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by Mary Pipher
Basic Books, 2003
Review by David M. Wolf on Oct 25th 2004
We never regret reading letters
from a well-traveled, earnest and thoughtful source. It is a year's
correspondence to a young therapist named Laura, presented in four seasons,
that comprises this excellent, highly readable book. Certainly its counsel and
good humor will be of interest to other psychotherapists, but it is no less a
pleasure as reading for anyone who cares about people. If one wants to help
others or help the self, it's even more valuable.
Words are at times irksome, they
grate on us when we try to squeeze them out writing and when we read something
poorly styled or carelessly unthought. So, what a pleasure to read something
from a seasoned therapist who proves on every page that she is as much a writer
as she is a counselor of those who bring her their problems. Pipher writes well
on every topic--and there are many in these letters, too many to fairly
summarize--because she has much experience, understands what she thinks and
feels, and knows how to abide the fields she has cleared and fenced.
Mary Pipher authored Reviving
Ophelia, which cast such a light on the problems of teenage girls it sold
more than a million copies. The subject of Letters to a Young Therapist
is the nature and scope of psychotherapy itself. But it is approached with
stories in a spirit of sharing rather than as cold theory. There are many
stories of her own and of her clients. Pipher is particularly adept at
describing what story is, and even of metaphor itself. So, this book has both
literary and psychological purview. She cites Izak Dinisen saying, "All
sorrows can be borne if they are put in a story."
Being in a room with another and
talking about the clients' problems comes alive and keeps us turning pages. Pipher
doesn't just tell us what she thinks, she shares her feelings, her hopes and
fears, her disappointments and skepticisms. We feel, after a little while, we
know her and like her as much as Laura does. And that's no small thing in a
© 2004 David Wolf
Wolf is the author of Philosophy That Works, a book about the practice
of philosophy. His book page for orders (hardback & paperback) is www.xlibris.com/philosophythatworks
; readers can also see the first chapter there.