Most therapists have patients with Borderline Personality Disorder, but rarely do we get a chance to be a fly on the wall in the therapy session.  This book is a very important one in the sense that we finally get to know the therapist as well as the client.  All uncensored thoughts and feelings are revealed in Dr. Simon-Gunn’s second book about the mysteries of psychotherapy.  Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in how the mind works.

BARE:  Psychotherapy Stripped by Dr. Jacqueline Simon-Gunn with Carlo DeCarlo

This book is for all psychotherapists, anyone receiving psychotherapy and anyone contemplating the excavation of the mind.  By its very provocative and seductive title this book hooks you in and promises to deliver naked, raw thrusting psychotherapy.  Stripped Bare in the sense that every thought and feeling is exposed revealing everything you always tried desperately to hide, even when lying on the couch.  But it’s not so much the client shacking off her clothes and getting down and dirty as it is Dr Jacqueline Simon-Gunn herself doing a slow strip-tease with every page turned.  Having met Jacquie, fully clothed, in New York last year, reading her incredibly intimate book felt more like a horny teenager watching her first male strip review.  Every page revealed an indecent amount of flesh, leaving you gasping for more.  However, just as you are about to reach a literary climax, Dr Simon Gunn clicks her red stiletto heels and leaves you perched on the edge of a cliff-hanger, dangling and desperate for more.

I reviewed red high-heeled shoes wearing Dr Simon Gunn’s first book, In the Therapist’s Chair and loved it for its originality and authenticity.  Carrying on in the same tradition, “Bare” mentions in the foreword” it takes courage to bare your own soul in a profession that prides itself on neutrality.”  Yet it is for this very reason this book and her previous one rings loud bells for anyone who is a either a psychotherapist or who has received psychotherapy or both.  Dr Simon Gunn’s clear and present parallel with prostitute clients who also wear the aforementioned red stiletto heels puts her in a place where that identification can help her discover the inner contents of their minds for clarity and insight.

Yet, while very little of her own internal hot and sweatiness is divulged to the client in therapy, she dares to share, with us, the reader, a rare, bare insight into the shadowy world of transference and counter-transference, something that most cognitive-behavioural trained psychotherapists baulk at, pretend it doesn’t exist and would rather run a marathon in their own six inch stilettos than reveal sticky uncomfortable feelings for clients.  The only other author/psychotherapist who wears crimson pointy shoes between the sheets of psychotherapy is the Grand Poobah of psychotherapy stories himself, Irvin Yalom.

This book promises to be a suspenseful page-turner and delivers just this.  Each little tale ends on high note before starting on another.  This is the art of life, the way the world works. No one story gets neatly wrapped up like a modern day Law and Order episode.  No matter how psychotherapied we think we are there is always room for confusion, questioning and jagged cliff-hangers where sometimes people fall off and get hurt.  I enjoyed the build up to the climax of the “resolution” of therapy, the interweaving of her personality with her clients and the juxtaposition of her passion for foot-crippling shoes (a form of masochism perhaps) running hard and marathons which like her conflicted patients, reeks heavy with irony.

I connected most with juvenile Ralph, with his solid love of fairness and decency and ability to stand up for justice and I connected least with Tess, although ironically Tess is my favourite character.  She presents a fascinating study in the world of narcissism where outside appearances always triumph over internal grief and loss.  Her other stories revolve around client encounters in Bloomingdales, from prostitutes Maxine and Kristy with proclivities for red high heels to the misogynistic and scary Tony.  All her clients are seeking assistance to change yet fighting it against every step of the way.  A couple of her clients she is unable to help.

Not every client has an unhappy ending though, some disconnect and are never seen of or heard of again, vanishing in a haze of unanswered questions that leaves the reader high and dry.  Some, despite their best efforts, actually do heal and move on with their lives.  Each character lends itself to the interweaving nature of the story, where, as always, truth is stranger than fiction.  The utter ripped, stripped and vulnerable nature of this book leaves you wondering about human nature itself.  How can people be so blind to their own situation, the stunning lack of insight, so fragmented in their inability to make connections from the past to the present?

It’s hard to read this book without the vague unnerving feeling that as you delve more and more into the compellingly gritty pages you feel an invisible force peeling back a few of your own defence mechanisms leaving your mind well and truly Stripped Bare – and that, dear reader, is called therapeutic progress.