Sunday, June 12, 2011

Book Review - The Man with the Beautiful Voice: And More Stories from the Other Side of the Couch by Lillian Rubin

Title: The Man with the Beautiful Voice: And More Stories from the Other Side of the Couch 
Author: Lillian Rubin
Year: 2004
Page: 176
Genre: Non-Fiction - Medical

FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

Summary (from
In her long career as a psychotherapist, acclaimed author Lillian Rubin occasionally encountered patients who demanded a very special, even unorthodox, therapeutic approach. For the first time, Dr. Rubin tells the stories of her most fascinating, most challenging cases from the other side of the couch, focusing not just on the patient, but on her own inner process as she confronts the issues each case raises.

First Sentence:
It's my first day at the clinic where I'm about to begin my internship, the necessary prelude to getting licensed as a psychotherapist. 

My Thoughts:

Why this book?
  • Would like to learn more about psychotherapy - just a personal interest since I was a psych major and am working on a project related to this topic. I love reading medical related non-fiction anyway, especially when they are case studies (in layperson terms, not in scientific jargon)
First thought:
  •  Interesting!
Cover Art:
  • Indifferent, though it's relevant to one of the cases
  • It's taken after one of the cases - not sure if it's my favorite case in the book, but a memorable one
  • Easy to read
  • The book included several case patients Dr Rubin had in the past - so it almost read like short stories
  • There were both success and failure stories in the book - so Dr Rubin wasn't just tooting her own horn. Some patients were long term patients, requiring years of theraphy. There was no magical treatment that cured the patients overnight
  • Dr Rubin seemed well liked and approachable. I liked that she explained why she took a certain approach with different patients. It was almost like you could hear her inner thoughts as she assessed the patients
  • She was also very honest - you'd think being a psychotherapist she'd be sympathetic - yes she was, but just not 24/7. She's human after all! 
  • I read this a while back and couldn't quite remember how it ended. However since this was a collection of patient stories, the ending wasn't quite as critical as say, a fictional story.
  • There was one particularly sad story, and I am sure it haunted Dr Rubin. But I guess we had to remember that the doctor could only do so much - their role was to guide the patient, it really is up to the patient to make their own decision
What I Learned:
  • The term "passing" in relation to race. Haven't heard of it before (explanation in wiki). 
  • For couple therapy - the therapist was not supposed to see the couple individually (according to Dr Rubin anyway), e.g. if the husband told the therapist he cheated, and the therapist told the wife then it broke patient (the husband's) confidentiality. If the therapist chose not to tell the wife, and the wife found out later, she would not trust the therapist as she might think the therapist sided with the husband and kept the wife in the dark
  • If a patient asked something and the therapist did not want to answer yes or no right then since either option was appropriate (because of the consequences), answered the question in a way that left the option open instead (e.g. "if you complete the next step, then we can readdress the issue then" instead of saying yes or no to that issue straight away)
  • Made me wonder if someone had to go through therapy himself/herself, in order to become a good therapist, so they'd know what their patients go through? Since I had a psych major, I had considered going back to school to learn about therapy/counseling. However, I had a fairly stable, non-dramatic life. Would I be sympathetic enough?
Read this Author again?
  • Most likely
Freud himself knew that there was no cure and no transformation, only the possibility of transcending. Which is why he promised only to turn neurotic suffering into ordinary pain. (p159-160)

Overall Rating:
4 Stars. Learned something new!

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  1. Passing this on to my girlfriend, Dr A, a psychiatrist. Nearly all psychiatrists think it's important to experience psychotherapy from a patient's perspective, both to iron out their own issues, and understand how it is for a patient. Dr A had 6 months of weekly sessions, like most of her colleagues. No stigma, just part of the training.

  2. @Fiona - good to know they have psychotherapy as part of the training! I know at the clinic I work at, the residents have to pretend to be diabetes patients - they have to do the whole insulin and eat the proper food thing - to see what the patients go through!