Wells, a California sex therapist and author of a syndicated sex-advice column for Knight-Ridder newspapers, here shares five case histories from her practice. Greg, a sex addict, is driven to relieve his compulsion, sometimes several times a day, with anonymous partners of both sexes. Hilary is unconsciously haunted by a childhood trauma of having seen her father making love to a strange woman. Mitch is a 36-year-old virgin whose fear and mistrust of women are exceeded only by his desperation to "score." Jacqueline turns out, late in her treatment, to have deceived Wells into thinking her a woman when in fact she is a cross-dressing man. And Darlene's nine-year marriage has remained unconsummated because of her terror of penetration. Wells's treatment of these troubled souls consists of standard talk therapy, dream analysis, and "backward association," a hypnotic recalling of repressed material. Her analysis, while sympathetic, seems flatfootedly obvious at times ("When a person becomes obsessed by another person. . .it's usually because the object of the obsession fills some emotional void in her life"). Meanwhile, there is only a brief introduction and no concluding chapter, leaving it up to the reader to extrapolate a general understanding from the particulars of these cases. Judging from the mixed results that Wells herself reports (two dropouts, two cures, one hopeful but still struggling), it is difficult indeed to lay a naked ghost to rest. Those more interested in genuine counsel than the chance to eavesdrop on others' sexual secrets will be better served by Judith M. Reinisch's The Kinsey Institute New Report on Sex (p. 1320).
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