What Therapy Is Like “From Both Sides”

Reading these fascinating, no-holds-barred essays, it’s sometimes hard to tell who is “crazier” – the patients or the therapists! Author Lee Woodruff, reviewing How Does That Make You Feel? True Confessions from Both Sides of the Therapy Couch, essays about what therapy is like

Therapist Sherry Amatenstein, who’s edited a new collection of 34 subjective essays representing “both sides of the therapy couch,” reportedly actually wanted readers to realize that therapists are neurotic too.

While some of the presented writers have been “shrunk,” some have been the “shrinks“—and some, similar to the lead character in my novel Minding Therapy, have been both. All the contributors, many of whom have written professionally, are listed on the book’s website. (Scroll down to find them.)

Just a sampling of titles by those describing what therapy is like from the client’s perspective:

  • Beth Sloan: “I Really, Really Hate You”
  • Jenine Holmes: “Therapy Is For White People”
  • Charlie Rubin: “Why I Didn’t Enter Therapy Sooner”
  • Janice Eidus: “The Therapist of My Dreams”
  • Pamela Rafalow Grossman: “With Some Gratitude to My Asshole Former Therapist”

Some brief details about other pieces in this category follow.

Susan Shapiro, author of the 2009 comic novel Speed Shrinking, is “a self-described ‘shrinkaholic’ and ‘therapy-lifer,’ who describes lining up a UN of advisers—an Indian psychopharmacologist, a Middle Eastern hypnotherapist, a Jewish Jungian astrologer—to meet with shrink-seekers for three minutes to exchange numbers à la speed dating” (per Dorri Olds, Tablet).

On the other hand, Beverly Donofrio relates what she’s learned from her experiences with 10 “serial therapists” over the course of decades.

Anna March‘s “Lies I Told My Therapist” confesses to six years worth of big falsehoods—because she couldn’t trust that her therapist would really care about her actual life.

Estelle Erasmus was placed in therapy at the age of 16 by parents who could never have suspected the potential damage. Nancy Szokan, Washington Post: The unethical “…Ron ‘(name kept the same to protect no one)’ told her he was going to help her ‘become a woman’ by getting in touch with her sexuality — and she’s explicit about things he said and asked her to do. But then she relates how he led her to insights that rescued her troubled relationship with her family.”

At least a couple pieces deal with therapy termination: Allison McCarthy‘s “How About a Hug?” and clinical social worker Martha Crawford‘s “Back Into the Wild.”

Therapists’ essays also include one by the book’s editor. A few of the others:

  • Juli Fraga: “When the Therapist Cries”—About dealing with therapist-patient boundaries.
  • Dennis Palumbo: “A Long, Strange Trip”—“…(A) mystery novelist and Hollywood screenwriter,” says Szokan, [Palumbo] “describes how he left a successful career and launched himself into six years of training to become a licensed psychotherapist. His friends said that proved he’d lost his mind. ‘I pretty much thought the same thing’.”
  • Nina Gaby: “I’m Not Supposed to Love You”—As she states in her own blog, “…I wrote about a kind of transparency, a kind of love…Not romantic love, not familial love, but a love that helps us do the work we do, a word that is often taboo in our profession.”

And in the grouping of essays penned by therapists who’ve also been in therapy:

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