Deciding to seek therapy can be downright frightening for some people. This can be due to confusion about how the therapeutic process works, inaccurate portrayals of psychotherapy in the media, or stigmatization and judgment from either one’s own self, or another person in one’s life.
In A Users Guide to Therapy: What to Expect and How You Can Benefit, Tamara L. Kaiser addresses some of these concerns and helps the reader formulate their own working definition of what therapy is, why it can help, and how to get the most out of it.
The book is divided into thirteen chapters that take the reader through an introductory, yet informative, journey through every twist and turn of the therapeutic process imaginable. In Chapter 1, Kaiser helps the reader form a foundation of understanding by providing definitions of what therapy is, addressing some common doubts about the therapeutic process, overviewing the material the rest of the book will cover and, finally, explaining how her thirty-five years of experience as a therapist complements the information shared throughout the book.
While presenting a large amount of information, Kaiser keeps the tone of her words warm and inviting. She offers the reader reassurance and hope through both choice of words and the highly-structured nature of her guidebook.
Chapters 2 and 3 continue to offer background information to complement as well as enhance the reader’s conceptual understanding of therapy. Kaiser provides a brief overview of the connection between psychotherapy and the brain. In this, Kaiser offers the reader cause for optimism by discussing neural plasticity–the ability for neural networks in the brain to be re-wired in therapy–allowing thoughts, feelings and behaviors to gradually change.
Chapter 4 shows the reader how to go about choosing a therapist and what the selection process should look like. Further, Kaiser discusses what generally happens in the first few sessions.
Chapters 5 through 7 tackle more aspects of the therapeutic process, like understanding and facilitating good communication between therapist and client. Kaiser briefly informs the reader of three different types of therapy (individual, group and family), and four main therapeutic approaches (psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral, humanistic, and family systems).
Chapter 8 gives a brief overview of the five stages of change, and offers a small series of reflective questions to help the reader pinpoint where they are in these stages and how to process that within the therapy room. Chapters 9 through 12 focus on more complex issues that will likely arise later on in the therapeutic process. An important and effective contribution within these chapters is a section dedicated to ways a client can enhance his or her own therapy; ways to bring what they learn in session into their daily interactions with themselves and the world.
Chapter 13 ends with advice for termination and helps the reader assess whether or not they are ready, and if so, how the make the transition easier. Finally, the book ends with a few resources; a list of recommended books and an index of terms that allows a reader to easily look up a certain topic within the book.
The goal of this book is to offer an extremely user-friendly manual for people who desire more information about the therapeutic process. Kaiser succeeds in her objective. The tone of the book is non-judgmental and warm throughout its entirety, while still remaining unbiased and upfront. Kaiser’s approach truly allows the reader the opportunity to develop their own personal understanding of what therapy is and the potential role it could play in their lives. Kaiser never pushes too hard or comes across as harsh; her words are just the simple nudge that spurs the natural process of deciding whether or not to seek therapy.
Kaiser’s book is both comprehensive and concise. It provides just the right amount of information for someone new to the idea of therapy, without totally overwhelming the reader with various therapeutic approaches and psychological jargon. This is an extremely effective approach when considering the audience of this book. This balance, paired with Kaiser’s continual undertone of encouragement and support, could do nothing but advance a reader’s likelihood of seeking therapy and getting the individualized help they deserve.
Overall, Kaiser delivers an effective handbook for beginners in therapy that will gently guide them through most, if not all, the major issues that will arise during the course of treatment.