A British mental health practitioner and media personality’s absorbing account of the years she spent as a clinical psychologist-in-training.
In 1989, Byron, then a graduate student at University College London, began the training necessary to qualify as a licensed clinical psychologist. Over the next three years, she worked in hospitals, clinics and private practices where she met individuals whose stories helped “to establish [her] thinking as a doctor.” Among the most influential was her fierce, no-nonsense female mentor, Chris Moorhead. The author often found herself at bitter odds with this woman, who relentlessly pushed Byron to move beyond her own doubt and insecurity. The most compelling portraits, however, are those of the clients. In remembering the early days of her training, the author recalls the story of her first serious case, a man who seemed to be suffering from panic attacks but was actually a knife-wielding sociopath. This encounter, along with a case that soon followed involving a suicidal 12-year-old, terrified Byron and led to a temporary rupture with her mentor. While Chris refused to let Byron give in to her fears, she also refused to offer nurturing and support. In the meantime, the author fought to stay emotionally balanced and maintain her professional bearing around clients she especially loved, including a brilliant young anorexic woman struggling with an overly developed sense of responsibility for her parents and an AIDS-infected man trying to cope with his own imminent demise. Only gradually did the author learn to “put [her] own ‘shit’ aside” for the greater good. In the end, Byron realized that the inner journeys in which she participated with her clients were far more personal than she ever knew. By working with each person, she was in fact moving from “chaos to clarity” in her own mind and heart.
A lucid and compassionate memoir.