Professional books — Existential family therapy: Using the concepts of Victor Frankl by J. Lantz
Bumberry, William M
Lantz, J. (1993). Existential family therapy: Using the concepts of Victor Frankl. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 205 pp., no price.
This book makes a significant contribution to our field by introducing the often overlooked existential concepts of Viktor Frankl’s work (logotherapy) to marital and family therapy. Operating from the belief that the family group presents the best opportunity for discovering and experiencing meaning, Lantz skillfully applies existential concepts to the family process.
Central to this approach are the ideas that meaning exists in all situations, no matter how mundane or how horrifying, and that the single most compelling human need is to discover meaning in our own personal existence. When meaning is too elusive, an existential vacuum develops, presaging the onset of a number of symptoms and problems (anxiety, anomic depression, despair, confusion, etc.).
A variety of treatment techniques, including existential reflection, Socratic dialogue, dereflection, paradoxical intention, network intervention, and social skills training (communication training and problem-solving skills) are described throughout this volume. While these techniques are clearly conceptualized and applied via clinical vignettes, the real strength of this book lies in its willingness to embrace a philosophical perspective about the process of therapy. We are too often programed to seek specific techniques and clever strategies; this book promotes an approach that emphasizes authenticity, genuineness, and personal encounter.
In facilitating a family’s search for meaning, Lantz emphasizes caring, courage, and respect more than creating a particular injunction or offering interpretations. Integral to this approach is an awareness that the path to happiness is not self-gratification, but rather self-transcendence and the capacity to find meaning beyond oneself. Happiness is the by-product of meaningful living, not the source of it.
The central teachings of this book are revealed in a variety of case studies involving problems related to anomic depression, obesity, traumatization, relocation, and war trauma from Vietnam.
This is a refreshing book. In an era of managed care, cynicism, and depersonalization, it is energizing to focus again on our humanness and the need for connectedness. Perhaps the strongest endorsement I can offer is to say that I have noticed the ideas found in this book creeping into my clinical practice and making the load a little lighter.
Despite my enjoyment of this material, one caution is in order. This book is a collection of papers that have previously appeared in professional journals. As such, there is a considerable amount of repetition and overlap that may be disconcerting to the reader.
William M. Bumberry, PhD
St. Louis, MO
Copyright American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Jan 1996
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