Book Review: Group by Christie Tate
There is some hype around this book, which is maybe why I was drawn to it. I’m a voyeur and also want to be in on the drama… so of course I had to read this. The book is about Christie, a recovering bulimic who goes to group therapy with the goal of be able to have real relationships with people. The drama is due to the psychiatrist who runs her group, and his use of some unorthodox methods. Some people are up in their feelings about it. I have a lot of competing thoughts about this book, about Christie, and her therapist. To provide some context, I want to make it clear that I read this book with multiple hats. One hat is as a former therapist who worked with clients and sometimes ran group therapy sessions, one hat is as someone who goes to therapy, and one hat is as someone who struggled with ED in the past – bulimia actually.
The therapist in me knows that things can be taken out of context once a client leaves the therapy room. I also know that some therapist have their own ways of doing things, and it might not work for me but it works for them. I am reading it with that in mind, refraining from passing judgment. The therapist, Rosen, is in recovery for an eating disorder of his own. One of the tenets of 12-step groups is about having no secrets. Rosen takes this seriously and encourages group members to share everything. He says that keeping a secret is holding onto shame. Keeping someone else’s secret is to hold shame that doesn’t even belong to you. I wasn’t a therapist for long. I did a 18 month internship during school, and another 4 years after I graduated from my masters program. During this time I ran a few groups, but mostly did one on one therapy. The methods Rosen used were radical at times, but I could understand some of the “why” to certain methods. So often people think of therapists as “blank slates”. We aren’t supposed to have a real life, a past, problems of our own, or personalities. Or at least, we aren’t supposed to share any of that in the therapeutic relationship. This isn’t true of everyone, and it certainly doesn’t work for everyone – therapist or patient. Rosen was who he was, and it seemed like he remained ethical – he kept confidentiality, and didn’t harm his patients.
What I’ll say about this book is that whatever your feelings about Christie’s therapist, acknowledge it and put it aside so you can focus on Christie. She is the star here. She takes all of the shameful, embarrassing, trauma affected parts of herself and writes about them in great detail. And then she shares that with us to empathize with and gain something from. I am in awe of Christie and her strength, her bravery, and her trust in the therapeutic process and in her therapist to get her where she wanted to be.
She allowed herself to break apart time after time, with the hope that she’d be rebuilt stronger. And I think this is what makes the book so compelling. I loved that her therapist seemed a little wacky and maybe bordering on unethical. It sounds like it was just what she needed to break her patterns of self-sabotage and self-destruction.
I 100% recommend this book. Learn about Christie, let it help you learn about yourself. I will be thinking about this book for a long time.