Book Review – Complete Union Alice McLaughlin

Original Writing Dublin 2008 ISBN: 978-1-906018-79-5

This is the compelling true story of the process of therapy involving a couple and their therapist.  Over the course of 37 sessions, using the couple’s own journals and the counsellors reflections from her notes, Complete Union documents the entire therapy process. Darren and Tina had been married for six years without ever having achieved sexual intercourse.  The book is written in a clear, concise manner, displaying the depth and strength of the relationships involved both between the couple and their Therapist Alice McLoughlin.

As a 4th Year student of Psychotherapy, this book appealed both to the therapist and the human in me.  The process of therapy is clear and well documented, as is the human story, through the use of journal entries.  Tina reflects honestly about her fears around initially addressing the issue, and as the journey progresses, the joy both she and Darren experience at finally being able to consummate their six year marriage.

From a counsellor’s perspective, it was fascinating to see the range of interventions used by McLoughlin.  Her focus on the relationship – the core of therapy – is evident and she openly demonstrates her ability to connect with her clients throughout the process.  Her use of her knowledge of different styles is appealing and demonstrates to the reader, that the journey to resolving any issue can take many turns.  The work discussed in Complete Union highlights the benefit to clients of practitioners who come from an integrative or holistic stance.

The book deals in a frank and honest manner with the negative messages and internalised beliefs, which lead to sexual problems as well as some of the particular experiences which affected this couple.  For example, in order to explore and get to know her own body, Tina needed to let go of the belief that certain parts of the body are dirty or shameful and that touching oneself is sinful.  The story describes Tina’s exploration of her own body, the release of years of grief about her sexual inadequacy, and the confronting of her terrible dread of sexual intercourse.

The sexual area of human suffering is still much hidden in Ireland, and I recall lamenting during my studies about the absence of good literature, particularly from an Irish perspective. Alice McLoughlin has over 20 years experience in the field of counselling and psychotherapy, and a wide range of her skills as a therapist shine through in this book.    In demonstrating what a counsellor is, I have not read anything to compare with Complete Union.  As a story in and of itself, the book is compelling reading, touching the reader on multiple levels.  I have spoken to people both in and outside the counselling profession who have read the book, and every one of them has talked about personal insights they have had from the experience.  It is a book that will hopefully find its way on to the syllabus of every counsellor training institute in Ireland, if not everywhere.

Tony Freegrove 4th Year Student Bsc Counselling & Psychotherapy PCI College Dublin