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Book Reviews  

Relationship counselling for children, young people and families
Kathryn Geldard, David Geldard
Sage Publications 2009
ISBN 978-1847875518 £21.99

The latest book from the Geldards is an extremely well-structured and accessible introduction (and more) to relationship counselling. The Geldards have published a number of books on counselling work with children and adolescents since 1997, primarily from an integrative model. Both work in Australia as therapists and trainers in mental health settings and have a wealth of appropriate experience. They highlight how both individual and family approaches can integrate to offer best support for troubled children.

This book could be considered an introduction because it doesn't assume any in-depth experience of working in relationship counselling, but I feel it is aimed at people with experience in individual counselling, because the skills needed for relationship counselling, while different, are underpinned by a knowledge of developmental counselling and experience of age-appropriate practical interventions and techniques.

Throughout the text, there is a nice counterpoint between an individual approach and the very different way of thinking for relationship work. The Geldards offer a clear rationale for their chosen model, CACHO - Communication, Awareness, Change, Outcome - which describes the process for achieving therapeutic change using an integrative model over a short period. In early chapters, clear arguments are put forward around theory of change and the importance of having a structured model that works proactively with our tendency to resist change. The relationships addressed include family and family sub-sets as well as couples.

This book builds up a clear argument for a grounded systemic approach (considered by many to be the most useful intervention in family work) because it strives to empower families to find their own preferred solutions for change and believes parents do the best they can in their specific circumstances. By enabling family members to see life through the lenses of others in the family, awareness of the experiences, beliefs and struggles of others is heightened. This helps to prepare individuals to be able to shift perspectives, beliefs and therefore the family dynamic.

The use of key theories like circular questioning, a reflecting team and feedback are well explained and subsequently illustrated through case material to enhance learning. The historical references to the development of systemic work are clear in the text. I felt the explanations offered were very accessible and made things like cybernetic theory easy to grasp! Good use is made of illustrations and tables to extend the understanding of the authors' ideas. These break up the text and mirror the importance of working in a creative way with families where appropriate.

Five sections, each building upon the last, address different facets, and begin with an overview of relationship counselling. The other four sections are Relationship Counselling - for the Family, for the Child, for Young People and for Parents. All sections relate back to relationship counselling and much thought is given to how individual work can be integrated into the overall CACHO approach. The different sections draw out appropriate ways of working with children, young people and those with authority in their world such as parents and teachers. Clear and specific reference is made to the use of play therapy and sand tray work, Gestalt, CBT, transactional analysis and how this can be coherently integrated into the CACHO model without losing sight of the theory of change.

The book's structure builds on deepening understanding chapter by chapter with frequent use of case study vignettes to illustrate the authors' ideas. Each chapter ends with a useful summary of key points and study suggestions to reinforce learning. I found it helpful that key ideas were repeated in subsequent chapters and well anchored in the context of skills of relationship counselling. At all times, the authors are child focused and sensitive to developmental needs.

Overall, I felt the book was excellent and highly commend it to professionals with a strong interest in relationship counselling or in relationship counselling training. I don't think a text can ever be a substitute for observing or being part of a systemic family team. In my experience of both, individual work in schools is very different from family work that incorporates circular questioning, a reflecting team, two rooms and a one-way observation window of the kind common to specialist CAMHS teams. But this excellent book makes sense of the hows, whys and importance of relationship therapy in the lives of our young people and their families.

Sarah Catchpole, former Chair CYP, CAMHS clinician, BACP (Accred)

Facilitating young people's development: international
perspectives on person-centred theory and practice

Michael Behr, Jeffrey HD Cornelius- White (eds)
PCCS Books 2008
ISBN 978-1906254001 £19

Reviewing this book has been a welcome, developmental experience for me. The extensive span of up-to-date research from the UK, EU, USA and Japan, covering a range of topical issues, has been illuminating and, at times, inspirational.

Through a Rogerian lens, and using a wide range of methodologies, such diverse topics as sexual abuse, self-esteem issues, children involved in child welfare investigations, children who are violent, peer group counselling, counselling in secondary schools, school non-attendees, parent-teacher communications and the use of encounter groups to improve relationships and learning in academic environments, are researched and presented in ways that are informative and accessible, and which provide many avenues for further research in their fulsome bibliographies.

Elsa Döring's ‘What happens in child-centred therapy?' would be an excellent introduction for anyone new to the subject of play therapy. She explains the importance of play in the evolution of human beings and in the symbolic communications of the early years. From the creative right-brain development she takes the reader to Piaget and the development of thinking. She explains the development of self and gives a useful overview of attachment theory. Case material forms a valuable part of this chapter and is presented regularly throughout other chapters of the book.

There are overlaps and connections between the chapters, and on more than one occasion I found that insights I had gained in one part of the book were amplified and enhanced in other chapters. Currently engaged in a Behaviour Improvement Programme (BIP) in primary education in County Durham, I gravitated to the chapter on person-centred interventions with violent children and adolescents. I was engaged to the point where I felt inspired to set up therapy groups for such children in primary schools. Two chapters later, Mick Cooper's literature search into the effectiveness of humanistic counselling in UK secondary schools found that the greatest improvements were on the emotional and interpersonal level and that the lowest rates of change were at the behavioural level; there is clearly much important work to be done in this area!

There were times in my study of this text when I wondered just how person-centred some of the contributors actually are. In my opinion, Fröhlich-Gildhoff's chapter on effective factors in child and adolescent therapy attempted unsuccessfully to impose a model designed for adult therapy onto children. Children have a different way of processing the events in their lives, and their feelings regarding such events. The problem-coping strategies working towards solutions, I believe, would serve to deny or minimise the child's inner wisdom and negate their self-healing capacity.

I learned much of value in Frances Bernard Kominkiewicz's paper on ‘Freeing children to tell their stories'. This gave me useful insight into the ways in which the investigative process for children who have been maltreated can be therapeutic through the use of person-centred and experiential concepts. Having said which, I bristle when confronted with phrases such as ‘the utilisation of person-centred techniques'. As someone who has striven over 20 years (and still strives) to become the core-conditions, I believe wholeheartedly that Rogers' conditions for therapeutic change, are a way of being and not something that can be incorporated as a technique.

Word limits prevent a deeper, more detailed review of this book. I am confident that Facilitating young people's development would be an invaluable resource for any play therapy student or indeed, any practitioner working in the field of child and adolescent psychotherapy.

Nonie Cohen MBACP (Accred) MA Ed Counselling and Guidance (Dunelm) is a UKRCP registered independent counsellor/psychotherapist working therapeutically with adults and children.