Book Review: The Making of a Therapist – A Practical Guide for the Inner Journey Dr. Louis Cozolino

W.W. Norton & Co. Ltd.  ISBN: 0-393-70424-6

Reviewed by Jo-Anne MacMillan

I recently completed my training as a psychotherapist and being on work placement and meeting my first clients is still very fresh in my memory. In my final year of training and after the first feedback on my practical work, I found myself very low and was wondering if I will ever be good enough! I felt overshadowed by all that I did wrong and did not see all that I actually did right.

I found The Making of a Therapist by chance (although I realize once again that there is no such thing as coincidence!)  and it offered the affirmation I needed to reconnect with the passion I have for psychotherapy and helping people to find hope in their distressed lives; but most of all it helped me to see that I can be a ‘good enough’ therapist. Dr. Cozolino’s writing is filled with warmth and takes his reader back to his own hesitant beginnings as a trainee and then qualified therapist launching out into practice with ‘real clients’. His uplifting and honest support informs the therapists starting out in practice of the vital importance of self-awareness, self-monitoring and self-care.

Dr. Cozolino is sensitively humorous, truthful and very reassuring offering genuine empathy, which I found truly comforting in meeting my first clients. Dealing with the important challenges and strategies of becoming a therapist I found one of the best pieces of advice in the book (which I have heard echo in our group-supervision many times) is ‘Each mistake is an opportunity to make a good mistake. It all depends on how you handle it‘ (p.79). This made a big difference to my training as an open-minded way to help me to stop trying to be perfect and to know that whatever happens, I can learn from it and move on. The clear writing style makes it easy to read and sensitively approaches a variety of subject areas:

The first part of the book, ‘Getting Through Your First Sessions,’ takes readers through the often-perilous days and weeks of conducting initial sessions with real clients. Cozolino addresses such basic concerns as: Do I need to be completely healthy myself before I can help others? What do I do if someone comes to me with an issue or problem I can’t handle? What should I do if I have trouble listening to my clients? What if a client scares me?

The second section of the book, ‘Getting to Know Your Clients,’ delves into the routine of therapy and the subsequent stages in which you continue to work with clients. In this context, Cozolino presents the notion of the ‘good enough’ therapist, one who can surrender to his or her own imperfections while still guiding the therapeutic relationship to a positive outcome.

The final section, ‘Getting to Know Yourself,’ goes to the core of the therapist’s relation to him- or herself, addressing such issues as: How to turn your weaknesses into strengths, and how to deal with the complicated issues of pathological caretaking, countertransference, and self-care.

I found ‘The Making of a Therapist’ to be jam-packed with realistic advice, common-sense wisdom and self-disclosure.  Dr. Cozolino’s guidance and support for beginning therapists is not only compassionate but also inspiring and full of heart! The book is extremely readable and the cases so interesting that it could be read again and again.