As a developing professional in clinical and counseling psychology, I found myself in constant search of a book, article, or manual that would provide practical tips and techniques on how to work with difficult clients from all walks of life. While I found that tips and techniques can vary widely and that my skill set would grow only through experience in the field, well-researched reading material did provide useful examples of how to utilize specific techniques.
In this same spirit, Robin Shapiro’s Easy Ego State Interventions: Strategies for Working with Parts attempts to explain to developing psychotherapists and those in practice why ego state therapy is necessary and helpful for many presenting concerns in clinical settings. The author provides examples of when ego state therapy should be used, such as in the cases involving personality disorders, relationship difficulties, trauma, and suicidal clients. She also conveys the importance of exploring ego states and their impact on the lives, behaviors, and .symptoms of clients.
Ego state therapy is a psychodynamic approach used to identify and explore different parts of the self. It has connections to psychoanalysis and some of the concepts highlighted by Sigmund Freud, including the id, ego, and superego. Unfortunately, because of the link between ego state interventions and psychodynamic/psychoanalytic principles, readers from the humanistic orientation and other more contemporary approaches to psychotherapy may find the book unappealing.
Shapiro begins by explaining the techniques of ego state therapy and how ego states are a kind of “alter personality” or alter ego. This therapy is based on the assumption that individuals often have more than one personality or “ego state” and that therapy should focus on exploring these ego states to eventually “rectify” symptoms by merging the ego states into a whole. Ego state therapy also seems to be based on the idea that individuals have an inadequate or “incomplete” self that is hiding somewhere beneath the dominate personality. For example, Shapiro says that we tend to have an adult functional part and a child functional part then explains that in order to change a “state,” we need to go “inside,” find ourselves, and unite the two parts. For people who see themselves as having only one personality or state of existence, this idea may be offensive.
In chapter seven, Shapiro discusses a case study where she counseled a husband who was not only domineering and arrogant, but exhibited many traits of narcissistic personality disorder. She states that “all people with personality disorders suffer inadequate or disrupted early attachment experiences,” which often results in an emotionally needy and unstable state as an adult. However, some readers might take issue with this explanation because it does not adequately explain why some individuals who have had appropriate attachments as children still grow into narcissistic and entitled adults.
Although Shapiro does a nice job of discussing how to use ego state therapy with different clients, the book seems to lack essential information like research or field studies. This kind of information would have been especially helpful for psychotherapists who are unaware of ego state therapy. The book also does not include research on the efficacy of this type of therapy, the downsides of ego state therapy, or whether it is an empirically-based modality.
For some developing professionals and students, the book utilizes terminology that may seem unnecessary or overly complicated. For example, acronyms that Shapiro uses throughout the book include “apparently normal part (ANP),” “complex integration of multiple brain systems (CIMBS),” and “Emotional Part (EP).” Readers may find it, as I did, inconvenient to keep up with the acronyms and their meanings throughout the book. Unfortunately, Easy Ego State Interventions: Strategies for Working with Parts becomes more dry, overly practical, and un-stimulating as the chapters progress.
As a therapist, I found it difficult to stay engaged with the book and often felt compelled to do my own research on ego state therapy in order to gain a more educated perspective of this therapeutic modality. While the purpose of the book is well understood, it seems as if it leaves readers with too many unanswered questions.
Easy Ego State Interventions: Strategies for Working with Parts
W.W. Norton & Company, February 1, 2016
Hardcover, 224 pages