I was pre-disposed to like this book. I have followed Andrew Reeves’ writings with interest, and greatly benefited from a training day about suicidal presentations he delivered years ago. It is therefore of no surprise that his latest book is so engaging to read – all 450 pages of it. This is a mightily ambitious book, and one I would have probably hugged on discovering a decade ago, as I muddled my way through the difficult decision to re-train as a therapist.

It’s not just the sheer volume of information that the book contains that is impressive, but all the generous thoughts and ideas that go with it – chapter overviews and plenty of re-caps, further online and offline reading suggestions, discussion points, skills practise sections, case vignettes and even a companion website offering power-points for tutors. Naturally things are left out that you’d like and others included that you may not. I wondered about a lack on arts-based therapies, alongside the fairly fine detail of how UK laws are created (rather than just knowing the laws that do affect us). But this still has to be the most comprehensive look at the state of the two professions today that I’ve come across. Being up-to-date, mindfulness and compassion-focused work are included and a penultimate chapter explores research in some detail, with a clarion call for us all to face imagined fears of incompetence and get involved.

‘Setting the context’ section looks at definitions and a history of the counselling and psychotherapy professions, along with ideas to weigh up in choosing where and how to train. The main theoretical models (and skills) are explored – psychodynamic, humanistic, cognitive-behavioural, with a good, and repeated, look at the ‘purism vs pluralism’ debate. Other therapies are mentioned too, with no particular theory or training seemingly favoured – this clearly chimes with a desire for the professions to avoid our tribalistic tendencies.

The section on the ‘therapeutic relationship’ goes into presenting issues, the therapeutic frame, potential challenges and a discrete chapter on diversity and difference. Reeves does a thorough job in contextualising all of this too, referencing ideas with potentially different work settings – private practice vs organisational work. ‘The professional self’, the final section, discusses self-care, professional boundaries and supervision – including a look at the main supervision theories, which was particularly useful for a non-supervision trained therapist like me.

Ultimately it achieves what it sets out to be though, ‘a book about practice, by a practitioner’ – and one I’d highly recommend to anyone lured by the idea of a career in talking therapy. And since writing this, another edition has emerged….

This review first appeared in Private Practice, the quarterly journal of BACP Private Practice, which is published by British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. BACP holds the copyright to the review and it is reprinted here with their permission.