The Little Psychotherapy Book: Object Relations in Practice

By Allen G. Frankland

Reviewed by Shannon Fitzgerald

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The Little Psychotherapy Book by Allan G. Frankland is a user-friendly, small (187 pages) manual designed to assis understanding psychodynamic psychotherapy from an object relations (O-R) perspective “in a dynamic and easy-to-follow way.” It presents very manageable chapters dedicated to different topics and issues that a therapist likely would need to consider in effectively treating a client utilizing the theoretical model of object relations (one of the four psychodynamic psychotherapy models). 

The term object-relation, as defined at the start of the book, is used to convey certain individuals’ inability to perceive others as they really are, instead viewing them in a “two-dimensional” light.  Rather than recognizing the true multidimensional nature in a real person, certain patients inaccurately view others as “all good” or “all bad.” Often this limits their ability to form and maintain lasting, healthy relationships with others.

The book walks the reader through commonly-encountered situations with those types of clients. It offers solutions to particular scenarios encountered by the author in his years of practice as a psychiatrist and psychotherapist within an outpatient psychiatric program in Canada.  This award-winning educator and writer provides fictitious accounts that guide the reader, particularly the new therapist, through some of the issues concerning boundaries and the four levels of meaning the patient experiences during therapy, while offering insight into potential areas of resolve for the client and valuable topics of concern for the therapist (e.g.  “projective identification:  that the therapist’s emotional reactions in the session typically reflect the patient’s experience and its impact on her/him at the moment”).

The book’s outline is helpful. Critical terms are set in bold and defined in the glossary at the end of the book.  The evolution of the topic within the book also seems ideal. The author defines and describes the topic in the first few pages and concludes with therapy termination, then followup, to be certain the work completed was as effective as possible and that each therapist who has taken the time to digest the manual’s material has tools to continue to grow as a health care provider.  Although the book is designed to speak to a larger audience, the author certainly targets the new therapist, clearly stating within the introduction “My aim is to provide clear and practical guidance to beginning therapists.”

Very thoughtfully written with a teacher’s tone, Dr. Frankland certainly draws upon a great deal of experience and has directed focus toward the reader in an effort to improve the confidence and performance of a novice mental health specialist.  It is easy to see the work was constructed with a very noble objective in mind and that the author has considered the topic with great determination.

As a non-therapist, however, I must admit this “concise work” was fairly dry and challenging to read and the approach, although certainly knowledgeable, was extremely clinical.  In fact, as someone who has been the recipient of a reasonable amount of therapy, I would not likely continue sessions in this clinic due to an outwardly detached and unemotional demeanor.  Dr. Frankland is obviously a highly accomplished, esteemed psychiatrist with a great deal of skill, but has an incredibly analytical method that made me feel more like the road to secure mental health is a cold set of ingredients that does not allow for a great deal of feeling or sentiment.

Dr. Frankland provides readers options for dealing with each client.  In fact, he often encourages readers to consider each case individually in terms of the many questions that arise throughout therapy.  He urges the new therapist to weigh each patient’s characteristics when considering pertinent issues such as whether to accept a gift or whether to hug a client who initiates this otherwise common display of affection and appreciation.  However, the author’s speech and thorough contemplation of seemingly minute details such as whether to participate in small talk while walking a client back to his office left this reader with an impression of disconnection in this certainly talented psychiatrist.

The author illustrates with many examples his very well-designed manner in dealing with different client situations.  Yet, even with an unquestionably honorable mission to foster growth in new therapists, he often lacks a human element that does not necessarily allow the reader (and possibly many clients) to relate on a perhaps more feeling level.  Obviously, not every person seeking improved mental health requires this more sensitive nature. The author may be achieving great strides with his patients and with this book.  I only offer my humble personal observation as a perhaps more affectionate scientist who has, again, been the recipient of a fair amount of psychotherapy services.

The formulaic, almost textbook nature of The Little Psychotherapy Book was helpful in understanding a rather complex theme and positively fosters a certain mastery over the subject, even for the layperson.  Dr. Frankland’s petite piece of literature would absolutely be a positive addition to any therapist’s, or non-therapist’s, bookshelf and serves as a very methodical guide for any person seeking to better understand object relations.

The Little Psychotherapy Book Object Relations in Practice
By Allen G. Frankland
Oxford University Press USA: April 28, 2010
Paperback, 200 pages
$29.95

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APA Reference
Fitzgerald, S. (2012). The Little Psychotherapy Book: Object Relations in Practice. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 2, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-little-psychotherapy-book-object-relations-in-practice/00012577
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    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
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