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
Likewise, the stories that we tell each other about our patients will have echoes of our own subjective responses to the work and Moutsou’s book demonstrates this beautifully. She sets the stage with a quote from Jung about an analogy between the therapy encounter and a chemical reaction, placing an emphasis on how both people are potentially transformed in the process.
In the next two sections of the book, we are then treated to seven stories from Ellie, a therapist who struggles with a painful experience of abandonment by her mother, followed by eight stories from Jake, another therapist whose relationship begins to fall apart as he continues to work with his patients. We meet five of the six teenagers again, now adults, within these accounts of therapy sessions, each of which is prefaced by a brief introduction in which Moutsou gives us her comments and questions on the main themes that each case illustrates.
The last section of the book is entitled “On losing and not being lost” and it contains an account of how Ellie and Jake meet in a professional development group. Moutsou suggests at the beginning of this final chapter that a creative connection can spring from the experience of loss and in this group, Ellie and Jake find themselves confronting each other and their feelings of loss in a way that forges a bond between them. The book raises a question in my mind about the role of loss in our motivation to do this kind of work and the
wish to make reparation, which curiously brings me back to my own early interest in Melanie Klein, who said in her classic 1937 paper, “to act as good parents towards other people may….be a way of dealing with the frustrations and sufferings of the past” (pp. 312). To what extent do we choose such work in order to try and make up for past losses?
I thought that this book could be especially helpful to young professionals who are considering whether or not to enter into a psychoanalytic training. With the intimate account through the eyes of the therapist on the experience of the work with patients, it provides a very good flavour of how it feels to be in that position. For any reader, the stories are told with dramatic tension and verve, making for an enjoyable and thought-provoking experience.
Klein, Melanie (1937). Love, Guilt and Reparation. In Roger Money-Kyrle (Ed.), The writings of Melanie Klein (Vol. 1, pp. 306-343). London: Hogarth Press (pub. 1981).
Mitchell, Stephen, & Aron, Lewis (Eds.) (1999). Relational psychoanalysis: The emergence of a tradition. New York: Routledge
Phillips, Adam (1998). The Beast in the Nursery. London: Faber & Faber.