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Cozolino: The Making of a Therapist

Refreshingly direct and clear, with bullet points regularly summing up main points to be used as practical aids or spurs to reflection, Cozolino’s words will be reassuring and helpful to therapists at the beginning of their journey, and an enjoyable, sometimes thought-provoking companion to those already practising.

Rating: 4

The Making Of A Therapist: A Practical Guide For The Inner Journey
By Louis Cozolino, 2004. ISBN 0393704246. W.W. Norton. 209 pages.

Cozolino-Making-of-a-Therapist

“I was about to start my first session as a therapist and about to have my first panic attack.”

So begins this exploration of the professional journey by Louis Cozolino, a clinical psychologist who clearly has extensive experience in practising therapy. He writes from a mainly psychodynamic perspective, while remaining explicitly open and relevant to cognitive and humanist approaches. Indeed a section on ‘choosing your orientation’ shows that he considers there is a common foundation for the different schools, a basic helping relationship, that people are first and foremost therapists rather than ambassadors of a particular approach. This sits well with the air of practicality and pragmatism which pervades the book, with its quite cheering emphasis on embracing imperfections and being a ‘good-enough’ therapist, always open to learning. Cozlino manages to keep this common sense tone while simultaneously presenting therapy as “more of a state of mind than an activity or accomplishment” (p. 205), the key to which is “self awareness” (p. 206).

The book is divided into three sections. Part One, Getting Through Your First Sessions, does what it says on the tin, providing survival strategies, examples of assumptions to watch out for, indeed of fantasies to watch out for, such as that of always knowing the answer, or of being the Messiah your clients seek, along with practical advice on the nuts and bolts of case notes and treatment plans, and reminders about getting centred and learning to listen — easy to classify as ‘beginner’s skills’ already covered in training, but in fact requiring an infinite amount of patience (mainly with yourself) and practice.

Part Two, Getting To Know Your Clients, deals with issues such as client resistance and introduces the helpful concept of ‘shuttling’ to describe the therapist’s process of moving awareness between self and client, mind and body. It also deals with practical matters which are easy to overlook or underplay, such as cancellations and fees, and looks fearlessly and directly at the feelings which such issues evoke in therapists.

Part Three, Getting to Know Yourself, deals quite extensively with countertransference issues, how to spot and deal with them. It also deals well with the psychological issues which often underlie the taking on of a caretaking role such as that of a therapist, and includes a section which focuses mainly on self care and issues such as ethics, legalities, and work structures.

The final chapter, Walkin’ the Walk makes clear the author’s position: “I invite you to think of psychotherapy not simply as a profession but as a calling, a lifestyle and a vehicle of personal growth” (p. 206).

Refreshingly direct and clear, with bullet points regularly summing up main points to be used as practical aids or spurs to reflection, Cozolino’s words, warm in tone, perceptive and sometimes humourous, will be reassuring and helpful to therapists at the beginning of their journey; the book will be an enjoyable, sometimes thought-provoking (although not deeply challenging) companion to those already practising, with its emphasis on the therapist as both a person and a professional, and its engaging mix of therapist, supervisor and client views and stories which reflect the author’s own considerable experience.