Group – How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life // by Christie Tate
Pub Day: October 27, 2020
Publisher: Avid Reader Press
Christie Tate had just been named the top student in her law school class and finally had her eating disorder under control. Why then was she driving through Chicago fantasizing about her own death? Why was she envisioning putting an end to the isolation and sadness that still plagued her in spite of her achievements?
Enter Dr. Rosen, a therapist who calmly assures her that if she joins one of his psychotherapy groups, he can transform her life. All she has to do is show up and be honest. About everything—her eating habits, childhood, sexual history, etc. Christie is skeptical, insisting that that she is defective, beyond cure. But Dr. Rosen issues a nine-word prescription that will change everything: “You don’t need a cure, you need a witness.”
So begins her entry into the strange, terrifying, and ultimately life-changing world of group therapy. Christie is initially put off by Dr. Rosen’s outlandish directives, but as her defenses break down and she comes to trust Dr. Rosen and to depend on the sessions and the prescribed nightly phone calls with various group members, she begins to understand what it means to connect.
Group is a deliciously addictive read, and with Christie as our guide—skeptical of her own capacity for connection and intimacy, but hopeful in spite of herself—we are given a front row seat to the daring, exhilarating, painful, and hilarious journey that is group therapy—an under-explored process that breaks you down, and then reassembles you so that all the pieces finally fit.
Sometimes I come across titles or blurbs that leave me thinking “THIS WAS WRITTEN JUST FOR ME.” Now, I’m not that delusional that I think that is literally true but I still wonder if someone, something, somewhere had me in mind when this book idea came into existence. For someone that was not even into memoirs until last year, I sure to race through them at full speed now, especially those related to mental health. Group by Christie Tate is no exception.
While I do not personally struggle with an eating disorder, I do have my own issues that have led me to therapy. Never in my life would I have imagined myself in group therapy the way Christie Tate has experienced though. I am an introvert after all. Following this book though, I find myself contemplating the idea more and more. I do enjoy talking through the struggles in my life with a small group of people after all. Who am I and who is this Christie Tate for making me even consider this??
This book is wild and unapologetic and detailed in ways that you would not expect going into it. I found myself literally laughing out loud several times and had to read the passages to my husband who does not usually show that much interest in my books. I also found myself on the bring of tears as she took me back to my own memories and struggles that I am working through with my own therapist. While I am one part skeptical of many of the prescriptions given by Dr. Rosen, part of me also sees the benefits of even the craziest ones, making me wonder how I could adapt some of them for myself.
I truly admire the guts of the author when writing this book. There are many embarrassing things included but her raw honesty made this such a compelling read for me that I know I will be thinking about for a long time to come. It has allowed me to put words to some of my own feelings that I was not able to articulate myself. I also appreciate the chapter she included for ten years later to show that her wedding was not the end of therapy for her but rather a milestone she celebrated with her group. It warms my heart to know that she is still attending group and that her children are growing up knowing that therapy is a helpful tool that can assist you with many different problems in any life stage. She hinted at having several other books in the works and I am looking forward to seeing more from her in the future.
After writing my own review, I decided to go back and read the reviews of some other people as well. I generally avoid reading them before I read a book because I don’t want other people’s opinions to influence my own before I ever even get started. That being said, due to the nature of this book, I was curious to see what others had to say about it because I figured that a topic like therapy could be viewed from many different perspectives.
Unsurprisingly, there were several people that rated this book 2 stars only due to the lack of confidentiality and tip-toeing of the ethical line by the therapist – and I completely understand. I am viewing this from the side of the patient and can relate to it closely based on the limited experiences I have with my own (albeit one-on-one) therapy and the times I have been completely open and honest with my friends about how my issues affect my daily life. But I can understand the conflicting feelings of other professionals while reading this book as well. There were situations that seemed downright dangerous in their dysfunctionality and they view Dr. Rosen as supporting those despite the possible consequences – while I myself saw them more like the patient did: as chances to learn from mistakes, and learn to accept and work through the emotions they uncovered.
One reviewer also spoke about an incident where Christie Tate had a disagreement with her children over information that she posted about them online. Her refusal to take down the information after their request apparently sparked a lot of debate and while I very much see the tremendous benefit that total honesty has had in her life, I do have to disagree with her decision here. I think this has to be a decision that is made by each person individually, no matter the age, so as soon as a child is able to articulate their feelings about such things, they should be able to be included in the decision about what parts of their personal life are out in the open for everyone to see.
I have a lot of praise for her book in my review obviously but I wanted to make sure that these opinions were included in my post as well because they help form a better all-around picture of the book and author in my opinion.
About the Author:
Christie Tate is a Chicago-based writer and essayist. She has been published in The New York Times (Modern Love), The Rumpus, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Eastern Iowa Review, and elsewhere. Kiese Laymon selected her essay, Promised Lands, as the winner of the New Ohio Review’s nonfiction contest, which was published Fall 2019.
About the Publisher:
Avid Reader Press, a new division of Simon & Schuster, is built on the idea that the most rewarding publishing has three common denominators: great books, published with intense focus, in true partnership. The staff at Avid Reader Press, a small band of cheerful literary warriors, strives to publish every book with avidity.
Have you considered therapy before but were nervous about it? I highly recommend it! Group therapy probably is not for everybody but I think every single person can benefit from some type of therapy. If you’d like to learn more about it, I recommend you check out more information from The American Psychological Association here!
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.