Book reviews

Since I started teaching I don’t have as much time to read as before, but I’ve got a few new books to review this month. All of these are on Audible except for EMDR Made Simple for those of you (like me) who enjoy listening while you take walks or do other things.

EMDR Made Simple – Jamie Marich

This book is written for any therapist who is interested in EMDR, though it’s directed towards those who have recently completed some EMDR training. If that’s you, I imagine you’ll feel like me and be completely and utterly overwhelmed by all the information you learned. When I completed my first weekend of 2 EMDR trainings, I was so confused and honestly scared to even use it. This book really normalized that experience and also helped with breaking down some of the more complicated aspects of EMDR to make it palatable and usable. The problem with many EMDR training programs is that they, in wanting to do due diligence to the complexity of trauma and also wanting clinicians to take the process seriously, may give waaaaaaay too much information so it feels like drinking out of a firehose. There is a need to understand the mechanics of EMDR before you practice, but a therapist also needs confidence in order to guide a client through the often scary terrain of their own traumas. This book does a great job of breaking this down and presenting the kind of complex cases that we see in real life.

Secrets of a Passionate Marriage – David Schnarch

Again this was a referral from Bob on Psychology in Seattle, Kirk Honda’s friend who always seems to be reading something good. It was also a fairly short listen, about 2 1/2 hours on Audible. This was one of those rare books that actually changed my views of the world entirely. I am not sure if I ever want to be a marriage or couples therapist, for a lot of reasons. However, I have come to realize that not knowing about couples issues and conflicts ends up being a deficit with individual therapy because clients are frequently bringing up topics about intimacy, sex, and relationships. Even if I am only working with one person in the couple, I am sort of working with couples issues all the time since these relationships are so crucially important to people. This book is so kind and compassionate in its treatment of what almost all couples experience in long-term relationships: repeated conflicts, fears of disconnection, and concerns about lack of sexual desire. I loved the approach of stating that these types of issues are not only normal, but they are essential for a couple to enter into a level of increased intimacy and happiness with one another. It’s hard for me to phrase it in the same way as the author, but basically the idea is that couples reach the point of where they are comfortable with intimacy (both physical and emotional) and then they often disconnect from one another out of fear of treading further than this comfort level. The idea of rejection is ever present even though a couple may have been together for a long time, there are still parts of the self that have been never shared. At this point, intimacy is halted and to move forward creates anxiety, which is normal and needed in order to progress with deeper trust. The non-pathologizing nature of this argument is truly a breath of fresh air for couples who feel their lack of desire or their feelings of disconnect are indicative of something wrong with them or the relationship. This book has inspired me to approach my own marriage differently as well as engaging in more content for couples work. I really loved this author and wanted to take some of his training but when I researched him I discovered he died last year so I’m too late. I do intend to further my learning on this topic for personal and professional use and I’m excited for that. Next on my reading list are several of John Gottman’s works.

Voluntary Madness – Norah Vincent

This s a bit of a different review since I really hated this book. Normally I would not review a book I dislike but this was required reading for a class I am teaching and I do feel that it has substantial educational value. The premise of this book is that the author, who is a journalist, has struggled with her mental health for years and at one point was referred to an institution for what sounded like a 72-hour hold. She was inspired by this experience to do some immersion research in mental institutions across the United States. She went about this by voluntarily checking herself in to three different institutions in the U.S. in various areas. Now just that premise is honestly a little offensive, I believe a more ethical way to conduct this research would have been to interview people who had been in institutions, but the author is not bound by the same code of ethics as I am. She enters into three facilities, each of which represents a different type of care that exists. The book kind of reminded me of Dante’s trilogy as the author starts in the Inferno of a New York state-run hospital, through the Purgatory of a rural Midwestern facility, and finally ends in the Paradise of a luxurious spa-like experience where she actually experiences healing from past traumas. The reason I disliked the book was the author’s tone and treatment of the other clients in the hospitals, which was so completely disrespectful, cruel, and at times quite racist. She is not a likeable narrator. In discussing this in my classroom, we were able also to explore the ways that sometimes people with depression and trauma can present as angry, and how that may influence treatment. I don’t believe that a book needs to be enjoyable to be important, though. This is a good choice for a classroom read or a discussion builder for a book club of clinicians, as it brings up so many topics for conversation.

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Response Cycle – Emily & Amelia Nagoski

This book is a great primer on how the stress response cycle works, how to manage your own stress, and the ways that women specifically are socialized to ignore their own needs. It’s a good read for any social worker, clinician, and feminist. Understanding our own stresses and how they affect us makes us better at our jobs and more able to care for the people we see as clients as well as parent our children and renegotiate our work relationships. This book introduced me to the concept of “human caregiver syndrome” which is the idea that women in particular are socialized to expect that we can give endlessly of ourselves without a need to take our own needs into account and that we behave pleasantly and stay pretty at all times even when we don’t feel like it.

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