18/06/2009

Who is it that can tell me who I am? (by Jane Haynes)

I had never heard of Jane Haynes. This is hardly surprising, since she has only written one book. She's a psychotherapist who lives in London, and I only came across her book when it was available for review at The Bookbag, and sounded interesting.

'Who is it that can tell me who I am? is a fascinating book. It contains true accounts of psychotherapy sessions, from the author's perspective. The first section is about her own therapy, as she comes to terms with a very painful childhood; it's also about her relationship with her therapist, written - unusually - in the second person, addressed to him.

The second half of the book describes some of her own clients, with their permission (and with names withheld in most cases) who she saw after she herself had become a qualified psychotherapist.

I thought it gave a good insight into how the therapeutic process can work over many sessions. It also questions some of the traditional principles and taboos - such as the idea that a therapist should never touch the client, in any way, even if they obviously need a hug, or that the therapist should be a 'blank slate' rather than a person with plenty of problems of their own.

I found the book fairly complex in places. I couldn't read more than about twenty pages at one sitting, so it's taken several weeks to finish. I'm glad I knew at least a little bit about psychological terminology and Jungian archetypes, too, or it would have been quite confusing at times. The language is abstract and sometimes long-winded, and I sometimes had to re-read paragraphs to take them in.

It's a very honest and thought-provoking book, as well as being interesting, and I expect to re-read it in a few years. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about therapy, from the perspective of both the client and the therapist. But don't expect to read it in one sitting!

(You can read my longer review of 'Who is it that can tell me who I am?' at The Bookbag site)

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