Much as been written about Emma Forrest’s latest book Your Voice in my Head this year. An English journalist, precociously successful, she falls into a destructive bout of self-harm and damaging relationships at the tender age of 22. Having had therapy as a child, she returns to a different chair – one of a hugely optimistic (and reputedly brilliant) psychiatrist – the type of talking therapist anyone would wish for.
Much of the book is about Forrest’s relationship with this ‘Dr R’, and how it is that ‘his voice in her head’ came to be a significant one that helped piece herself back together. Even after he dies, without warning. This is a memoir of grief and also a celebration, and dedication to a gifted medic and healer.
This book confirms much of what is written about in the literature these days – what makes therapy really ‘work’ is more to do with the therapeutic relationship than the ‘type’ of therapy you choose. Here, Forrest’s experience of Dr R’s wisdom, humanity, humour and understanding enabled her to get through her darkest days. He effectively conveyed his unconditional alliance, yet never strayed beyond professional boundaries. Forrest didn’t even know how ill he was. Dedications from other patients and close-ones show her experience of him was far from unique.
Praise for a talking therapist doesn’t get much higher than this. It’s worth reading anyway, but especially so if you are interested in the art and science of talking therapies.