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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 univer- sality, 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
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 socio- logical 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,
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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 complemen- tary, 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