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A young psychologist's deeply moving stories about her patients--stories that turn out to be astonishingly revealing about the author's psyche. Slater's first book focuses on the early days of her career, when she worked with chronic schizophrenics at an East Boston mental institution. In the title piece, she meets the six men--Moxi, Joseph, Charles, Lenny, Robert, and Oscar--who comprise her first therapy group and with whom she struggles to form a connection. For Slater, forming connections--""finding your self in the patient and the patient's self in you""--is what therapy is all about. Eventually, the young therapist discovers a thread of sense in Joseph's extraordinary linguistic chaos; in his ""tossed-up word salads,"" she sees ""diced up apples of desire, green leaves of love."" Oscar, who is seriously delusional, often catatonic, and grossly overweight and slovenly, is the subject of another unusually sympathetic piece. Although connecting is the goal of therapy, it can seem at times almost too personal: Slater's account of connecting with a threatening young sociopath, for example, makes for tense reading. Most disturbing of all, however, is the final account, in which the author visits a patient in the same mental hospital where she herself was confined for long periods between the ages of 14 and 24. (Although she doesn't specify the reason she was institutionalized, Slater does refer to ""the raised white nubs of scars that track my arms from years and years of cutting."") All that sets her apart from any of her present patients, Slater insists, is ""simply a learned ability to manage the blades of deep pain with a little bit of dexterity."" What helped her get better, she says, was not psychiatrists' treatments but their kindness. Kindness--even tenderness and love--permeates these engaging accounts, which are often reminiscent of Annie G. Rogers's recent A Shining Affliction (p. 693). In both, eloquent young psychologists reveal their private miseries and their concerns about the therapeutic process.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1996
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Random