide angle lens Hoffman uses to examine these developments in the field are punctuated with intimate portraits of some have the most tender and useful therapy conversations that students and (both new and seasoned) practitioners will find in print. One particularly moving example of this sort of storytelling is "The Christmas Tree Story" about a young man and his lover's attempt to use his death and dying from AIDS as a way of celebrating his life, honoring their relationship, and reaching out to his parents and family. What makes this book so special is not the poetic voice of Hoffman's writing or intellectual rigor she brings to bear on all her subjects, rather it's the intimate relationship she establishes with her reader and personal insights she provides into the developments she's discussing. This is generous writing from one of family therapy's most brilliant thinkers and one its most decent and generous citizens.

Family Therapy: History, Theory, and Practice by Samuel T. Gladding (Merrill Prentice Hall) This best selling book has been thoroughly updated to reflect a current and in-depth look at the field of family therapy. It retains its unique approach of leading the reader developmentally from understanding how families function to using therapeutic techniques that will help them change. An accessible, comprehensive text focusing on multiple aspects of family therapy, including coverage of special family forms such as single parent, remarried families, and culturally diverse families. Students are introduced to the various ways families develop and characteristics of healthy and dysfunctional families. They examine the rationale and history of family therapy, general processes, and major therapeutic approaches...and explore issues and dynamics associated with working with special family forms. Finally, ethical, legal, and professional issues are addressed, followed by chapters on research and developing trends in family therapy. Extremely organized and well written, this edition offers comprehensive coverage of all major theories of family therapy as well as the latest information about associations dedicated to promoting family therapy and means by which therapists can best assist families in entering and being successful in treatment. A popular four-part format organizes content in a logical, developmental format: 1) Understanding Families, 2) Therapeutic Approaches to Working with Families, 3) Special Populations in Family Therapy, and 4) Professional Issues and Research in Family Therapy. For individuals with either a personal or professional interest in marriage and family counseling.

Contents: I. UNDERSTANDING FAMILIES. 1. Individual and Family Life Cycles. 2. Healthy and Dysfunctional Characteristics of Families. II. THERAPEUTIC APPROACHES TO WORKING WITH FAMILIES. 3. Rationale and History of Family Therapy. 4. The Process of Family Therapy. 5. Psychodynamic and Bowenian Family Therapies. 6. Experiential Family Therapy. 7. Behavioral and Cognitive-Behavioral Family Therapies. 8. Structural Family Therapy. 9. Strategic and Systemic Family Therapies. 10. Solution-Focused and Narrative Family Therapies. III. SPECIAL POPULATIONS IN FAMILY THERAPY. 11. Working with Single-Parent Families. 12. Working with Remarried Families. 13. Working with Culturally Diverse Families. 14. Working with Substance-Related Disorders, Domestic Violence, and Child Abuse in Families. IV. PROFESSIONAL ISSUES AND RESEARCH IN FAMILY THERAPY. 15. Ethical, Legal, and Professional Issues in Family Therapy. 16. Research and Assessment in Family Therapy. Appendix A: AAMFT Code of Ethics. Appendix B: Ethical Code for the International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors.

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