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Psychotherapy and Society

Psychotherapy and Society

July 1997 | 192 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
`This is a very important book.... This is a book that clearly challenges those of us who subscribe to a view of the self in relationship with society to examine ourselves and our practices and respond appropriately' - Self & Society

This pioneering book demonstrates that counselling and psychotherapy cannot be separated from the social conditions and context in which practitioners and their clients operate. Until now, no single text has brought together and considered the two areas of psychotherapy and social science in conjunction.

The book opens with a discussion of the points of convergence and divergence between psychotherapy and social science. David Pilgrim then concentrates on the relationship between mental health and gender, class, race, age and professionalism, asking and examining a number of questions about each and summarizing the relevant social research. Further chapters explore the role of therapy in relation to the personal, organizational and political context of its practice. The book concludes by providing a critical analysis of the professionalization of `talking treatments' and the experience of service users.

Psychotherapy and Social Science
Objectivism, Post-Structuralism and General Systems Theory
Class Distinctions
Women and Men
Races Apart
The Vagaries of Age
The Contexts of Therapy
Watching the Professionals
Ordinary People and Patient Survivors

`Pilgrim has some immensely enjoyable swipes at various aspects of the psychotherapy industry... he is at his most interesting when he focuses on the question of power relations in psychotherapy... his heart and his best writing are in the domain of traditional political activism, particularly the mental health users' movement, social reform, equity in service access and so on. What he highlights clearly... is the way some fairly straightforward aspects of injustice and oppression are still key contexts in which the therapeutic enterprise functions... Pilgrim's critique of psychotherapy's social value is potent and chastening' - Journal of Family Therapy

`This is a very important book. It is wide-ranging, setting psychotherapy in the context of society. It is readable, despite its complexity and detail. It is also disturbing, posing lots of useful questions for therapists, particularly at a time when society is understandably auditing psychotherapy and counselling... I find David Pilgrim's acute observations, fairly but challengingly made, most opportune, if therapy is to mature... This is a book that clearly challenges those of us who subscribe to a view of the self in relationship with society to examine ourselves and our practices and respond appropriately... Throughout, Pilgrim deftly holds two strands, the critical and the praising; this is what makes Psychotherapy and Society so much more profound and useful than, for example, Masson's Against Therapy... this is a book for our time: a questioning, evaluating time, when to be fainthearted or closeted must surrender such psychotherapists to a fate similar to that which befell the dinosaurs' - Self & Society

`This informed and informative book places the principal approaches to psychotherapy in their social context and, from this perspective, develops a persuasive critique of their adequacy. More, it considers theory and practice in the light of current fashion of thought... with a clarity and concision which is both rare and refreshing. David Pilgrim... has produced a book which will be of enormous value to those wanting to broaden their horizens beyond the familiar vistas offered by essentially individualistic approaches to psychotherapy. It will also be worth its weight in gold to those wanting to teach others how their horizens might be so broadened... the book is a gem' - Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

`Pilgrim's book is a welcome breath of fresh air... it makes important and intelligent points about psychotherapy, makes them in a clear and unpretentious way and indicates the important contribution that a general sociological approach can make to debates about psychotherapy... Pilgrim raises some important issues, such as democracy in therapy... Moreover, he does this in an appealing style which is both polemical and engaging... In many ways [his] critique of psychoanalysis exemplifies what is good about the book. In contrast to most other studies in the area, it ask bold questions, takes a firm stance and refuses to take psychotherapy at face value' - Sociology of Health and Illness

`This book is essential reading for all practising psychotherapists and those in training. It considers the inherent power differentials between therapists and clients and potential consequences for harm as well as benefit. Pilgrim's main thesis is that psychotherapy is inherently prone to psychological reductionism, locating an individual's problems inside their heads and neglecting the social realities which have a powerful influence on our psychological well-being, emotional suffering and mental functioning... I found the book elegantly written and very accessible... It is refreshing to read someone thinking critically about the practice of clinical psychology (as well as psychiatry and psychoanalysis), who, unlike Masson, also recognizes there is a need and demand for professional "helping" ' - Clinical Psychology Forum