Professional books — Practicing therapy: Exercises for growing therapists by A. H. Rambo, A. Heath and R. J. Chenail
Christensen, Dana N
In Practicing Therapy, Anne Rambo, Anthony Heath, and Ron Chenail have created an engaging book–actually, three books. Like three strong soloists, they chose to convey their thoughts one at a time, yet clearly in concert. The authors evidently decided that their strength as a writing team was in their differences. Of course not everyone will appreciate this decision. Some readers may prefer a single theme, presented succinctly in one voice, expanded with subthemes, then repeated in summary. After all, those were the rules most of us were taught, albeit somewhat painfully at times. Boldly, this trio decided to break the rules and offer us a collage of their intellect and experience, allowing the reader to interact more freely with their multiple ideas and styles. In fact, the authors take this invitation to interact with them a step further, giving considerable attention to the reader’s ongoing thought processes as they present their ideas. There are 77 separate exercises designed to stimulate the reader’s curiosity and self-awareness. The exercises are sprinkled through out the text and integrated in such a way that they cannot be skipped over as “fill.” The exercises add considerably to the reader’s impression that the authors are speaking directly to the reader, much in the manner of a concerned mentor.
Anne Rambo leads off with a delightful walk through the intellectual uncertainty that comes with more knowledge. Through an engaging recollection of her clinical experiences she makes the case for simple listening. She provides exercises aimed at helping the reader become better at listening, not so much as a skill but as an expression of empathy. Influenced by those who listen to family drama and hear stories, such as Harry Goolishian, Anne Rambo has developed a listening ear and a big heart. She challenges us to hear with nonjudgmental bias and to use language as a tool to release, not contain, an individual’s resourcefulness.
Anthony Heath follows with his treatise on listening, entreating readers to listen not only with a big heart, but also with their eyes, their inner voice, and their imagination. For the reader interested in personal development, he provides exercises for therapist self-discovery. He persuades us that curiosity is the vehicle to improve practice and that the first subject of that curiosity ought to be oneself. Where Rambo speaks to us from the reference of heartfelt compassion; Heath talks to our senses and inner spirit.
Ronald Chenail offers yet another avenue of interaction, a road requiring some rigorous long distance head work. Continuing the dialogue with the reader, Chenail introduces some dedicated left-brain conceptualizing of language called Recursive Frame Analysis (RFA). This form of analysis has become a popular branch of discourse analysis, a form of qualitative research that is catching on. Taking a single therapy session apart through disciplined dissection, Chenail helps the reader develop analytical listening skills necessary to the master “worker of words.” I found the exercise stimulating and reinforcing. Readers who view themselves as “theoretically challenged” may choose to make the book a shorter one.
The talented trio of authors of Practicing Therapy have accomplished in the structure of their book what they promise in their introduction: access to discovery about the complexities of therapeutic language. Rambo, Heath, and Chenail offer readers insight into the heart, soul, and mind of the master clinician; it is respectfully left to readers to take what they need and integrate it with their own conceptual maps.
Copyright American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Jan 1995
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