I recently finished reading Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Changed My Life by Christie Tate.
I had so many mixed emotions as I was reading this book! I worried that people who have never been to therapy would read this book and feel too vulnerable entering a situation in which there were no rules around confidentiality and the boundaries were so loose with the therapist and group members. I worried especially about the parts of the book where the therapist recommended homework that seemed totally inappropriate. It's certainly not how therapy is done today in most situations given our ethics code and requirements around confidentiality. So once I got over that, I was really able to appreciate the raw stories that Christie shared about her life.
Christie Tate is hilarious and the book will leave you wanting to keep turning every page until you know how her story ends. She lets the reader into the darkest and brightest moments of her life and the vulnerability throughout it all was palpable. Ultimately the book follows the journey of a woman who is working to address the struggles in her life with the unwavering, unconditional support of her therapist and group members. While I question some of the therapists' strategies (which to be fair, may or may not have been exaggerated), I appreciated how he held back in providing Christie the answers. Instead, he held the space for her to explore her feelings and discover herself along the way. Truth be told, therapists don't really have all the answers! As a therapist myself, it is tempting to want to provide solutions to clients that will ease their pain and suffering. However, with time, I have learned that while there may be some things I have to offer in terms of tools and strategies, the biggest role I serve is offering a safe, nonjudgemental, consistent, caring space for people to talk openly about their life such that they can make sense of how they're living their lives and discover if they are standing in their own way of moving in a direction they really want. I view the job as holding a mirror up while gently helping the client look at themselves, not reinforcing the judgements and criticisms that arise, but to clear the way for them to discover what's beneath all of that noise.
The book focuses a lot on relationships including romantic relationships, the relationship between patient and therapist, and the relationship between patients in a group setting. The book makes you cringe and smile as it explores the impact of trauma, the desire for control, eating disorders, emotional intimacy, physical intimacy, trust, confusion, rejection, hope, unconditional love, vulnerability, joy, boundary setting, emotion dysregulation, self injury, acceptance, love, authenticity, hiding oneself, finding oneself, and honoring oneself. It's a beautiful depiction of the incredible rollercoaster that is life.
No matter who you are, you will identify with this author and her story because you are human and you have experienced the pain, the suffering, and the joy that is an inevitable part of being a human being.