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Women's Growth in Connection: Writings from the Stone Center.

Women's Growth in Connection: Writings from the Stone Center. Judith V. Jordan, Alexandra G. Kaplan, Jean Baker Miller, Eileen P. Stiver, and Janet L. Surrey. Guilford Press, New York, 1991, 310 pp, $40.00(cat #2562).

Over the past 10 years, our thinking about women's development has been revolutionized. The publication in 1982 of In a Different Voice by Carol Gilligan and Women's Ways of Knowing in 1986 by Belenki et al presented two complementary perspectives: the centrality of relationships for women, and how women learn. This book presents the relational theory of development from the Stone Center of Wellesley College. It is rich and clinically relevant. The Stone Center for Developmental Services and Studies of Wellesley College was created in 1981. Jean Baker Miller and several others began to publish Working Papers about women's development and problems that the writers faced as therapists. This book represents the first compilation of a number of the Stone Center's Working Papers.

Developmental theory, exemplified by such theorists as Erikson and Maslow, characterizes growth as evolving through a series of separations, during which one develops an increasing sense of individual mastery, and culminating in the fully actualized autonomous self. This theoretical perspective, however, does not fit many women, particularly not those in non-Western cultures. Rather than view those for whom the theory does not fit as either deficient or immature, the Stone Center's "self-in-relation" theory offers another perspective. This theoretical perspective takes the position that a woman's self-esteem is based in her relationships with others and in taking care of those relationships. According to this theory, a woman's growth is fostered not by separation, but rather within and through relationships. Relationships are not "need" determined but rather mutually enhancing. For example, intimacy is not determined by a woman's need for another's affection and for the other's need for her guidance or material support; rather she feels better when the other person feels better.

The book is divided into two sections. Part 1 presents a series of papers addressing various aspects of the theory of women's relational development. In Part 2 the theory is applied to such issues as depression and eating disorders. There are several chapters in this second section that present a critique of the traditional model of psychotherapy. The traditional model of any therapeutic relationship stresses objectivity, neutrality, and distance. These writers assert that this stance is not experienced as enhancing for women and may not be therapeutic for either the therapist or the patient. The second part of this book also addresses some of the nuances of the Stone Center's relational theory. How much involvement with another is healthy? What does this theory say about the traditional constructs of dependency, enmeshment, rescuing, or enabling?

These authors are also very conscious of the limitations of their theories. They acknowledge that their perspectives are those of five middle-class, highly educated white women. They see their ideas as being in evolution. At the present time they are looking at such issues as the meaning of intimacy for men. The Stone Center's Working Papers contain several articles that address issues of women's victimization. I was disappointed that none of these were included in this book. Nonetheless, the Working Papers' accessibility in book form will facilitate the diffusion of this exciting and crucial information.

I have read most of the working papers as they have been published. They are exciting, provocative, and have certainly changed my thinking about my role as a clinician as well as about difficult issues for patients. Almost every day I find myself framing some conversation with a patient in terms of relational theory that is contained in this book. When I first read the working paper about depression in women, I immediately sent it off to all the therapists to whom I refer my patients as well as to physicians who I thought would be interested. It is the best paper I have ever read on the subject. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book. In summary this book is a "must read" for every clinician!

<ADD> Valerie J. Gilchrist, MD Family Practice Center of Aultman Hospital Canton, Ohio </ADD>
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Author:Gilchrist, Valerie J.
Publication:Journal of Family Practice
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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