What Therapists Don't Talk About and Why: Understanding Taboos That Hurt Us and Our Clients

home  » What therapists don't talk about

What Therapists Don't Talk About and Why:

Understanding Taboos That Hurt Us and Our Clients

by Kenneth S. Pope, Ph.D., ABPP,

Janet L. Sonne, Ph.D.,

& Beverly Greene, Ph.D., ABPP

Publisher: American Psychological Association

Below are endorsements, ordering information, & about the authors

"This book is a must read for any psychotherapist. It explores the real world and often secret problems encountered in clinical practice in a creative, personal and very useful fashion. In this world of increasing professional accountability and liability, clinicians can be assured that their practices will be much better off for having implemented the common sense suggestions made by the authors."
Jeffrey N. Younggren, Ph.D., ABPP
Risk Management Consultant
American Psychological Association Insurance Trust

"This is a very brave book. Provocative without being proscriptive, it is a must-read for all practicing clinicians and would make a superb supplemental text for graduate courses in ethics. The cases alone are well worth the price of the book!"
Ruth E. Fassinger, Ph.D., Professor, Counseling Psychology, University of Maryland, College Park

"Bravi!! This second edition is an indispensable survival guide to help us to recognize and respond to our unacknowledged taboos, secrets, and uncomfortable feelings as therapists. Written by leading scholars in the field, this book simultaneously raised my anxiety and provided me viable methods to relieve it.... This is an essential book for every clinician--from trainees to seasoned practitioners. It will be valuable to instructors, supervisors and study groups as well as therapists in practice."
Linda Garnets, Ph.D.
UCLA, Psychology Department

"The silent topics in therapy roar like thunder throughout this book. Commitment to providing quality therapy includes addressing such issues. It is a challenging and yet refreshingly honest book -- a must read."
Jessica Henderson Daniel, PhD, ABPP; Children's Hospital, Boston

"This is one of those 'wish I could have read it my first day in grad school' books. The topics this volume covers are the forbidden ones that every therapist struggles with; reading this book is like having a wise, compassionate, thoughtful teacher and consultant who gets you to think and feel, critically and deeply, about the strange human thing we call psychotherapy. I'll be recommending it to my students and colleagues."
Laura S. Brown, Ph.D. ABPP; Independent Practice

"The most practical book on boundaries and ethics I have read in any language. Used as a text one could avoid doing syllabus for an advanced course in professional practice issues. Nothing available in the professional literature can match this contribution by three leaders in the field who have provide a virtual cornucopia of useful guidance about so many vital things which are rarely discussed."
Gary R. Schoener, Licensed Psychologist
Executive Director Walk-In Counseling Center

"It is essentially a superb text about the practice of psychotherapy, with all its unexpected twists, turns, and difficulties for therapists and patients. From its excellent short courses on logical and ethical fallacies, to its astonishing variety of intensely provocative case examples with self-assessment questions, to its steamy discussions of therapists' sexual feelings, the book illuminates, in a non-threatening, conversational tone, the previously-avoided dimensions of the therapeutic endeavor. It belongs on the shelf of any therapist willing to learn or think critically about psychotherapy; it may also save one from a lot of frustration and heartbreak in the work."
Thomas G. Gutheil, MD
Professor of Psychiatry
Harvard Medical School

"A gift to all of us who teach the ethics of psychological practice."
Celia B. Fisher, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Ethics Education; Mary Wood Doty Professor of Psychology; Fordham University

"Reading this book is like having a conversation with an old, wise friend. Finally, a talk about taboo topics in therapy with answers to unasked questions."
Bonnie R. Strickland, Ph.D., ABPP, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, University of Massachusetts;
former President of the American Psychological Association

"Engaging, accessible, and gentle in tone, this book boldly addresses a number of topics that are often ignored in the training and professional development of psychologists. Its provocative observations and questions, sensitive analysis of ethical and professional problems, and practical recommendations for trainees and supervisors dealing with a range of 'taboo topics' makes it a unique resource."
Virginia Gutman, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology
Gallaudet University

"A superb contribution, *What Therapists Dont Talk About And Why* masterfully addresses uncomfortable topics among psychotherapists. This comprehensive second edition takes the reader into a much-needed journey of exploration, discovery and learning. A powerful book, I strongly recommend it to all psychotherapists, both seasoned as well as trainees."
Lillian Comas-Diaz, Ph.D., Clinical Professor
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, George Washington School of Medicine

"This fine book does not tell the reader what to do, but what to think about. It is one of those rare books that will be equally useful
and valuable to graduate students and practicing professionals."
George Stricker, Ph.D., American School of Professional Psychology, Argosy University/Washington DC

" *What Therapist Don't Talk About and Why* is simply excellent: helpful, thoughtful, brave, entertaining, and so very "experience-near."
Barry A. Farber, Ph.D.
Professor; Director of Clinical Training
Clinical Psychology Program, Teachers College, Columbia University

"An excellent resource for all mental health professionals and their trainees to examine issues that are rarely discussed in graduate programs. This book should be required reading in any ethics or professional issues seminar."
Emil Rodolfa, Ph.D.
Director, University of California, Davis Counseling and Psychological Services
Former Chair, Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers
Former President, State of California Board of Psychology

"This is an enormously essential book addressing often ignored client therapist issues, e.g., a therapists disclosure of his/her sexual orientation, fear of a violent client, a clients culture and hygiene, and needs for a handicapped accessible office. Both the novice and seasoned practitioner will benefit from its matter-of-fact approach as a quasi-ethical guide for enhancing appropriate service delivery and therapeutic practice."
A. Toy Caldwell-Colbert, Ph.D., ABPP
Vice Chair for Psychological Services & Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Howard University College of Medicine, Howard University Hospital

"This thoughtful and timely book continues in the clinical tradition of 'know thyself' extending from Socrates to Freud. Essential both for those learning and teaching psychotherapy this book contains helpful insights and illuminating empirical data. Beautifully written it is not only likely to become required reading for mental health professionals but also likely to find a welcome home on any educated patient's bookshelf."
Harold J. Bursztajn, M.D.
Harvard Medical School Program in Psychiatry and the Law

"This book is about those difficult, or even impossible, dilemmas and quandaries of psychotherapy--the double-binds and provocations with which our patients unexpectedly confront us. The authors gather anecdotes and scenarios from the widest spectrum of theoretical orientations and professional (or unprofessional) settings. It is an invaluable book that presents psychotherapy practice and ethics as a set of remarkably interesting questions with no easy answers."
Martin H. Williams, Ph.D.
Clinical and Forensic Psychologist

"Pope, Sonne, and Greene have written a practical, thought-provoking, and comprehensive guide to exploring the sensitive issues embedded in mental health practice. They approach this content with fearlessness, humor, and wisdom, challenging professionals to explore the real impact of our values, assumptions, and personal interests on our clients. This book is a uniquely valuable resource for faculty and clinicians committed to responsible practice."
Elizabeth Reynolds Welfel, Ph.D.
Professor, Cleveland State University

"More than a thought-provoking resource of useful reminders, valuable insights, and critical questions, this is a book that invites its readers to learn by doing; and guides them through the experience. Those who take up the challenge will find themselves richly rewarded, both professionally and personally. I know that I was."
Dr. Douglas Saunders,
President, Ontario Psychological Association
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Medicine,
Dept of Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto

" From the myths that need to be challenged, the taboos about therapists talking to consultants about the feelings that make them uncomfortable, and the embarrassing moments that are most challenging, Ken Pope and his team of Janet Sonne and Beverly Greene update the 1993 book with new scenarios to use as a guide. Every therapist who practices ethical interventions will want to learn the questions that are suggested to ask themselves about how to handle a whole range of difficult client issues.... This book is MUST reading and should be on every therapists desk."
Lenore E. Walker, Ed.D., ABPP
Diplomate in Clinical & Family Psychology Professor, Nova Southeastern University Center for Psychological Studies

"The authors roll back the carpet and help us look at what we've swept under it.... The book is a significant advance because it goes beyond the 'just don'ts' and helps us to understand what is personally challenging and learn what to do about it. This volume will be helpful for students and practitioners alike and would extremely valuable in peer supervision groups. Ethics educators rack their brains for ways to help improve our ethical behavior; this one goes in the tool box."
Michael C. Gottlieb, Ph.D., ABPP, Independent Practice

"Pope, Sonne, and Greene have nicely outlined a host of issues that can arise in therapy but that trainees may be reluctant to bring up in supervision, and more seasoned therapists may be reluctant to admit to their colleagues or even to themselves. They discuss reasons for our failure to discuss these issues, while noting their importance in rendering care for our patients and in taking care of ourselves; and they provide a framework to begin addressing the issues before they arise in therapy."
David J. Martin, Ph.D.
Chief Psychologist, Director of Training
Director, HIV Mental Health Services
Department of Psychiatry
Harbor-UCLA Medical Center

"This book challenges us to consider those most uncomfortable situations, as its question focused vignettes ask us to deeply self-reflect upon taboo topics. Dostoevsky, who opined that each person has ideas they hide even from themself, would be proud of this tome's efforts to expose us to our own inner secrets and fears. A great thought piece for professionals of all experience levels."
Ed Lundeen, Ph.D. Private Practice
Editor -- Independent Practitioner

" What Therapists Dont Talk About and Why should be required reading for both novice and expert clinicians. Drawing upon the empirical literature and examples from clinical practice, this practical text challenges psychotherapists to consider issues that are often avoided and encourages honest reflection on the personal factors influencing the conduct of psychotherapy."
Edward Shafranske, Ph.D., ABPP, Professor and Director of the Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, Pepperdine University

"This is an excellent primer for experienced and novices alike. This book is very readable, enjoyable, and a breath of fresh air in a field with many secrets. There is no other book like it! A delight to read."
John D. Robinson, EdD, MPH, ABPP, Professor of Psychiatry and Surgery, Howard University College of Medicine/Hospital

"This book will be indispensable for supervisors and for practitioners alike. I can hardly wait to use it as a tool in supervision training."
Carol Falender, Ph.D.
Independent Practice;
Clinical Professor, Department of Psychology
University of California, Lost Angeles

"Convincingly and readably, the authors show therapists how to confront their own demons of fear, anger, guilt, shame, embarrassment, prejudice, sexual arousal, immobilization, and helplessness that can arise in the therapeutic encounter and threaten to derail the process. A how-to book of extraordinary utility."
Elaine B. Pinderhughes
Emerita Professor, Boston College, Graduate School, Social Work

"Psychotherapy is the most human of disciplines, so therapists must deal with their own humanity and its foibles if they are to be optimally helpful. Pope and colleagues successfully utilize the Socratic method to stimulate thought about feelings, and help therapists to feel better about their thoughts. They challenge common myth-understandings about taboo topics and prescribe open self-examination and honest communication. This is a useful guide to often unexplored and dangerous territory."
David Spiegel, M.D.
Willson Professor and Associate Chair of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
Stanford University School of Medicine
President, American College of Psychiatrists

"What Therapists Don't Talk About and Why is an engagingly written compendium of really fascinating questions and issues that have been avoided by directors of training programs. Pope, Sonne, and Greene manage to tackle thorny issues with good humor and modesty, and without the usual solemnity that stifles honest discussion."
Stephen J. Ceci
The Helen L. Carr Professor of Developmental Psychology, Cornell University
Recipient of APA Lifetime Award for Contribution to Application of Scientific Psychology

Ordering Information:

Hardcover ISBN: ISBN 1-59147-411-6

Paperback ISBN: ISBN 1-59147-401-9

Publisher: American Psychological Association

Please follow this link to order online from the American Psychological Association book department.

To order by phone: call 1-800-374-2721 (in DC 202-336-5510). TDD/TTY 202-336-6123. Fax 202-336-5502. Please identify yourself as an Internet user.

Orders from the United Kingdom, Europe, Africa, or the Middle East should be sent to American Psychological Association, 3 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 8LU, England. Call +44 (0) 207-240-0856 (please identify yourself as an Internet user). Free Phone 0-800-526-830 (U.K. only Fax +44 (0) 207-379-0609).

E-mail for more information: order@apa.org

About the authors:

Ken Pope, Ph.D., ABPP

Janet Sonne, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in independent clinical and forensic practice in Redlands, California. She received her BA in psychology from Stanford University and her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from UCLA. She recently retired from her position as professor of Psychology at Loma Linda University where she served as Director of Clinical training for Ph.D. graduate students in psychology. She is former chair and member of the California Psychological Association Ethics Committee. She also served twice as a member of the American Psychological Association Ethics Committee. She is an expert consultant to the California Board of Psychology, Board of Behavioral Science Examiners, and Board of Nursing, as well as to attorneys and religious organizations, regarding professional standard of care and competency issues, and perpetration and sequelae of childhood sexual abuse.

She is the author of several publications on the topic of therapist-patient relationships, including the book co-authored with Drs. Ken Pope and Jean Holroyd entitled Sexual Feelings in Psychotherapy: Explorations for Therapists and Therapists in Training. In 2007, her article "Nonsexual Multiple Relationships: A Practical Decision-Making Model For Clinicians" received the American Psychological Association Division 42 Award for Best CE article in The Independent Practitioner.

Dr. Sonne's interest in the intricacies of the ethical practice of psychotherapy began at Stanford in her first psychology course. Dr. Phil Zimbardo taught the course and ignited her fascination with how people make decisions to behave in altruistic vs. self-serving ways towards others. While at UCLA, she participated with Dr. Pope and Dr. Jackie Bouhoutsos in the Post Therapy Support Group project, an innovative group therapy program for individuals who experienced sexual intimacies with their therapists. Observing first hand the complex underlying dynamics and powerfully negative effects of such experiences fanned Dr. Sonne's dedication to research and intervention with the patients as well as with the therapist perpetrators. Her experiences on the California Psychological Association and the American Psychological Association Ethics Committees, and various professional licensing boards enhanced her appreciation of the importance of training mental health professionals to conceptualize ethical practice as a process of decision-making rather than a set of rules. As she and Drs. Pope and Holroyd discussed in their book, Sexual Feelings in Psychotherapy, a significant component of that process is the therapist's own reactions to the patient, even though some of those feelings are likely to be experienced as taboo for acknowledgement and exploration. This second edition is designed to expand discussion of the therapist's taboo reactions to patients beyond sexual feelings.

Beverly Greene, PhD, ABPP is a Professor of Psychology at St. John's University in Jamaica, New York and a practicing clinical psychologist in Independent Practice in Brooklyn, New York.

She is a fellow of American Psychological Association divisions 9,12, 29, 35, 42, 44, & 45; the Academy of Clinical Psychology; and the American Orthopsychiatric Association.

Dr. Greene has received countless honors in recognition of her mentoring, leadership, research, teaching, publications, and outstanding contributions to diverse branches of psychology. To name just a few: the APA Award for Distinguished Senior Career Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest, the Distinguished Humanitarian Award from the American Association of Applied & Preventive Psychology, the Stanley Sue Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Diversity in Clinical Psychology, the Helms Award for Scholarship and Mentoring, the Florence Halpern Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Clinical Psychology, the Carolyn Wood Sherif Award, Distinguished Scientific Contributions to LGB Psychology Award, and the APA Committee on Women in Psychology’s Distinguished Leadership Award citing her "profound and far reaching contributions to psychological theory and practice relating to women, giving voice to the invisible and the unheard."

Her books include the widely-used text Abnormal Psychology in a Changing World, 8th Edition (with Jeffrey Nevid & Spencer Rathaus); the award-winning Women of Color: Integrating Ethnic and Gender Identities in Psychotherapy (with Lillian Comas-Diaz); A Minyan of Women: Family Dynamics, Jewish Identity and Psychotherapy Practice (with Dorith Brodbar); Ethnic & Cultural Diversity Among Lesbians and Gay Men; Psychotherapy with African American Women (with Leslie Jackson); Lesbian and Gay Psychology: Theory, Research, and Clinical Applications (with Greg Herek); Becoming Visible: Counseling Bisexuals Across the Lifespan (with Beth Firestein); Education, Practice, & Research in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgendered Psychology: A Resource Manual;and Psychologists Desk Reference, 4th Edition (with John Norcross & Gerry Koocher).


[Back to Top]