Category Archives: Book Reviews

Reviews of books relating to mental health, therapy, and other pertinent topics! If you have a book you’d like to suggest I review, please feel free to suggest it via the contact form on my ‘About’ page.

Book Review: Psychodynamic Counselling in a Nutshell

Readers often ask me about psychodynamic psychotherapy; the whole concept of a therapist who works hard to be unobtrusive can seem strange – as my mother once exclaimed, “So he just sits there and listens?!”

What a psychodynamic therapist actually does is far more than listen, and  Psychodynamic Counselling in a Nutshell offers a readable yet rigorous introduction to the field for patients and even professionals reading about psychodynamic therapy for the first time.

Susan Howard walks the reader through both the theory and practice of this style of counselling, and also addresses ethical issues, its history, and potential pitfalls for the both practitioner and patient. The pitch and tone of the book are accessible without being condescending.

While there are other books about psychodynamic psychotherapy I’m fond of – The Science of the Art of Psychotherapy (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology), for example, provides a more rigorous treatment of the science behind the approach – Psychodynamic Counselling in a Nutshell remains the book I’d recommend to anyone wanting an introduction to the topic.

A definite five stars, without reservation! Enjoy.

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Psychotherapy: All the Dirty Little Secrets Your Therapist Doesn’t Want You To Know! (Book Review)

James A. Stump has written a short, shiny e-book which is not only a delight to read but also offers a succinct introduction to the world of counseling and psychotherapy.


The dedication reads:

This little booklet is dedicated to all clients who want to improve their lives through their examination of faulty beliefs and behaviours

and Stump delivers, outlining the reasons people seek therapy, phases of the therapy process, when an individual might consider counselling, modes of therapy, finding and choosing a therapist, privacy and financial concerns, and more. Although written for a North American audience, I believe most of the content would translate well across borders – the chief exception being information particular to the USA’s health system, though even that I personally found helpful, as I mentally translated it into an Australian context. 

Stump’s writing can be delightfully direct: “So get it into your head: Nobody else is gonna fix your life for you. You are going to have to learn how to be different. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you.” I might have found this confronting, if he hadn’t established his credentials as someone who obviously – and thoroughly! – knows his subject matter. As it was, I really enjoyed this down-to-earth approach.

I’ve been in therapy for, wow, eight years this year – though due to one therapist retiring and an interstate move, I’m into my third therapeutic relationship. This gives me something of a knowledge base from which to assess Stump’s work, albeit from a consumer’s perspective. In my opinion, there wasn’t a false note in the book. I’d highly recommend it as a resource for someone who’s considering counselling or psychotherapy, either for one particular issue or, as he puts it, “if you’re wondering ‘Why am I such a mess and why is my entire life all screwed up?'”

If I had one minor bone to pick, I’d say that to me, counselling and psychotherapy are two closely related but slightly different processes; but, hey, I’m neither a counselor nor a therapist, so what would I know?!

This e-book is also very affordable. My recommendation? If you’re considering therapy, or you love someone who is, grab this little treasure with both hands. It’s a quick read – I got through it in about an hour – but well worth the time spent.

My rating? 5/5. Do you have a favourite book on therapy or counseling? I’d love to hear about them! Feel free to comment in the space below.

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Book Review #1: The Rector’s Wife

The Rector’s Wife may seem a strange choice for the first book review on a blog about mental health, however, it deals with themes which will resonate with those whose who feel trapped in their situation. As these are feelings I’ve read expressed often on fellow mental health blogs, it seemed eminently suitable.

The Rector's Wife, by Joanna Trollope

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Joanna Trollope is known for her mainstream novels – of which this is one – but also for her romance novels, published under the pseudonym Caroline Harvey. The Rector’s Wife contains elements of romance, but at its heart is a story about a woman finding her way to an authentic existence under constrained conditions.

Anna Bouverie is the wife of a parish priest in rural England. Life is stressful: money is chronically short, her marriage is failing, her husband’s parishioners demand much from her, and her youngest daughter is miserable in the local government school. When her husband is overlooked yet again for promotion, Anna finds herself in crisis, and rebels against the constraints of the role her husband and others have presumed for her.

As she begins to regain shreds of self-worth through positive action, three very different men become attracted to her. Each plays a role in her regaining a worthwhile life, but ultimately it is Anna, and the choices she makes, which lift her and her family out of misery and into a new way of being.

The chronically depressed – such as me – may find many parallels between their lives and Anna’s. At the start of the novel, she is being ground down by the oppressive demands on her time, energy and spirit. Life seems drab, and whatever opportunities exist for hope seem doomed for failure. However, as the book progresses, Anna frees herself of those things which hold her down and emerges, butterfly-like, into a new and flourishing existence.

The take-home message for me from this book is twofold: that we, as humans, have the power to make choices in our lives; and that doing is the antidote to depression. Anna demonstrates this when she stops ruminating about her situation and begins to take baby steps towards freedom. At first, enormous courage and strength are required for seemingly small gains, but each action brings Anna closer to the sort of life she dreams of having.

The writing is exquisite. I could barely put this book down! Trollope portrays believable characters making believable, albeit difficult, choices.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants inspiration or who is feeling too weighed down by depression to take any positive action at all. Anna reminds us that even small acts can bring about significant change. I know too well the personal inertia which depression brings; I also know the huge difference that doing – taking purposeful action, no matter how small – can make to one’s mood.

My rating? 5/5. Have you read The Rector’s Wife? If so, I’d love to read your comments below!

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