NCFM PR Director Steven Svoboda, Esq. reviews Terms of Enforcement: Making Men Pay for What They’ve Done

October 14, 2012

enforcementNCFM NOTE: It’s as true today as it was in 2002…

About the Author: Steven S. Richmond, MSW, MA is a psychotherapist, prize-winning author, and expert on social services delivery systems. His first book, Public Welfare: Notes from Underground, has been required reading for graduate students of social work for more than two decades. He has devoted the last thirty years to developing public and private programs to help families remain intact. He now travels and speaks before groups interested in improving services to vulnerable populations in their communities.

Steven Svoboda’s review:

Terms of Enforcement: Making Men Pay for What They’ve Done

By Steven S. Richmond. Victoria, BC: Trafford Publishing, 2002. Kindle $7.99. 222 pages.

Psychotherapist and former social service administrator Steven Richmond has penned a genuine puzzle of a book.  While professing to be strictly true and autobiographical, Richmond’s tale centers in significant part around his therapeutic sessions as the client of psychiatrist Alicia Morgan.  Dr. Morgan must rank among the greatest visionary/mystical characters I have ever encountered in a lifetime of voracious reading, comparable to the Don Juan of Carlos Castaneda’s books.  Practicing “paradoxical therapy,” in which truly just about everything turns out to be the opposite of what it initially seems to be, Dr. Morgan takes the author on a remarkable journey of retelling and revisiting his life experiences.  By the end, Dr. Morgan has enabled Richmond to reframe what he has been through and gain new depth in his views of it.

Steven was married to his wife Lucinda for almost thirty years, and both their daughters were adults when Lucinda unexpectedly decided to end the marriage.  In quick succession, restraining orders were taken out by his wife despite her lack of fear of him, followed by false accusations of domestic violence.  An engaging, well-placed flashback takes us back in welcome detail to when Steven met his wife.  Richmond also provides much information about his unhappy childhood and in particular, his troubled relationship with his father.

Terms of Enforcement is so many things: a story of personal growth, at times reading like a mystery novel in the suspense of its telling and the prominent role played by the unknown, and of course it is also a men’s rights story, and ostensibly an autobiography.

Yet in the end, I couldn’t help noticing all the things that were omitted.  For one thing, a central role in the plot is played by Richmond’s use of powerful, evidently unusual psychotropic drugs and his later forcible, almost sadistic separation from these drugs by a cruel female physician while institutionalized.  Yet we never are given a baseline explanation of why these drugs were necessary, when he started using them, if they were effective, what their principal results and side effects were, etc. Thus we are unable to evaluate the evidently devastating impact of his forcible denial of them, and we lack the tools to appreciate the importance of other drug-related plot developments.  Although we are told on the back cover that the author is himself a therapist, the obvious relevance of this background to his own experiences as a psychiatric patient are never explored at all, nor is any discussion provided of his work as background to other plot events.  The bottom line is we don’t hear the whole story and can’t help wondering why not.

Terms of Enforcement is courageous in that Richmond is seemingly honest in what he does say, which often doesn’t portray himself in a flattering light.  But too much is left out, and even what is included is not always backed up well.  Clearly his wife was unsympathetic and cruel.  But I infer that the author may have been quite a piece of work too, leaving us wondering if his story has larger relevance beyond his particular life.

One sad point is that the details about Lucinda’s treachery are not even particularly extreme.  Yet there is a clear value to having them set down dispassionately and thoughtfully as the author has done.  It is fascinating to see how facts are transformed and twisted in police reports that don’t quite contradict what really happened yet present events in a highly misleading way.  I am sure this goes on all the time.

In the end, Terms of Enforcement is a fascinating muddle that could have been so much more.  Yet readers will find themselves spellbound by Dr. Morgan’s sessions and Steven’s story.  I recommend the book highly, as long as the reader is charitable enough to be able to overlook its puzzling omissions and find the very rich gold lying within the story the author does choose to tell us.

Making Men Pay – Enforcement

Making Men Pay – Enforcement

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