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Book Reviews   |    
Integrating Spirit and Psyche: Using Women's Narratives in Psychotherapy
Reviewed by SuEllen Hamkins, M.D.
Psychiatric Services 2003; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.54.9.1296-a
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by Mary Pat Henehan, D.Min.; New York, Haworth Pastoral Press, 2003, 256 pages, $24.95 softcover

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Narrative psychotherapy draws on the concept of people's lives as stories. An increasingly popular approach, narrative psychotherapy understands that the stories—in the broadest sense—that others tell about us and that we tell about ourselves constitute our experience of life. Narrative therapy has its origins in postmodern anthropology and has developed separate branches within psychoanalytic and family therapy schools of thought. In Integrating Spirit and Psyche: Using Women's Narratives in Psychotherapy, Mary Pat Henehan draws on narrative therapy as developed by family therapists in gathering and threshing a cornucopia of narratives that have been powerful in constituting women's lives.

Using clinical, historical, religious, and personal examples, Integrating Spirit and Psyche exposes and deconstructs narratives that are negating and damaging to women, such as "you are helpless" and "be sacrificial and silent," then explores new narratives that celebrate women's power and health, such as "I have a voice" and "I am knowing." Intended for use by psychotherapists who work with women as well as by women readers in general, the book holds a steadfast feminist perspective that women have innate divinity and deserve equality and offers a clear-sighted description of the cross-cultural sexist oppression of women.

Henehan's work is grounded in her own spiritual practices but honors many spiritual perspectives. Her unique contribution of the concept of "spiritual intelligence" creates appreciation of the energy and inspiration brought forth by spiritual skills and resources. Seeing "holiness" in the work we do as clinicians, educators, parents, couples, and friends enriches experience and meaning. The questions at the end of each chapter are designed to provoke thought. One particular gem is the suggestion that readers write a modern proverb that would inspire women.

Integrating Spirit and Psyche explodes with ideas and information from all over the world and across the ages, but the benefits of this richness are mitigated by too brief an examination of each topic and too rapid a shift from one topic to the next, allowing for only a relatively thin exploration. Likewise, the questions at the end of the chapters are generally broad and do not build on one another but rather switch focus from positive to negative and from personal to intellectual, which can make these questions discouraging or intimidating to answer. Although the book draws on the ideas of narrative therapy in describing and starting to deconstruct sexist narratives and bringing to light stories based on the value of women's inherent worth, it only just begins to put into practice the complex clinical skills and perspectives characteristic of narrative psychotherapy. Therefore, it is not a useful guide for understanding narrative therapy of women per se. Rather, it is most useful as a fast-paced feminist introduction to a broad range of narratives, including spiritual stories, that influence women's understandings of themselves and their lives.

Dr. Hamkins is the college psychiatrist and adjunct chaplain for pagan spirituality at Smith College in Northampton and staff psychiatrist at the Carson Center for Adults and Families in Westfield, Massachusetts.




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