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by Philippa Perry
Palgrave Macmillan, 2010
Review by Christian Perring on Apr 12th 2011

Couch Fiction

This tale of psychotherapy in graphic novel form is nicely done.  It tells of a man called James coming in to Patricia Phillips for help with his habit of stealing.  He is well off, so he does not need the objects he steals.  He does it for much more idiosyncratic reasons that are not very clear to him.  The task of the therapy is to work out why he does it and how to solve those underlying problems.  Through the therapy, they explore his past, his dreams and fantasies, and his actions within the therapy.  Below the pictures are footnotes explaining technical terms and ideas, and comment not only on why Patricia does what she does, but also what mistakes she makes.  It is an instructive guide to modern psychotherapy that will appeal not only to those who know nothing about it but also those who have been in therapy already; even therapists will find ideas to interest them.  It's particularly interesting to see the thoughts of the therapist and the client at the same time.  We see, for example, Pat thinking about how hungry or tired she is, and then reminding herself to focus on her client.    It's a nice depiction of ordinary parts of therapy that often go unmentioned.  The therapy itself is successful, although it takes 43 sessions, which is considerably less than some old-style psychoanalysis, but also considerably more than most cognitive-behavioral therapy.  The amount of working through familiar issues repetitively in such a long therapy is significant, although we don't get to see that part of it.  Rather, for us, the story unfolds in a linear manner, largely in the familiar detective story of uncovering the truth behind the client's forgetfulness and self-deception. 

The artwork by Junko Graat is a little crude, and some of the drawing seems unpolished, but for the most part, it works well.  The book is a quick and enjoyable read, and the graphic form provides an emphasis on the two different perspectives of therapist and client that would be hard to achieve with prose alone. 

 

© 2011 Christian Perring        

  

Christian Perring, Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York