Perspectives on Counselling and Therapy

Book Reviews – Comptes rendus 633
Divorce Shock: Perspectives on Counselling and Therapy
Edited by Adrian R. Tiemann, Bruce L. Danto, and Steve Vinton Gullo
Reviewed by LEE HANDY,
The University of Calgary, University Counselling Services
The fact that divorce has been normative within North American society has
not for some time been a contentious issue. There remains, however, a great
diversity in the reactions to divorce both by the public at large and relevant
health professionals. What is not in question is that divorce, with near universality, has a very significant impact on both society and individuals. In recent
years the number of useful resources in the literature dealing with such
issues as the impact of divorce on children, divorce and self-esteem,
therapeutic programs for recovery from divorce for both parents and
children, and concerns regarding subsequent marriages and relationships
have increased both in quantity and quality. By the same token, if one looks
at the more recent books in the area of marital therapy and family therapy
which are often used in the training of psychologists you will find overall
very little, if any, space devoted to the issues of divorce.
Divorce Shock enters the professional literature into what, at least to some
I’m sure, is a surprisingly uncrowded arena. The majority of books currently
available, I would suggest, fall into the pop psychology, self-help category.
In reviewing Divorce Shock it is tempting to make comparisons to some of the
existing valuable books in the area, however I believe this would be unfair
both to them and this particular volume. While Divorce Shock is subtitled
Perspectives on Counselling and Therapy and thus might lead readers to believe
that they would find within it a major source of “how to do it” clinical
information – they would be largely disappointed. The book is in fact what
it purports to be; a collection of perspectives on divorce, the divorce process,
and interventions aimed at recovery from divorce. This is not to say that
there is not reference in some instances to very specific clinical information,
but its scope and goal is clearly broader than that. It is in this broader arena
of identifying, exploring, and in some cases expanding many of the issues
related to divorce, both in the individual and societal context, that this
volume offers a great deal.
The book itself is a collection of fifteen papers, really sixteen counting the
very extensive introduction, and I believe it has been well organized in terms
of the content of the individual papers and their order of presentation.
Readers used to a parsimonious and at times even terse research style of
writing will have some difficulty in getting past the wordy introduction
which contains more than its share of generalizations of a nature which will
make an empiricist shudder. The introduction does provide a very good
634 Handy
overview of the rest of the book and allows one to knowledgeably select
desired readings from the fifteen chapters which follow.
The first four chapters of this volume provide a context for the subsequent
chapters in a way that few books in the area have. Philosophical
underpinnings of divorce and grief, divorce trends from both a societal and
personal experience perspective, and divorce from a particular clinical sociological perspective represent the broad ranging areas of the first three
chapters. The fourth chapter focusses on the issue of betrayal as a major
component of the divorce experience while exploring its role in a variety of
other contexts.
Beginning with chapter five the topics become somewhat more focussed.
Chapter five presents not only information as to what courts may or may not
do, but explores their role in the continuing relationship of the soon-to-be
ex-spouses. Chapter six reports largely survey data as to how ex-spouses
respond to the death of a divorced spouse. The information provided in this
chapter may well better prepare clinicians for dealing with this increasing
phenomenon. Chapter seven returns to a somewhat more multi-level analysis
in terms of looking at the psychological, cultural and political considerations
of women who are divorcing. This chapter goes considerably and usefully
beyond the usual information which indicates that the impact of divorce is
gender related. Helping professionals are challenged to examine their own
attitudes as they relate to specific modes of intervention which are suggested
as beneficial. This chapter in particular struck me as a useful integration of
both therapeutic, developmental, gender and crisis areas of knowledge as
they relate to individual responses to divorce. Chapter eight deals with an
overview of grief as a major component in separation and divorce in a very
brief but competent fashion. Chapter nine deals with divorce and the loss of
self by defining four stages of a possible intervention in a very brief manner
which I believe many readers will find somewhat lacking in desired
specificity. Chapter ten is also a very brief chapter looking at the idea of the
perfect couple as often a much more apparent than real phenomenon. The
concepts raised in this context regarding co-dependency and subsequent
disillusionment, while thought-provoking, are not dealt with extensively
enough to leave the reader satisfied. Chapter eleven uses a variety of case
examples to explore divorce and depression in a manner which emphasizes
its context within the broader area of dealing with loss. A strong message is
presented here that practitioners working in the area of divorce need to be
at least competent, if not experts, in dealing with such directly related areas
as depression, which is either precipitated by or combined with divorce in a
manner that often raises the possible question of suicide risk.
Chapter twelve is written in an effective first person style dealing with a
particular therapeutic approach to the “therapy and management” of the
shock of the loss of a love relationship. A particular intervention is generally
described which is designed to facilitate moving through the stages of loss or
grief in the most proactive manner possible. Chapter thirteen, entitled “Love,
Loss and Divorce: The Risk of Suicide”, 1 believe to be clearly the weakest,
Book Reviews – Comptes rendus 635
but fortunately also the shortest chapter in the volume. We arc presented a
post-hoc analysis of Marilyn Monroe in a manner which, compared with
other resources available in the literature, offers little. Chapters fourteen and
fifteen go together very well. Chapter fourteen examines in some detail the
notion of divorce as betrayal in a manner quite different, and yet complementary, with that presented in chapter four. Central to a significant portion of
this material is the concept of “projecrive identification”, which is also
utilized in chapter fifteen and quite interestingly examines divorce within the
context of the original complementary patterns of relationship interaction
which lead to the attraction of the partners in the first place. This chapter
provides both a brief theoretical overview as well as an annotated transcript
of therapy with a selected couple.
In summary, I believe this book’s greatest value to most psychologists
may well be perceived by many as its greatest weakness. It provides a variety
of perspectives in a manner and from a point of view that is not the everyday
fare of most psychologists. It leans heavily on psychoanalytic foundations and
lacks specificity that many psychological practitioners might generally desire.
As a stimulus to widen our perspectives beyond what becomes in practice
often a very narrow focus, I believe the book Divorce Shock overall to be a
valuable addition to the literature.
Submitted June 16,1993
Accepted June 21, 1993

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