Review of The Dynamics of Therapy in a Controlled Relationship by J. Taft.
Dr. Taft presents as the body of this book a detailed record of pro-longed contacts with two children of seven, a boy and a girl. The contacts with little Helen lasted for about two months, and totaled sixteen hours. John had thirty-one hours of contact with the psychologist ex-tending over a period of about three months. The accounts are not verbatim but include those words and acts which are regarded as significant and reports of family and social conditions supplied by the case-workers so as to give the reader a very clear picture of what preceded and followed.
If the account were a mere record of the attempts to discover the cause of the difficulty in each case and to redirect the personality, it would differ little from many such accounts already available. But in her introductory
( 862) material and her theoretical conclusions as well as in the occasional comments on specific incidents Dr. Taft reveals a fundamental difference in conception and method. With profound reverence for the soul of the child, she insists that it would be presumptuous for anyone to try to form or cure or re-educate another. In the long interviews there was opportunity for accusation, for preaching, and for exhortation. The reader not only finds none, but the author shows at length why there was none.
In a personal relationship it is assumed that a dialectic of resistance, transfer, and freedom must and should take place. The control of the relationship seems to be the awareness of this succession and, perhaps, to speed up a little the succession of hatred, love, and emancipation. But the author does not give a formula and would regard the attempt to do so with disfavor. In the last chapter this is made very clear.
Therapy is a process in which a person who has been unable to go on living without more fear or guilt than he is willing or able to bar, somehow gains courage to live again, to face life positively instead of negatively. How is this possible? If one thinks of an exact scientific answer to the question, I must confess that I do not know; that, at bottom, therapy of this kind is a mystery, a magic, something one may know beyond doubt through repeated experiences but which in the last analysis is only observed and interpreted after the fact; never comprehended in itself or controlled any more than the life process is controlled.
A disciple of Rank, Dr. Taft does her work with none of the amateurish muddling that marks the efforts of those who have not thought things through. The book ought to help greatly many kinds of people, not least those who know not how little they know. But, while the secrets of motivation are not yet known, the tough-minded will not rest content with any mystery or magic. Once most of nature was a mystery and the only resort was to a magic. Therapy may be in that stage now. It is the ambitious program of many devoted scholars to penetrate its secrets and to make of it a problem that will have an exact scientific answer. The generosity of Dr. Taft in thus sharing with us the experiences of her clinic which we may imitate and even reinterpret should earn for her the gratitude of all lovers of truth.
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO