THE ART OF THE OBVIOUS by Bruno Bettelheim


Developing Insight for Psychotherapy and Everyday Life
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 An artful collaboration between psychiatrist Rosenfeld (A Dissenter in the House of God, 1990) and the late Bruno Bettelheim that scrutinizes the process of psychodynamic psychotherapy in a sampling of composite case-conference material and that reveals Bettelheim in all his controversial aspects. Here, the eminent analyst, prolific author, and virtuoso teacher is charming, insightful, and irritating all at once, tangling with an impatient, biologically minded practitioner (``better living through biochemistry''), interrupting another therapist and justifying his behavior, or arguing for an easy supply of sweets as a therapeutic tool when working with disturbed children. Much of this is the stuff of a typical residents' seminar: How the therapist's anxiety can interfere with the process; how family secrets often sneak into a session; why an inability to empathize with the most disturbed is an occupational hazard. As each case develops, Bettelheim and Rosenfeld look not only at what the patient says but also at how the therapist responds, demonstrating the importance of the first visit, explaining why emotionally abused children need to be indulged, and discussing ethical factors in research protocols. Although Rosenfeld has shaped these meetings (which took place 1977-83) into coherent exchanges, he's fastidious in pointing out distinct contributions and, in a few instances, he even comments on failings in the aging analyst's attitude--suggesting, for example, that Bettelheim didn't always seem to appreciate sufficiently a parent's pain. But Rosenfeld fails to address in depth the allegations of abuse directed at Bettelheim by former students after his death, and, showing only respect and admiration for his mentor's skill as therapist and teacher, he contends that Bettelheim committed suicide only after trying all available treatments for his declining condition. A fluent, discriminating presentation of established psychoanalytic principles, showing Bettelheim at his best.

Pub Date: Jan. 5th, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-40029-X
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1992