Book review: Fictional Clinical Narratives in Relational Psychoanalysis: Stories from adolescence to the consulting room by Christina Moutsou, Routledge, London, 2019, ISBN:978-1-138-31549-5
Christina Moutsou has put together a remarkable series of short stories in which she aims to eludicate the therapeutic process from a relational perspective. She tells us that the cases are fictional but of course, to write such an account, she will be drawing on her clinical experience. Fictional cases get around the issue of informed consent when using patient material and free up the author to explore intensely personal matters without worrying about revealing anyone’s identity. Not only are the patients in this book fictional, so are the two therapists who give us an inner dialogue about their thoughts and feelings as the sessions unfold.
This choice of how to present the work of psychotherapy made me think about how, even when we present an actual case, we are still faced with the question of how to tell a story about the work. It reminded me of what Adam Phillips said about psychoanalysis as “a set of stories about how we can nourish ourselves to keep faith with our belief in nourishment, our desire for desire” (Phillips, 1998, pp. 3). This set of stories begins with vignettes from the lives of six teenagers, five of whom we will meet later in the book when they enter into therapy. Moutsou argues that adolescence is a pivotal time and presents traumatic events for the six protagonists that encompass parental unavailability, sexual awakening, sexual abuse, and bereavement. In an interview that has been made available on-line (see https://welldoing.org/article/meet-therapist-christina-moutsou), she mentions that her own adolescence was “a highly emotional and turbulent period” and no doubt, her particular experience will be interleaved with the fictional accounts that enliven the first section of the book.
This idea of “interleaving” is at the heart of the relational approach with its focus on how the “emergent properties of the dyad exist in dialectical relation to the individual subjectivities of the patient and the analyst” (Mitchell & Aron, 1999, pp. xv).