PsychologyToday.com: What It’s Like on Both Sides of the Therapy Couch
A highly unlikely circumstance when patients want to “know” their therapists or vice versa. Your best shot at understanding therapists and patients comes in the book, How Does That Make You Feel? True Confessions from Both Sides of the Couch. It is an arresting, tell-all collection of essays edited by therapist Sherry Amatenstein that pokes into therapy’s many mysteries and the diverse characters who provide and receive them. The storytellers, some bestselling authors, are brutally honest—brave in using their real names; their accounts reveal eye-opening insights and intimate details.
PsychCentral.com: Exploring the “Human” Side of Therapy: Q&A with Sherry Amatenstein
Therapists are taught to share very little about themselves. After all, therapy is about the patient. But this doesn’t stop clients from being curious about the people they reveal their deepest secrets and vulnerabilities to.
In How Does That Make You Feel? editor and clinician Sherry Amatenstein gathers essays from therapists who give readers a rare glimpse into their thoughts, feelings and hearts. As she writes in the introduction to the book, “Within these pages, patients will find a healthy way to examine their fascination with the ‘human’ side of therapists without jeopardizing the relationship with their own shrink.” The book also features essays from clients about their experiences on the couch.
The therapeutic relationship is an unusual one. You go once a week and spend fifty minutes pouring out many of the most intimate details of your life — tragedies, triumphs, infinitesimal slights that are still eating away at you for reasons you cannot understand. Then you pay and leave. You think about the session afterwards, anxiously anticipate the next meeting. But who is this person, really, with whom you share all your heartfelt thoughts and emotions?
In her new book, How Does That Make You Feel? True Confessions from Both Sides of the Therapy Couch, Sherry Amatenstein brings together essays from both therapists and clients as each shares their experiences in therapy and in life.
Most of these essays are more heartfelt than shocking; they not only provide a valuable window into therapy, they give us an appreciation for the process. This includes Amatenstein’s reason for becoming a therapist: “My father was at Auschwitz and had to watch his parents and little sister walk away, knowing they were going to the ovens. My mother was sent to a work camp. I never knew my grandparents.” So she grew up hearing other people’s pain and wanted to ease their suffering. This book helps.
There are lots of ways to spy on the psyches of others, an avocation many of us engage in — from eavesdropping in restaurants to reading “Dear Abby” to becoming a reporter and just asking, “What makes you tick?”
Sherry Amatenstein, a therapist herself, asked one of the most fascinating questions imaginable: What do you, therapist, think of your client? She also asked: What do you, client, think of your therapist? Twenty-two clients and 12 attendants to our psycho-emotional states wrote essays now published in “How Does That Make You Feel?”
I was in for a surprise. I never imagined, for example, that a therapist could be envious of a client’s life. It never occurred to me that a male therapist would tell a teenage client to take off her bra … and so much more not suitable for a family newspaper. And I am happy to be shocked by a young man who cheated on his girlfriend in her therapist’s bed. I say “happy” because it’s fun to be shocked and it’s oddly fun to read Amatenstein’s compilation of good essays about pain, suffering and, often, newfound awareness — along with anything else a human’s messy brain can conjure up.
“How Does That Make You Feel?” edited by Sherry Amatenstein (Seal Press, $17, 320 pages): With insight and humor, 34 writers include us in their private sessions with their psychotherapists. Patti Davis, the actress daughter of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, concludes with this: “Just as there are lousy car mechanics, there are lousy therapists.”
Many Jews wear their neuroses as a source of pride. We “chosen ones” were born with the ingredients for anxiety: high intelligence, fine-tuned sensitivity, and a horrifying history of persecution. Alienated, made fun of, exiled and slaughtered—no wonder we invented psychoanalysis.
A new book called How Does That Make You Feel?, features essays by 13 therapists and 21 patients (but no shrink/shrinkee pairs), many of whom are Jewish, about the process of therapy from both sides of the couch. The collection is edited by Sherry Amatenstein, a New York City-based licensed clinical social worker, and an author of three books on relationships.
In her introduction to “How Does That Make You Feel? True Confessions from Both Sides of the Therapy Couch,” Sherry Amatenstein says she wants to illuminate both the “shrinks” and the “shrunks.” She succeeds with the 34 essays collected here, written by patients, therapists and people who have been both.
Most of the contributors to Amatenstein’s book have done some professional writing, and it shows. And some are noted authors: Beverly Donofrio, whose essay is called “My Serial Therapists,” wrote “Riding in Cars With Boys”; Charlie Rubin, who wrote “Why I Didn’t Enter Therapy Sooner,” has written for “Seinfeld” and for Jon Stewart.
Their essays are alternately thoughtful, funny, horrifying and tragic. Most important, they’re insightful.
Seal Press’s latest anthology, “How Does that Make You Feel? True Confessions from both sides of the therapy couch” debuts today and how apt that the above quote was included in one of the essays, “Lies I Told My Therapist” and not just for the month this collection comes out.
Therapy is a risk, for not just those seeking help, but those providing it and such stories are portrayed a plenty. There is the young woman, seeking help despite it being frowned upon in her community to seek the help of white people in Jenine Holmes’ essay, “Therapy is for White People.” Or those who encounter less than exemplary help or those who would pervert it altogether, as found in Pamela Rafalow Grossman’s essay, “With Some Gratitude to My Asshole Former Therapist” who despite being a terrible therapist, ended up helping her nonetheless. Or in Laura Bogart’s essay, “My Shrink’s Ultimatum,” where the author must decide if her therapist’s advice is worth following, at the sake of her self preservation.