Treating infidelity: Therapeutic dilemmas and effective strategies
Ward, David B
Weeks, G. R., Gambescia, N., & Jenkins, R. (2003). Treating infidelity: Therapeutic dilemmas and effective strategies. New York: W. W. Norton, 224 pp., $32.00.
Unfortunately, infidelity is a problem that too many committed couples face during the course of their relationship. It is difficult to be a marriage and family therapist and not work with clients where infidelity has occurred. In fact, many therapists, including the authors of Treating Infidelity, report that more than one-half of their couples report some form of infidelity currently or in the past. These cases present difficult challenges for both therapists and clients alike, and specific issues associated with treating infidelity need to be managed. For these reasons, it is important for marriage and family therapists to become familiar with the principles and techniques taught in this book.
This book represents an important addition to the literature on infidelity for several reasons. First, it includes an expanded view of infidelity that incorporates previous theoretical ideas about infidelity, and goes beyond the traditional definitions that applied only to married couples. Thus, the authors’ clinical theory is applicable to any couple in a committed, intimately exclusive relationship. Second, the authors provide a systemic approach to treating infidelity that integrates cognitive, affective, and behavioral dimensions. Third, the authors provide information about infidelity that will satisfy both researchers and clinicians. Finally, the book adds important conceptual and practical suggestions about forgiveness.
In my view, the book can be divided into three main sections and two additional chapters that can be read separately depending on whether the reader is more interested in the research versus clinical/practical aspect of infidelity. I found that the first four chapters satisfied the researcher side of me, where empirical issues, typologies, dimensions, and consequences of infidelity were effectively presented. Chapters five through seven were particularly helpful to the clinician side of me where the authors provided general principles and specific techniques to working with couples where infidelity had occurred. These ideas have made me aware of important issues that will enhance my clinical judgment in working with these cases.
I appreciated the authors’ care in balancing the suggestion of specific interventions with the reminder of the idiosyncratic nature of infidelity, thus empowering clinicians to use these ideas in a way that best fits their particular case. I found the sections on counter-transference, confidentiality, dealing with past affairs that have not been revealed, therapeutic separation, and working with the feelings of the injured partner particularly helpful for my clinical work.
The book includes clinical vignettes that, for the most part, help demonstrate the points the authors are making. Some of them, however, were distracting, awkwardly placed, and not given enough background to be useful. However, this minor distraction does not take away from the important contribution of this book. I would recommend it for researchers interested in the topic of infidelity and for all practitioners and students who work with couples.
David B. Ward, MS
Texas Tech University
Copyright American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Oct 2004
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