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Book Review   |    
The Psychology of Stalking: Clinical and Forensic Perspectives
Doreen Orion, M.D.
Psychiatric Services 1999; doi:
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edited by J. Reid Meloy, Ph.D.; San Diego, Academic Press, 1998, 327 pages, $59.95

Although a recent National Institute of Justice study found that 1.4 million Americans are stalked each year, lectures on stalking remain rare in mental health training programs. Only in the last decade has medical literature begun to earnestly examine the issue of obsessional attachments. The paucity of research has stemmed partly from the fact that stalking, per se, is not a diagnosis. In fact, the only psychiatric illness routinely associated with stalking, erotomania, remains relatively uncommon, although when it occurs in reference to the pursuit of the rich and famous—such as Brad Pitt, Madonna, and David Letterman—it is widely reported.

Edited by Reid Meloy, Ph.D., the foremost forensic expert in the assessment of violent attachments (a phrase he coined), The Psychology of Stalking provides the mental health community with what may become the definitive textbook in this field.

Every aspect of stalking, from its ancient history to its most modern incarnation of cyberstalking, from the theoretical and psychodynamic to the practical assessment of dangerousness and criminal justice management, are thoroughly covered in this text. Even the ultimate progeny of any new syndrome, false victimization, is presented. But Dr. Meloy's book does more, adding finely nuanced layers of understanding to a discipline that until now has perhaps been most remarkable for its stridently opposing camps.

The field of threat assessment is rife with conflict, largely because so many varied and proprietary professionals are circling for the same terrified, albeit juicy, celebrity and corporate bait. Perhaps this book's most profound achievement, then, is bringing together the top experts in every aspect of the field—mental health, law enforcement, criminal justice, private security, and academia—in a rational, coherent manner that eschews the territorial divisiveness that has been all too common in this field.

Particularly noteworthy are Dr. Meloy's introductory chapter, which provides an excellent overview; Deputy District Attorney Rhonda Saunders' chapter on "The Legal Perspective on Stalking," especially helpful for clinicians in understanding the limitations of criminal justice; and Dr. Glen Skoler's chapter on "The Archetypes and the Psychodynamics of Stalking." (Was Shakespeare a poet who loved too much, and what does he have in common with O.J. Simpson?) Still, it is another fine chapter, "The Stalking of Clinicians by Their Patients" by Drs. John Lion and Jeremy Herschler, that undoubtedly will be the first one that clinician readers of this book will turn to.

Given that mental health professionals neither are terribly adept at assessing dangerousness nor have received training in dealing with stalking, even though our profession renders us more prone to becoming victimized by this behavior (1), Dr. Meloy's book should be required reading for everyone in the field involved in direct patient care. As a much-needed crash course for the mental health community, perhaps it would better have been entitled Everything You've Always Wanted to Know About Stalking But Were Afraid to Ask. Because, as one study mentioned in the book points out, more than 50 percent of psychiatrists responding to a questionnaire had been stalked by a patient, this is a subject we can avoid no longer.

Dr. Orion is affiliated with the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Boulder.

Orion D: I Know You Really Love Me. New York, Macmillan, 1997
 
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References

Orion D: I Know You Really Love Me. New York, Macmillan, 1997
 
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