Monday, July 18, 2011

Book Review: Crazy: Notes On and Off the Couch by Rob Dobrenski

This memoir is naturally a little bit fudged. Due to being a psychologist, Dr. Dobrenski is bound by confidentiality, therefore what he has done is taken stories of many patients who, for instance, have dealt with the aftermath of a rape or the death of a spouse, and consolidated those stories into one. That said, it doesn't read or feel like fiction. These compilations don't detract from the book at all, they don't give a feel of inauthenticity or two-dimensionality. It's unfortunate, but the only way a psychologist could write this kind of book. It could have been self-serving, but Dr. Dobrenski never fails to show his own culpability and flaws in the therapy process.

Although he appears to now be in his 30s, the book focuses on his early years in training and just starting out as a therapist, and how he often stumbled along the way. One of his big themes is that therapists are human too, often even having a lot of the same mental issues that their patients due, which he shows through himself and two colleagues' problems. We're all "crazy," hence the title.

The book is set up as a "day in the life" of a therapist, where he has a 9:00 appointment with a depressed blind man, and then a 10:00 appointment with another "patient", and so on, covering a range of psychological topics. I'm not entirely sure why this structure was chosen, as I don't think it improves the narrative, but it also doesn't detract. He gives an overview, through individual case studies, of child therapy, group therapy with sex offenders, he helps people with OCD, panic attacks, couples therapy, and several other issues. Having been in therapy myself, I can say the way he relates how the therapy sessions go (at least the one-on-ones, I don't know about groups) seemed very accurate to me. It is interesting to see things from the other side of the couch, and to think about the diversity of problems that a generalist can see in the course of a day. Sure would keep work exciting!

A fast read, although not for the faint at heart (both the rape victim and the sex offenders sections can be graphic), this book would be a good read for anyone casually interested in psychology.

I received this book for review from the publisher, Lyons Press, which did not affect my review.


Jen said...

This sounds like an interesting book, although I'm not sure if I'm going to pick it up right now. But, liked reading your thoughts on it.

christa @ mental foodie said...

Guess I'll keep reading this book :)(still haven't picked it up yet as I need to read a few fiction first - they're due back to the library soon...)