The essence of successful therapy is the relationship between the therapist and the patient, a dance of growing trust and understanding. It is an intimate, messy, often surprising and sometimes confusing business -but when it works, it’s life-changing.
In The Talking Cure, psychotherapists Gill Straker and Jacqui Winship bring us nine inspiring stories of transformation.
They introduce us to their clients, fictional amalgams of real-life cases, and reveal how the art of talking and listening helps us to understand deep-seated issues that profoundly influence who we are in the world and how we see ourselves in relation to others. We come to understand that the transformative power of the therapeutic relationship can be replicated in our everyday lives by the simple practice of paying attention and being present with those we love.
Whether you have experienced therapy (or are tempted to try it), or you are just intrigued by the possibilities of a little-understood but transformative process, this wise and compassionate book will deepen your sense of what it is to be open to connection – and your appreciation that to be human is to be a little bit mad.
The Talking Cure by Professor Gillian Straker and Dr Jacqui Winship brings together eight common struggles brought to therapists.
In each chapter, we meet a different patient with a very different issue that they’re struggling with, and Gillian and Jacqui track their progress and break down their struggles for the reader. Whilst each story in this book is fictional — for confidentiality reasons — the patients are an amalgamation of real patients that exist in the world.
Each hidden struggle in the book is something that is commonly experienced by people within — and outside — of a therapist’s office, including difficult children, closed-off boyfriends, spouses shaken by an unexpected affair, people-pleasers, and more.
It’s quite surprising to recognise yourself in some of these patients. You find yourself genuinely fascinated to see some of your own behaviour in these fictional people, and you can’t help but glimpse the checklist at the end of each chapter to see how much of that ‘category’ you might fit into.
“Meredith had spent so much time thinking about Jade, and imagining her needs and wishes, that her capacity to observe and see her daughter’s actual needs and wishes was impaired. Jade had become a creation of Meredith’s own making.”
Insightful and interesting, The Talking Cure will entice many adult readers interested in learning more about psychology of humans. Don’t try to diagnose yourself with this book though. As I’ve mentioned, the stories in each of the chapters are fictitious and the checklists are merely there as a guide, so take this experience with a grain of salt.
“As I sat in the room with Charlene I experienced her loneliness. Yet even as she was sharing her distress, I felt strangely unmoved. I didn’t feel invited into her world. I felt spoken at rather than spoken to; it seemed to me that I was being asked to bear witness to a story Charlene was telling, but I was prohibited from participating in a dialogue with her.”
Admittedly, The Talking Cure feels a little formulaic after a while. You meet the patient, the psychiatrist reflects on what the ‘struggle’ is and what its effect is, the psychiatrist asks about their childhood and determines that their relationship with their parents and/or siblings explains how they are now, the psychiatrist asks questions to make the patient realise this on their own, and then there’s a checklist for readers to follow. It’s obviously part of the process, but to be completely honest, I was a bit bored by the 5th or 6th chapter.
Additionally, I found Gillian and Jacqui to be incredibly cold in their exchange with the patients (or at least their documented exchange), and truthfully, I never felt that I warmed to either of them throughout the book. There’s something removed about reading these stories, where you never really feel like you’re ‘there’. You feel like a fly on the wall, and sometimes it’s not that interesting.
I’d recommend this book to adult readers who are genuinely interested in the psychology of the human experience, but if you need a little guidance or help with your life, I don’t think this is the first book you should pick up in your journey.
Thank you to the publisher for mailing me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
The Talking Cure: Normal people, their hidden struggles and the life-changing power of therapy
Professor Gillian Straker and Dr Jacqui Winship
Pan Macmillan Publishers