Tales from the Couch: Writers on Therapy

Jason Shinder, Editor
Jason Shinder, Editor William Morrow & Company $24 (240p) ISBN 978-0-380-97614-0
Reviewed on: 12/04/2000
Release date: 12/01/2000
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-380-79602-1
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Anyone who has ever turned to psychotherapy, as poet David Mura did, ""to make your life a little better"" will find something of interest in this anthology. Shinder (Every Room We Ever Slept In), poet and director of the YMCA National Writer's Voice, has collected 19 mostly original essays by well-known authors who recount the time they spent in various forms of therapy. All of them agreeDsome lightheartedly, like poet and naturalist Diane Ackerman, and others with a more somber sense of recognitionDthat the key to productive therapy is the patient's willingness to become vulnerable. Mura credits the process not only with saving him from ""sexual[ly] acting out"" and breaking up with his future wife, but with helping him to discover a different approach to writingDone that freed him from writer's block. Several of the other essayists, including fiction writer Meg Wolitzer, playwright Ntozake Shange and novelist Carole Maso, also feel that therapy helped them with their creative processes. Not all of the writers, however, are fans of ""the talking cure."" Adam Gopnik, in a witty and entertaining piece, describes his therapy as ""one of the last, and easily one of the most unsuccessful, psychoanalyses that have ever been attempted."" After seeing a therapist who behaved like an editor and another whom he felt he had to amuse with stories, George Plimpton never went back. Despite the variety of therapeutic approaches, from Gopnik's orthodox Freudian psychoanalysis to Rebecca Walker's experience with a very supportive and responsive listener, the effectiveness of the healing process appears to be driven by a good match between therapist and patient. (Dec.)
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