Conversing With Uncertainty: Practicing Psychotherapy in A Hospital Setting (Hardback) book cover

Conversing With Uncertainty

Practicing Psychotherapy in A Hospital Setting

By Rita W. McCleary

Foreword by Stephen A. Mitchell

Afterword by Glen O. Gabbard

© 1993 – Routledge

172 pages

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Conversing with Uncertainty is a unique chronicle of why therapists must use theory while resisting the allure of theory, maintaining a double vision that allows them to appropriate theory only to break it open to enlarge the interactive and interpretive possibilities of therapy. But McCleary offers far more than a vivid experiential rendering of this insight. She argues persuasively, here in conversation with the writings of Irwin Hoffman and Lawrence Friedman, that a narrative case study - such as her case study of Kay - offers a unique window to comprehending the type of reflection that culminates in psychotherapeutic knowing. It follows, for McCleary, that case narratives are especially relevant to psychotherapeutic training, and by implication, to the way in which therapists acquire expertise.

Framed by a foreword by Stephen Mitchell and an afterword by Glen Gabbard, Conversing with Uncertainty is the premier volume of the Relational Perspectives Book Series. It also introduces a gifted writer of rare therapeutic sensibility. For it is McCleary's achievement, finally, not merely to convey with arresting candor the stress and uncertainty of clinical training, but to use her encounter with Kay to probe with fresh insight perennial questions about the narrative structure of therapeutic knowledge, the experiential foundations of theory choice, and the use and abuse of theory in clinical practice.


"This struggle of a beginning psychotherapist is reminiscent of the first chapter of Robert Coles's The Call of Stories (1990) wherein he speaks of his efforts to use theory to deal with his own uncertainties and the conflicting views he received about patients from his supervisors. . . . McCleary's thoughtful dialogue with theories gives them more stature than was granted by Coles. Her book will be useful, enjoyable reading both for beginning psychotherapists and for their teachers and supervisors."

- Stuart Averill, M.D., Contemporary Psychology

Table of Contents

Foreword, Mitchell 1. First Words 2. Noisy Words 3. Conflicting Words 4. Magic Words 5. Shared Words 6. Conversation Afterword, Gabbard

About the Author

Rita Wiley McCleary, Psy.D., holds Master's Degrees in Philosophy (York University) and Ideas and Methods (University of Chicago), and a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (Chicago School of Professional Psychology). She is currently Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, and is in private practice in New Haven.

About the Series

Relational Perspectives Book Series

The Relational Perspectives Book Series (RPBS) publishes books that grow out of or contribute to the relational tradition in contemporary psychoanalysis. The term relational psychoanalysis was first used by Greenberg and Mitchell (1983) to bridge the traditions of interpersonal relations, as developed within interpersonal psychoanalysis and object relations, as developed within contemporary British theory. But, under the seminal work of the late Stephen Mitchell, the term relational psychoanalysis grew and began to accrue to itself many other influences and developments. Various tributaries—interpersonal psychoanalysis, object relations theory, self psychology, empirical infancy research, and elements of contemporary Freudian and Kleinian thought—flow into this tradition, which understands relational configurations between self and others, both real and fantasied, as the primary subject of psychoanalytic investigation.  

We refer to the relational tradition, rather than to a relational school, to highlight that we are identifying a trend, a tendency within contemporary psychoanalysis, not a more formally organized or coherent school or system of beliefs. Our use of the term relational signifies a dimension of theory and practice that has become salient across the wide spectrum of contemporary psychoanalysis. Now under the editorial supervision of Lewis Aron and Adrienne Harris with the assistance of Associate Editors Steven Kuchuck and Eyal Rozmarin, the Relational Perspectives Book Series originated in 1990 under the editorial eye of the late Stephen A. Mitchell. Mitchell was the most prolific and influential of the originators of the relational tradition. He was committed to dialogue among psychoanalysts and he abhorred the authoritarianism that dictated adherence to a rigid set of beliefs or technical restrictions. He championed open discussion, comparative and integrative approaches, and he promoted new voices across the generations.  

Included in the Relational Perspectives Book Series are authors and works that come from within the relational tradition, extend and develop the tradition, as well as works that critique relational approaches or compare and contrast it with alternative points of view. The series includes our most distinguished senior psychoanalysts along with younger contributors who bring fresh vision.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Applied Psychology
PSYCHOLOGY / Psychotherapy / General