surprise is what keeps the therapist on her toes. We can never know what is coming because therapy is a subversive kind of conversation which can crackle with energy, or fear, or despair or hope. We follow the feelings, the ideas, the tempo, the timbre of the patient’s voice, finding ways of connecting even when we might … refuse what he wishes
These five vignettes – of individuals and one couple on the brink of becoming parents – are poignant portrayals of people in distress, and of people trying to hold that distress at bay. The therapist’s responses explode some of the myths about therapy: some readers might be surprised how little Susie speaks; at the plain language and absence of jargon; at how much, while maintaining the boundaries, she’s moved by her clients (p84):
Therapists, or at least this therapist, always falls for some aspects of the person they are working with. I don’t mean this in a sexual manner but in the sense that a deep affection, a desire to understand and reach the other, a wish to connect and to be helpful are powerful dimensions of my experience.
Misunderstandings about therapy abound, both in real life and in literature. Perhaps because most people will have had at least one conversation with another human being in which one of them was significantly helped, many assume therapy is an extension of ordinary interaction. While the language used might seem ordinary, psychoanalytic therapy is a (p101):
work of deconstructing and restructuring … you don’t just learn a new language to add to your repertoire, you relinquish unhelpful parts of the mother tongue and weave them together with the knowledge of a new grammar. The curiosity of therapist has towards the analysand’s structures designate us as anthropologists of the mind.
I’d recommend this book to anyone curious about therapy but especially to other writers wanting to explore their own creativity. I’d make it required reading for any writer with the temerity to create a fictional therapist, which is extremely difficult to pull off (to my perhaps exacting standards) if you haven’t been there personally. Thanks to Profile Books for my review copy.