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Book Review: Overcoming the Destructive Inner Voice

Overcoming the Destructive Inner Voice: True Stories of Therapy and Transformation by Robert Firestone reads like a history of case studies.

Firestone began his private practice in 1957, and first worked with schizophrenic patients in a residential center. Throughout the book, he illustrates how mental disorders are the defenses one forms and the leading cause of maladaptation later in life. A person builds defenses and resistance to pursuing a better life due to critical negative attitudes.

Firestone believes that unexpressed emotions can be the source of both physical and emotional discomfort, and identifying and releasing them is the core of his approach with clients. People struggle with destructive thought processes, or what is often called a critical inner voice, for example, which directs behavior and can limit the lives of those who struggle.

During his work, Firestone discovered the therapeutic method called Voice Therapy. This methodology allows clients to learn to identify the language of the defense system and ultimately separate their point of view from its harmful effects. Instead of personalizing the self-criticism (“I statements”), Firestone helps clients to externalize by verbalizing the thought in the second person (“you statements”).

Voice Therapy is an approach based in cognitive and behavioral therapy that brings internalized negative thought processes to the surface with accompanying emotions, which allows the client to confront unknown aspects of the personality. This confrontation allows clients to begin to identify the critical inner voice and to work more effectively with their negative thoughts. Through the identification of the critical voice, clients are better able to take action against it and begin to make rational statements about who they are and how they experience their world.

Once a person externalizes the critical voice, they are able to begin to explore how these self-criticisms have impacted their behaviors. Having this understanding begins the process of change through decreasing the self-destructive behavior and increasing positive self-talk and behaviors.

The mistakes a person may have made in the past, if acknowledged and understood, can help guide that person into taking steps to a more informed journey through their vulnerabilities. And that journey all begins with an inner look at themselves, their inner voice, and how every choice could bring them closer to their authentic self. The voice is a representation of their consciousness becoming aware of the path that lays ahead.

Firestone presents stories and case studies that show how clients’ subconscious minds are attempting to bring a feeling, idea or situation into their conscious lives. When the subconscious continually asks if they are okay, for example, there must be a part of them that is not dealing with something or that feels there is something wrong that needs to be brought to consciousness.

Firestone describes his reactions to client revelations and responses by sharing his thoughts, feelings, and reactions as the therapist sitting on the other side of the couch. His exposure of what he is thinking and feeling moves away from the traditional portrayal of a therapist taking a neutral stance and being devoid of emotions and reactions.

When comparing this book to other books using case studies, such as Irvin Yalom’s Creatures of a Day, I found Firestone’s studies self-absorbed, though the book does show the vulnerability of the individuals seeking therapy and their struggle and journey through the therapeutic process.

While this book may benefit some therapists in understanding how the critical inner voice impacts clients, I would utilize my resources on other case study models.

Overcoming the Destructive Inner Voice: True Stories of Therapy and Transformation

Robert W. Firestone                           

Prometheus Books

December 6, 2016

Softcover, 240 Pages

Book Review: Overcoming the Destructive Inner Voice

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Paula Lopez

APA Reference
Lopez, P. (2017). Book Review: Overcoming the Destructive Inner Voice. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 29 Aug 2017
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 29 Aug 2017
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