Blog

Welcome to my blog! I love to read. This blog contains reviews of books and research papers I have enjoyed. Some of the books for counseling professionals and some of them are books anyone can use. I have also included reviews on fiction that I felt had themes that could apply to the counseling process. Feel free to submit a review and tell me about a book that helped you. Also, if you are a counseling professional and would like to submit something with a link to your website, feel free to send me an email. I hope you like the blog.


Unwritten Rules of Friendshp: Simple Strategies to Help Your Child Make Friends by Eileen Kennedy-Moore and Natalie Elman (Self-Help)

I recently read the “Unwritten Rules of Friendship”.  The title made me hope that it would touch on things that are intuitive for some people, but not for everyone.  The book is aimed toward parents of preschoolers, but I think it would also be helpful for adults.

I like the way that instead of describing general tips for everyone it details 9 different personalities, their potential social strengths as well as potential social challenges.  This format makes it easy to for parents to identify areas to work on with their children.

This also makes it easy for adults to identify potential blind spots in their interactions with others.  Much of the advice doesn’t need to be modified.  For example one of the tips for the shy child: “To join a group, observe then blend.”  This could apply to any age group.

These specific tips may be intuitive for some people, but they aren’t intuitive for everyone.  Sometimes people do not get a chance to hone their social skills.  Maybe they had one friend throughout childhood and didn’t have much practice meeting new people.

There are many different reasons why someone might not know these small but important US social norms.  It is wonderful that this book contains so much concrete advice.

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Change in Psychotherapy: A Unifying Paradigm by the Boston Change Process Study Group (Professional)

Recently I read the book “Change in Psychotherapy: A Unifying Paradigm” by the Boston Change Process Study Group.  The book was about recent changes in psychoanalysis from a more cognitive model with interpretation being paramount to a more affective attachment based model with the therapeutic relationship being paramount.

I went to my first psychoanalyst on accident.  I was learning about group therapy in graduate school and I wanted to experience it.  The only person in my town that did groups was a psychoanalyst.  He was a relationally oriented analyst.  I also saw him for individual therapy.  He told me that the most important thing in both settings was what happened in the room.  I found this type of therapy lively, spontaneous, and genuine.

Before this I hadn’t realized there were more modern types of psychoanalysis.  I thought people lie down on a couch and free-associated.  I hadn’t realized that there was such a rich experiential therapy available.

Change in Psychotherapy gives an overview of the wonderful new things that are happening in psychoanalysis.  Even though it’s an overview it also goes in depth with simple explanations for each change.

I thought that the book was worth reading for the explanation of implicit relational knowing by itself.  It basically said that implicit relational knowing is your patterns of interaction that are based on your history of interactions.  These patterns are almost instinctual and they are not really thought about.  Therefore it is important for the therapist to bring attention to the relationship between the therapist and client in the here and now.

There are redundant simple explanations for this complex concept.  If I didn’t completely encapsulate the whole idea I had another idea to read.  Having many words this idea helped give me a better explanation for what it is important to examine what is happening in the here and now of therapy.

I am not a psychoanalyst, but I do incorporate relational psychotherapy into my practice.  I would recommend this book for any clinician that would like more words for experiences that happen in session.


 

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin (Fiction)

The main character is George Orr. George sometimes has what he calls “effective” dreams. Effective dreams are dreams that change reality. When his dreams change reality, they also change history. Everyone remembers the alternate history, so that whatever is changed seems completely reasonable.

George is a very unassuming man. George does not want to change reality. He uses someone else’s prescription card to get drugs to avoid sleeping. He collapses and the paramedics notice the excess medication. George is then ordered to go to “voluntary” therapeutic treatment.

George is assigned to Dr. Haber, a dream specialist. Dr. Haber always wants to appear in control. So, when he witnesses George’s effective dream changing the mural in his office, he knows that something changed. But, he won’t admit it fully to himself.

Dr. Haber starts making dream suggestions to George to improve his situation and the world. George feels deeply that the integrity of what is should be respected. However, it is hard for him to confront the doctor, because the doctor doesn’t even admit what he is doing for most of the book until after George dreams it.

Of course Dr. Haber’s suggestions to George ended up coming true in unintended ironic ways. Aliens invade the moon, but there is peace on earth. Everyone is grey, but there are no racial tensions. The problem of too many people is solved by a plague.

Dr. Haber did not have evil intentions, and yet his interference was harmful. I think that can sometimes happen with counselors when they treat their clients like objects with no will of their own. Obviously, no counselor would do that on purpose, so it is also important for a counselor to examine themselves throughout every step of the therapeutic process.

Luckily, the counselor’s mistakes don’t have world changing ramifications. They can be an opportunity for a conversation if the counselor is open to looking at themselves. If Dr. Haber had been less sure of his infallibility, then George may have felt like more able to bring up his concerns, and Dr. Haber may have realized that therapy is collaboration.

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The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis (Fiction)

One of my favorite books is The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis, and I am going to tell you what it means to me.  This is my interpretation through my own lens that is made of my own experiences.

The book starts with some gray people in a gray town waiting for a bus.  They are in hell.  People can think of a house and it will be there, but the houses don’t keep out the rain.  Everything is insubstantial.

They are offered a bus trip to Heaven.   Many people leave the bus stop before the bus even arrives.  When they arrive in heaven, spirits of people they knew meet them and try to get them to stay.  They have to change to be able to stay though.

The ghosts are suspicious. They are ill-suited to travel in Heaven.  Everything is literally too hard for them.  The grass hurts their feet and they are not strong enough to pick a flower.  The spirits tell them that it will get better, but most of the ghosts decide return to Hell.

This reminds me of the therapeutic process.  Most of us would like to feel better without changing.  Change is hard, especially if what we are doing currently is kind of working for us.  In the story, Hell more easily trapped the ghosts because it actually wasn’t unbearable.

When we read this book we may look at the people and think we know what they should do, just like we may have ideas for how people could better run their own lives.  But all of us do things that don’t make sense.

Most of us, at some time in our lives, will have to replace comfortable behavior that is barely working, with something new to continue to grow and be our best selves.

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Demystifying the Counseling Process by Arlene King (Professional)

This book was on the reading list for one of my classes. I found it so useful that I kept it. The book discusses the counseling relationship in detail from start to finish. Some of the things she talks about are: the first contact, the first session, the counseling space, note-taking, taping, and time management. She also describes in detail how to be most effective for the client during the session. Her style is very easy to read, and she gives examples. After each chapter is a “Summary Activity,” which is a list of questions to ask yourself to reflect on the chapter.

A lot of the book is geared towards explaining how to help the client find their own answers rather than supplying them. She has a chapter called “Questionable Counseling Procedures.” This chapter is about things that counselors sometimes do that are not helpful for the client. Many of the “questionable counseling procedures” mentioned are intrusive or take the focus off of the client.

She also has a chapter on how people use language. She talked about how people often use an imperative like “must”, when it’s not completely accurate or say “need” when they mean “want.” Also covered is how many people say “feel” when they are expressing a thought. King also discusses some other inaccurate uses of language. The author did not recommend correcting the client, but rather questioning the client in an effort to get the client to listen to what they were saying.

The book is a pretty quick read, but it has a wealth of concise information. I didn’t even mention all the chapters. The book even has a page after the last chapter that condenses the main points from the book into one page. I can’t imagine a counselor not taking something away from this book.

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How To Fail As A Therapist: 50 Ways to Lose or Damage Your Patients by Bernard Schwartz PH.D and John V. Flowers, PH.D (Professional)

John V. Flowers PH.D is a professor of psychology at Chapman University as well as being in private practice.  Bernard Schwartz PH.D supervises doctoral students.  It mentioned in their author blurbs that Schwartz saw the need for a brief, but comprehensive guide to clinical errors that result in poor therapy outcomes.
The introduction discusses the need for a book like this.  It talks about how many clients come once or twice and then never return and their therapists have no idea why.  Basically the start of the book is to convince us that we do indeed make mistakes and could use a book for avoiding them.  It goes on to say that the 50 strategies addressed were taken from clinical research about helping clients.

I love the way the book is organized.  Each chapter starts with a general category of mistakes.  Then they have specific numbered errors.  After each specific error there is always a section called “Avoiding the Error.”  Then they have numbered points for avoiding the error.

After the 50 errors and help avoiding the errors, the back had even more helpful things.  Appendix A contains a Therapist Self-Assessment Questionnaire.  Appendix B contains assessment instruments for clients.  These assessments relate to the working relationship between a client and counselor.  Appendix C gives a list of Assessment Instruments for Clinical Issues and where to find them.  Finally, it has a suggested reading section for each issue in the book and the bibliography.

Besides all the helpful information, the thing I like best about this book is that it normalizes therapist mistakes.  In my opinion, many clients have already had their realities challenged by their family or origin and it is unhelpful for us to further challenge that by dismissing their observations or complaints.
I have had this book for awhile, and I go back and re-read sections periodically.  It is organized in such a way that it is easy to go back and read one section.  Even if I am not committing any errors listed at the moment, I feel that it is good to be open to the fact that I might be.

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The Emotionally Absent Mother by Jasmin Lee Cori, MS, LPC (Self-Help)

I think this book has a lot of interesting ideas. The foundation of the book seems to be Donald Winnicott’s idea of the good enough mother. Donald Winnicott was a peadatrician and psychoanalyst. According to this theory when the mother is not able to meet the babies needs the baby adapts in order to get it’s needs met. This sets up a false self.

The author then describes 10 good mother messages in detail. She mentions that most of these are her creation in her footnote. I thought the 10 good mother messages she laid out were very thought provoking. She also talked about what it might feel like if some of these were missing. I liked the way that she captured experiences that may not be easy for someone to explain.

This book is technically a self-help book, and as such she gives some exercises for readers to try. Whether a counselor finds these exercises helpful may depend on their theoretical orientation. For example: I don’t know much about inner child work. I thought the book was worth it for the succinct way it lays out Winnicott’s theory and for the way she was able to describe intangible aspects of a happy childhood.