What A Live Can Be, One Therapist's Take on Schizo-Affective Disorder
By Carolyn Dobbin, PhD
The author employs a strategy whereby the client writes her story and the therapist writes hers, so the reader gets two perspectives, from the outside looking in and from the inside looking out. What makes it especially effective is that the writing is so vivid and authentic that you don't feel like you are being instructed about this mental disorder, you feel like you are experiencing it. For this reason it is difficult to read this book through all at once: a reader needs to take a breather after particularly stressful episodes and recover. What makes this author so effective at creating empathy is that she herself was and is both client and therapist, a woman who developed this mental illness of which she writes in her late teens. Both stories are hers to tell and she tells them with the same skill, intelligence and insight she had to have to get through school while suffering from this disorder.
Having represented many many clients with mental disorders in both the Mental Health and Juvenile Courts during my legal career and having gotten to know them as individuals instead of stereotypes the following especially resonated with me:
"It's 1988 and I am 28 years old. I've been seeing another psychologist throughout graduate school. He knows everything about me. He's terrific, caring and warm. The great thing about him is that he just completed graduate school which maybe allows him to be open and to be able to see me for me and not through a diagnostic manual that, it seems, one uses to stereotype. (What is my stereotype because I have never figured it out.) As therapists age and grow, it seems that some of them get calloused and treat people more like disorders than people. He teaches me a lot about my strengths. I have great interest in understanding everyone's strengths. I am not saying that I have succeeded but people matter to me. I love hearing about people's own realities." P.77
I highly recommend this book to anyone who either suffers from or has a family member who suffers from this or other kinds of mental disorder, to lawyers who work with clients with this kind of disorder and, yes, to psychologists who can expand their own consciousness by experiencing this situation from the other side. If you give this book the attention it deserves you will find it emotionally exhausting but worth the effort for the reward of significant and perhaps life changing enlightenment.