I have been enthusiastic about Dan Siegel's work since I read his article on non-verbal maternal influence on the developing infant's brain a decade ago. He'd clearly been influenced by Daniel Stern's work on maternal attunement, which has been one of the two or three most significant influences upon modern psychotherapy since the mid-1980s.
Figure this: the child whose mother is sufficiently relaxed, patient, conscious, empathic, supportive, compassionate and soothing will have the capability to provide the model of emotional attunement through which an infant can learn how to soothe =itself= when it is struck by sudden, need-driven, temporarily overwhelming emotional experiences. The child whose mother is =not= "good enough" (as Donald Winnicott so aptly put it some 60 years ago), is less likely to be able to learn how to modulate its emotions. And therein lies the truly =essential= issue.
Siegel, and his equally gifted brother, Ronald, seem to have "gotten" Winnicott, Margaret Mahler and Stern (as well as Alan Schore) as well or better than just about anyone publishing these days. Dan S. has knocked out several books that have transformed Stern's and Schore's profound research on emotional regulation -- or lack thereof -- into useful therapeutic technique. This particular book is the perfect complement to Ron's more mass-market-oriented =The Mindfulness Solution=, which for less-experienced and/or less "technical-minded" clinicians might be a better place to start into the whole "attunement" rubric.
The Siegels are both devotees of the mindfulness-based cognitive therapy movement which has taken the best of Albert Ellis, Aaron Beck, Donald Meichenbaum, Martin Selgiman, Richard Wessler, Jeffrey Young and others and married it up to Marsha Linehan, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Eckart Tolle, Thomas Marra, Steven Hayes, Victoria Follette, John Forsyth, Stan & Carolyn Block, John Teasdale and the legions of modern-day, existential-experiental people who themselves seem rooted in Jiddu Krishnamurti, George Gurdjieff, S. N. Goenka, Richard Alpert, Fritz & Laura Perls and others from 50 years ago.
The difference between then and now is far less a matter of essential method than one of understanding "why" at the neurobiological level. Siegel is like EMDR developer Francine Shapiro: He knows the left and right hemispheres need to start communicating with each other the way they did before Julian Jaynes's notion of "consciousness" broke down the naturally bicameral mind about 3,500 years ago owing to direct sociological effects of what Emile Durkheim called "the division of labor in society."
Siegel's also come up with a unique and very useful -- if temporarily difficult to understand -- graphic representation of cognitive-affective organization called "plains, plateaus and peaks." Once grasped (and one will by the time one is about 3/4s of the way through), that graphic is a real breakthrough metaphor for understanding affective, cognitive and behavioral potentials.
For all you Linehan fans out there (and there are surely =many=), Siegel sees the common culture more or less as the great, mid-century cultural anthropologist Jules Henry and all those family systems folks like Gregory Bateson, Paul Watzlawick, Jay Haley, Don Jackson, Virginia Satir and Salvador Minuchin saw it: a relentless stipulator of polar dichotomies rather than gradient dialectics.
If we know one thing today about why so many people run into the psychiatric wall, it's this: They think in black and white, they see the world all one way or all another, they see "all right" or "all wrong" and "all good" or "all bad." Saint Marsha saw through all that in the '80s and changed the face of psychotherapy (hopefully) forever. =This= is more of =that=.
For the world is not as we =think= it is (or represent it in so many... words). The world is simply =as= it is. And the Siegel brothers have joined Linehan, Hayes and the rest of the trail-breaking experientialists in leading the charge towards direct experience of dialectical content in existential context. Yogananda, Goenka, Krishnamurti and Gurdjieff are probably grinning themselves achy-faced somewhere in the cosmos right now.