cover image LETTERS TO A YOUNG THERAPIST: The Art of Mentoring


Mary Pipher, . . Basic, $22.50 (181pp) ISBN 978-0-465-05766-5

"Most people find talking to God more satisfying than talking to Freud," says Pipher, whether they believe in God or not. For fans of the bestselling Reviving Ophelia, such perfectly pitched, patient-centered observations will seem familiar and most welcome; for first-timers, Pipher invites readers: "Make some peach tea and find a cat for your lap. Let's visit." Even the most cynical psych snob will find that visit—a series of seasonally themed letters to a fictional graduate student describing psychotherapy from the inside out—refreshing, informative and insightful. In the brief time it takes to read this slim volume, the rhythms of blather and breakthrough, resistance and revelation come through clearly. Pipher also talks readers into becoming their own therapists, and good ones at that; her epistolary persona is one of a sympathetic woman but not a fuzzy emotional thinker. She admits "All families are a little crazy, but that's because all humans are a little crazy" and "Some therapy is just plain plodding," but she also includes many anecdotes that illuminate how a well-crafted metaphor, moment of quiet or carefully timed suggestion can change a life forever. Her view of therapists as storytellers is borne out in direct, engaging prose and succinct observation. To take just one example, Pipher notes that women see apologizing as saying, "I am sorry I hurt your feelings or caused you pain." Men see it as "I am eating shit." That's Mars and Venus in two sentences, and there's plenty more. The well-known perils of the profession emerge freshly, but also its profound rewards. 7-city author tour. (Aug.)