A Shining Affliction A Story of Harm and Healing in Psychotherapy

Review From User :

i've read this book twice now, something i basically never do, and i can't get over what a rewarding read this is. it's simply a beautiful, beautiful book. annie rogers writes about her year of internship as a young psychology ph.d. candidate in a school for disturbed children. the story centers around her therapeutic work with ben, a five year old boy with a horrendously traumatic past. as annie does therapy with ben (who's utterly charming and adorable), her own traumatic past is dramatically triggered by her own therapist's abandonment. at the same time, immersing herself in ben's story brings her own painful and buried story to the surface in a way that is so distressing to her that she needs to be hospitalized again and therefore interrupt her treatment of ben. before she resumes seeing ben, she starts seeing a new psychoanalyst whose compassion, openness, love, and skill enable her to face her pain and find the courage to finish her work with the little boy.

there is much that moves in this book. rogers presents the therapeutic relationship -- hers with ben, blumenfeld's with her -- as a profound experience of tender love and genuine, compassionate sharing. she describes it as a process in which, by necessity, both the therapist and the patient heal, ideally in cooperation with each other. the way in which she allows ben to enter and affect her life -- and blumenfeld does the same with her -- seems to me so exemplary of how psychological healing should be conducted that it would be impossible for me now to to have therapy with anyone who wouldn't hold the same profound commitment to his or her patients. we have professionalized the mental health field way too much. we have forgotten that no one can heal except in true relationships between flesh-and-blood people who put everything at stake to achieve authentic intimacy.

intimacy, it seems, is much frowned upon in our culture. i know this because the love and tenderness that pass between annie and ben (though surprisingly not the love and tenderness that pass between blumenfeld and annie) were received by my students with much skepticism if not outright disapproval. how dare annie get so close to ben! how dare she think about him in her off hours, "bring her work home!" i found this painful. how did we become a people that finds closeness so inappropriate has genuine and unguarded closeness always been perceived as so terribly threatening, or is this a recent development i don't know! it is certainly not threatening to my italian mind and heart, and it was not threatening to most of the students in the class who were brought up on other cultures. is then fear of intimacy something that belongs deep at the heart of american culture and if so, when did this start, how did this happen

these are not new issues. i feel that everything i read gets commented on in this light. yet, gee, therapy is something meant to get people better. we have invented therapy precisely to heal the wounds caused by cruelty and coldness. why have we allowed therapy to become a quickie between a quivering patient and a "professionally" detached professional

i recommend this to everyone except people who are in dissatisfying therapeutic relationships, because it will make you feel awful, and, let's face it, therapists like annie rogers and sam blumenfeld are not easy to find and, once you find them, almost impossible to afford. :-(

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