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Book Reviews   |    
Corporate Therapy and Consulting
Reviewed by Eric D. Lister, M.D.
Psychiatric Services 1998; doi:
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by Len Sperry, M.D., Ph.D. ; New York City, Brunner/Mazel Publishers, 1996, 241 pages, $27.95

Len Sperry has written a particularly useful book. It is designed, and organized, as a primer for clinicians that addresses the issues involved in organizational consultation. In this sense, it reminds me of Colby's classic Primer for Psychotherapists (1).

Dr. Sperry goes to particular lengths to describe consulting interventions along a continuum from those that most closely resemble psychotherapy, simply relocated into the workplace, to interventions that have primarily systemic and nonpsychological underpinnings. This frame of reference should be quite helpful for clinicians without formal business training or experience, and it offers some protection against the common but dangerous assumption that consultation work involves simply "doing the same thing, just a little bit differently."

Dr. Sperry sequentially reviews organizational dynamics, the concept of organizational diagnosis, and a menu of possible organizational interventions. He guides the reader to extending the perspective of an experienced clinician, who uses a basic-science understanding of relevant phenomena to clarify a sense of the problem and then tailors an intervention appropriately. In three chapters dealing with the clinical-organizational interface—called "Clinical-Organizational Interventions," "Executive Dynamics," and "Executive Consulting, Psychotherapy, and Coaching"—the text frames a wide variety of consultative interventions that draw specifically on the psychological skills of clinicians who have become consultants. Dr. Sperry shows how our understanding of personality, adult development, stress, change, aggression, and group process, all of them basic skill sets for the dynamically trained psychiatrist, can be transmuted and applied in organizational settings. By providing tables and outlines—for instance, an outline for interviews aimed at creating an organizational diagnosis—along with annotated references, this book positions itself to be a platform for further learning and skill development.

Despite its clarity and profound utility for clinicians interested in understanding the world of organizational consultation, there are some weaknesses worth at least brief note. First, this volume, which is part of Brunner/Mazel's series on Mental Health Practice Under Managed Care, risks implying that the transition to consultation work is an easy or a natural way to escape the impact of managed care. Such a suggestion belies the multiple hurdles awaiting any clinician who attempts such a professional transition. These hurdles include the need to ascertain "fit" between personal style and the demands of consultation work, the need to embark on a significant and sometimes challenging learning curve, the need to dramatically expand one's comfort range for professional interactions, and the daunting challenge of "marketing" oneself successfully as a consultant.

Second, Dr. Sperry's volume does not do justice to the topic covered in its seventh chapter, consultation to health care organizations, which perhaps deserves its own volume. He also might have said more about the role of psychiatric expertise in leadership training, an area where many in our field have established visible and impressive careers.

Finally, Corporate Therapy and Consulting does not provide a primer on how business organizations function. The clinician who has not had significant exposure to the world of business may lack the context necessary to appreciate some of the subtleties of Dr. Sperry's work. Again, perhaps this topic warrants its own companion volume.

All things considered, this is a clear and extremely useful book for psychiatrists interested in understanding organizational consultation and those who are beginning to take on consulting assignments outside of the traditional clinical encounter.

Dr. Lister is a managing partner in Ki Associates, an organizational consultation firm based in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Colby KM: A Primer for Psychotherapists. New York, Ronald Press, 1951


Colby KM: A Primer for Psychotherapists. New York, Ronald Press, 1951

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