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Resource List 12

A FURTHER COLLECTION OF RECENT ENGLISH-LANGUAGE PSYCHOTHERAPY BOOK REVIEWS

Compiled under the direction of Jacqueline A. Carleton Ph.D. (and her interns) for the IJP (April, 2018).


Limbach, A. (2019). Tea and Cake with Demons: A Buddhist Guide to Feeling Worthy.

Engelke, M. (2018). How to Think Like an Anthropologist?

Grodzki, L. (2018). Therapy with a Coaching Edge


Limbach, A. (2019). Tea and Cake with Demons: A Buddhist Guide to Feeling Worthy. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.
Available in Paperback: July 2019.
Paperback: 193 pages. Includes foreword.
Reviewed by Kathryn Metro, New York University: 

Adreanna Limbach’s new book, Tea and Cake with Demons, relies on Buddhist teachings to improve our self-worth, providing readers with the opportunity to explore their insecurities and be mindful of their personal demons. Limbach believes that the Buddha represents our capacity to be present in our own lives and, through meditation practices, come to know the “fundamentally whole” versions of ourselves. Many people struggle with feeling like there is a fundamental flaw within them, inhibiting their ability to feel good about themselves. The book explores this mindset through the lens of Buddhist teachings and the Four Noble Truths, providing an innovative perspective on self-worth. The book is geared towards people who struggle with feeling valuable, and the “On the Spot Practices” make the guide feel especially accessible, even to people who seldom consider their sense of self-worth. Limbach has divided the book into three parts: Waking Up to Worthiness, The Four Noble Truths, and The Eightfold Path.
            The first part of the book addresses what factors influence our definition of worthiness, and delves into the theory that “perhaps our worth, our value, is an inborn state that we all possess- not contingent on external factors. We then take some time to explore the many forces that obscure our worth, by learning to make friends with our own minds” (7). The first chapter guides us through the process of coming back to ourselves when we feel lost, and understanding who we fundamentally are. Limbach focuses on the concept of entelĂ©kheia, or entelechy, which represents the idea of wholeness and development of self- expression. One of the fundamental teachings of Buddhism postulates the entelechy of wholeness and worth that we all possess inherently. Stated beautifully by Limbach, “Nothing is wasted, nothing is discarded, everything is workable and has a place” (11). This basic wholeness means that we have a birthright of belonging to the earth. We can always rely on our breathing which perpetually endures without our effort.
            In Part 2, Limbach discusses the Four Noble Truths and how they can guide us through finding our way out of dissatisfaction. The First Noble Truth focuses on human dissatisfaction in general, the Second Noble Truth is the truth of the cause of suffering, the Third Noble Truth is the truth of the end of suffering, and the Fourth Noble Truth gives practical guidance on how to live a life-based in self-worth. The First Noble Truth begins with suffering and Limbach notes that you might find yourself noticing your privilege and lack of suffering in major categories of life like finances, health, and happiness. However, she describes that suffering is “insidious” and we often times find ourselves fine at surface-level, but with a hint of dissatisfaction. We all have varying experiences of dissatisfaction, but the First Noble Truth “reminds us that connection, in all its joy and beauty, is also a path to suffering” (59). If we live a life full of love and happiness, we are also bound to experience the absence of these feelings at other times, because we have fragile lives that are bound to change in inexplicable, sometimes devastating, ways. Limbach urges us to greet negative emotions and thank them for the information they give us about who we are, remembering that suffering can either break us “open into empathy or into sharp little pieces” (60).
            The final part of the book addresses the Eightfold Path which shows us that nothing happens in a vacuum. Rather, all parts of life interact and connect. This part of the book focuses on each of the eight aspects, to offer a holistic perspective on our lives. The first thing that the Eightfold Path addresses is the stories that we tell ourselves. According to the principle of samma ditthi, translated as Beneficial View, an individual’s point of view on one’s varying experiences shapes their relationship with the world. At the beginning of the path, Limbach urges us to consider which stories benefit and harm us, or are not ours at all. Buddhist tradition encourages meditation practice, which “helps us to slow down enough to watch our narrative unfold” (162). We only have access to our individual point of view, which is defined by our specific identity in terms of socioeconomic status, gender, culture, and relationships. Limbach explains that we must consider whether the view we have is helpful or harmful. Trusting our own experiences allows us to make friends with ourselves and continue our path to recognizing our own value.
            Tea and Cake with Demons is a self-proclaimed “non-self-help book” that offers valuable advice about how to recognize our self-worth and be at peace with our deepest insecurities. The Four Noble Truths may seem obscure upon first glance, but Limbach emphasizes the aspects of these principles that we can apply to our life in a meaningful way. Learning to accept ourselves just as we are is a critical part of living a happy, fulfilling life, and this book provides insight into how to get closer to this goal. Limbach promotes mindfulness and meditation as methods of accepting ourselves. These practices focus more on long term growth than quick fixes to being more confident, and therefore they may not be attractive to everyone.

Adreanna Limbach is a personal coach and a lead meditation instructor at MINDFUL, a premier meditation studio in NYC. Her teachings have been featured in the New York Times, Women’s Health, and Refinery29.

Kathryn Metro studies Applied Psychology at New York University and is set to graduate in 2021. She has interned in classrooms in the Greater New York City area, and has interests in communications, Spanish, and working with children.


Engelke, M. (2018). How to Think Like an Anthropologist? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN: 978-0-691-17878-3
Available in hardcover, paperback and eBook.
Hardcover. 325 pages. Includes notes, bibliography and further readings.
Reviewed by: Lal Karaarslan, Columbia University

There is a hackneyed tale of two young fishes. As they are swimming in the sea, they encounter an old fish who asks them, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” The two fishes pass him by without saying a word and then one of them looks over to the other one and goes, “What is water?” In his new book “How to Think Like an Anthropologist?”, Matthew Engelke takes on the daunting task of asking us about the water: our culture. Himself a cultural anthropologist, Engelke reminds us of the dogmas which permeate everyday life and dictate our perception of the world.
            One could see the intersection between the fields of psychology and anthropology from this description. Both try to understand our point of view as humankind and in their own ways try to explain the ‘human condition.’ Engelke summarizes the questions anthropology asks as “What is it that makes us human? What is it that we all share, and what is it that we inherit from the circumstances of society and history?” (3) While the focus of anthropology is on the last question, psychology focuses more on the first two. Anthropology and especially cultural anthropology is more interested in understanding the narratives we have created to understand life, while psychology tries to understand the underlying causations for such narratives.
   
      Engelke’s understanding of anthropology follows a similar vein as he defines anthropology as “examining and questioning concepts” (7). The book’s organization illustrates this understanding as it is comprised of eleven chapters (introduction, culture, civilization, values, value, blood, identity, authority, reason, nature, conclusion) and apart from the introduction and the conclusion, the rest of the chapters are dedicated to exploring certain concepts that form the skeleton of modern anthropology. Most chapters follow a similar format: a complete deconstruction of the understandings we have of the concepts using various data, including politics, history, scientific studies and of course, anthropology. So the book functions both as a description of how to think like an anthropologist and as an example of it. This approach to anthropology is actually what sets it apart from its counterparts. Compared to, say, “Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind”, “How to Think Like an Anthropologist” focuses more on establishing a conceptual framework for anthropology rather than give a historical and in-depth introduction to the field.
       While the focus on the concepts is refreshing, it is also indicative of the assumptions anthropology makes. There is an implicit hierarchy between ideas and the material world, in which the ideas have the upper hand, according to anthropology. Engelke both admits and unwittingly propagates this view in his statements: “we are not governed by a strong ‘human nature,’ we are not simply a product of our genes,” and “Biology and nature have nearly always played a secondary role in anthropological conceptions of culture.” (41) These statements reflect how the field of anthropology, while studying culture, has also been affected by the Western assumptions regarding human existence. This kind of hierarchy of the physical and the phenomenological or more specifically the mind and the body has its roots in very specific understandings of these concepts that are founded on culture. However, credit where credit is due, Engelke seems awfully aware of the shortcomings of anthropology as he furthers the discussion of nature versus nurture debate in his Nature chapter and addresses the colonial and Western roots of anthropology in the Introduction.
      In short, the book is not only well-written, but it is also eye-opening and easy to read. Especially considering the intersection between anthropology and psychology, it will provide an interesting take on the fundamental questions a psychotherapist seeks to answer. And most importantly, attempting to understand the ‘other’ is the basis of anthropology, how it goes about doing that is perhaps its most vital contribution to a psychotherapist. But, beware, because while it is useful to understand how an anthropologist thinks, one should not be consumed by their prejudices and end up thinking too much like an anthropologist.

Matthew Engelke is an anthropologist with research interests in Christianity, secular humanism, media, materiality, semiotics. Currently a professor in Columbia University, he has taught in London School of Economics for 16 years. He received his BA from the University of Chicago and his PhD from the University of Virginia. 


The reviewer, Lal Karaarslan studies neuroscience and philosophy at Columbia University and is on the pre-medicine track. She has done fMRI research and worked in a neurology clinic. She is set to graduate in May of 2021. In addition to working for IJP, she writes reviews for Somatic Psychotherapy Today.


Grodzki, L. (2018). Therapy with a Coaching Edge. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company. 978-0-393-71247-6.
Available in hardcover.
Hardcover. 288 pages. Includes index.
Reviewed by Kathryn Metro, New York University:

Lynn Grodzki has written a compelling book that offers a therapy model with a coaching approach. Therapy with a Coaching Edge is a straightforward and user- friendly guide for therapists and other helping professionals who are interested in a model of therapy that incorporates a coaching approach. She begins with a description of the basic model, and then explores a set of nine specific coaching skills. The chapters include examples of therapy sessions that illustrate how to ask insight- invoking questions in order to appropriately utilize a coaching approach to therapy. There are four sections within the book: The Foundation, Skills for Partnership, Skills for Action, and Skills for Possibility. Grodzki has designed the book to be flexible and suitable for people with varying interests so that professionals can either adopt the complete model or select the concepts and skills that appeal to them the most.
     
Grodzki begins her guide with a discussion of the basics, including a necessary description of which clients may benefit from coaching. She clearly states that although she appreciates the value of life coaching, she does not believe that everyone is suited for the approach and that it is geared for a narrow population, in which “it presupposes that a client is stable, functional and able to follow through with a plan of action between sessions.” A person may be un-coachable if “the presenting problem was based in a childhood upset, or if a client needed to cry or was angry, or seemed very shut down” (29). The ideal client for a coaching method is one who has a moderate mental health diagnosis, functions normally in most parts of their life, are receptive to a directive action-oriented approach, have a capacity for thinking rationally, and could be comfortable working at a quicker speed with a proactive therapist. In addition to general disposition, it is important to determine whether a client’s challenge may benefit from a coaching approach. Clients who present internal struggles, cognitive distortions, relationship issues and external stressors typically do better with this model than those who face addiction or relapse, or those who are victims or perpetrators of abuse.
     
Grodzki explains that an important part of adopting a coaching edge to therapy is shifting the persona of the therapist. In Grodzki’s model, successful therapists must “self relate in a proactive way that signals authenticity” (51). Essential to her model is a therapist who can be present in the room, rather than a neutral, blank slate. Grodzki urges therapists looking to adopt the model to avoid therapeutic jargon and to express interest. Such collaboration allows a therapist to defuse negativity and remind their client “of the attempt to stay connected to each other and to the goal of the session, even during trying circumstances of lateness” (56). Grodzki goes on to explain that a therapist using a partnership position must “represent” what they provide. A reduced hierarchy and less transference are essential and help to forge an authentic relationship with clients.
      Grodzki emphasizes the importance of questions in a therapy setting. She points out that developing impactful questions is a skill that can be used to elicit change. Grodzki uses a specific case example to show how the use of a few questions helped her client, Leah, to rethink and resolve a stressful marriage. There are several different types of questions that Grodzki would use to help guide her discussion with Leah, including the “miracle question.” Therapists use this type of question (“If a miracle happened and this problem of stress vanished, how would life be different?”) to focus on the goal of eliminating the problem. Not only does Grodski list explicit questions to ask, she also includes tips on how and when to ask them. She’s included worksheets and questionnaires at the end of the book to build on the skills readers have learned about in the chapters.
      Lynn Grodski’s new book is thoughtful and profound. She has legitimized this therapeutic model that many therapists have attempted or dabbled with, often times without even realizing it. For old and new therapists alike, this book is easy to follow, compelling, and provides detailed instructions and examples that are useful in different circumstances. In a world that is increasingly goal oriented, therapy that is focused on positive outcomes will likely only become more popular, and Grodzki provides an excellent guide to navigating this approach.

Lynn Grodzki is one of the leading business coaches in the US for small business owners, and she specializes in working with therapists, coaches, healers, and other helping professionals. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice for over twenty-five years and a Master Certified Coach, and she maintains a psychotherapy private practice where she specializes in working with adults who are successful in some areas of life and need help in others.


The reviewer, Kathryn Metro studies Applied Psychology at New York University and is set to graduate in 2021. She has interned in classrooms in the Greater New York City area, and has interests in communications, Spanish, and working with children.


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