In the Therapist’s Chair

In the Therapist’s Chair

Early on in psychoanalyst Dr. Jacqueline Simon Gunn’s In the Therapist’s Chair (Xlibris, 2010), the author states “life is a series of moments, and some of the most important things we do as human beings are subtle and occur in a moment.” And it is truly the therapist’s job to illuminate the reasoning behind why we do the things we do.

I had a friend who once explained that he quit therapy because he “was spending a lot of money just to entertain his therapist!” I suppose that was quite narcissistic of him to say. Dr. Gunn’s book shows while a therapist may appear to be “just listening” on the outside, much work is being done on the inside. (Although just listening and being with the client when necessary is powerful as well.) Therapists do note the smallest behaviors, which are often infused with subconscious meaning. For example, who knew that gift-giving behavior can often disguise angry feelings towards the recipient?

This book includes several case histories of real-life patients of Dr. Gunn’s (identified by first initial only). Case histories may sound dry to some, but the author’s writing is almost conversational and quite enlightening. Not only useful to students of psychotherapy, this book will help anyone seeking a greater understanding of therapy. Dr. Gunn writes of her success and her frustrations with a number of clients: a woman who struggles to end an abusive relationship; an HIV-positive male who confronts not only his mother’s mortality but his own.

Dr. Gunn also provides a few chapters on issues that come up in therapy where the client crosses the therapist’s boundaries – or attempts to. Hugs and other forms of physical touch, self-disclosure responding to patients’ personal questions and encounters with patients outside of the session are discussed. Speaking of limits, it does seem that therapists often struggle with patients determined to scale the walls of the therapists’ boundaries – intrusive phone calls outside of appointments, for example, are exposed for the aggressive impulses that they are.

A thought-provoking work that shows therapy — which so often can seem one-sided to the clients participating in it – is vigorous teamwork indeed.

— Review by Diane Saarinen

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