Key Conversations in Brief Dynamic Psychotherapy: Clinical Practice Beyond the Manual (Book Review)

Author:  Binder, Jeffrey
Publisher: New York: Guilford Press, 2004
Reviewed By: Mardi J. Horowitz, Fall 2005, p. 58

This is an excellent book for therapists in training, written by a gifted teacher, clinician, and psychotherapy researcher. His focus on helping inexperienced clinicians quickly learn the mental processes and intervention strategies of experienced therapists captures exactly what beginners need to know. While there is an emphasis on brief treatment, his scope is unlimited; he presents ideas that will help therapists read into depths of unconscious mental processes, and to constantly revise and improve formulations made during the opening hours of treatment.

Binder was a young investigator and clinician when the brief therapy movement of the 1970s strongly influenced the field. He has taught more than an entire generation since then. His aims for this book provide for five major competencies:

  1. Use of Theoretical Models of Personality, Psychopathology, and Therapy Process 
  2. Formulation for Treatment Planning 
  3. Tracking the Focal Issue 
  4. Planning What to Do and Carrying it Out: The Therapeutic Inquiry and Ways to Implement Change 
  5. Relationship Management

While he is psychodynamic at his core, Binder incorporates many other points of view. He presents convergences in a section on pan-theoretical principles. The writing is illuminated with many verbatim clinical vignettes that clearly anchor his already practical theory to what one may observe and how it is actually done. The result is a book far better than a treatment manual, and it is not as foreboding for trainees as a detailed and complex clinical textbook would be. I highly recommend Mr. Binder' book for training institutions.

Reviewer Note

Mardi J. Horowitz is professor of psychiatry at University of California, San Francisco, and author of Cognitive Psychodynamics: From Conflict to Character, Understanding Psychotherapy Change, and Formulation For Planning Psychotherapy Treatment.

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