Book review: becoming your own counsellor

Learning how to be your own therapist via books: How To Do the Work by Dr Nicole LePera and The Comparison Cure by Lucy Sheridan

Counselling can be transformative. I say this not as a counsellor myself, but as a client. It’s my time on the other side of the couch, that’s had the biggest impact on my mental health. Nevertheless, however talented and caring your counsellor is they’re probably only with you for 50 minutes a week. And the rest of the time you’re on your own. Or are you?

The week I review books which allow you to become your own counsellor: How to do the Work by Dr Nicole LePera and the Comparison Cure by Lucy Sheridan. Both are filled with writing prompts, guidance and plans and aim to simulate therapy sessions. With the added advantage that you’re able to access them whenever you want.

First up, How to do the Work by Dr Nicole LePera.

Dr LePera is an LA based psychologist and Instagram star. Her following stands at an impressive 3.8 million. She took the academic, traditional route into psychology and then decided to create and deliver her own brand of ‘holistic therapy’.

LePera’s holistic therapy is strongly based on the psychodynamic branch of psychotherapy. So expect talk of reparenting, pattern spotting and knowing your inner child. As the title suggests, you’re encouraged to take a hard look at your childhood, and then commit to exploring it through written exercises and meditations. Understandably, this type of work isn’t for everyone. If you’re not ready to look at your past, or you prefer the quick work of CBT, then you may want to pass.

I’m also aware that not everyone’s childhood was happy or safe. So I’m slightly concerned at the thought of readers revisiting bad memories alone. Troubled childhoods are usually more safely contained, and successfully worked with, in the supportive environment of a counsellor’s room.

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For me, there was a particularly interesting chapter called Trauma Body. This is where Dr LePera explores the mind-body connection. Throughout it she shares her experience of fainting spells, stomach troubles and brain fog. All brought about, she believes, by repressing her true emotions and her true self. Although other books have been written on the mind-body connection, most notably The Body Keeps the Score and When the Body Says No, it’s still a relatively new topic in psychology. And one which I find fascinating.

On a purely personal level, although I found the book rich in research and psychological content, I struggled with LePera’s writing style. While it’s clear, it’s also a little bland and repetitive. In fact, I had to tackle the book in two halves. However, I expect I’m in the minority here. The book has done phenomenally well and is a New York Times #1 bestseller. I’m hopeful it’s helped a lot of people.

The Comparison Cure by Lucy Sheridan

Sheridan calls herself the UK’s first comparison coach. And although her work has been accredited by the Psychological Association, she’s not actually a psychologist or counsellor, but a life coach.

Credentials aside, this book is outstanding in its depth and breadth around the issue of comparison. Who hasn’t, at one time, found themselves in the compare and despair cycle. Feeling overwhelmed, deflated and deterred by the achievements of another?

Sheridan takes the reader by the hand and guides them to discover the insight around their comparisons. After which, she demonstrates how to apply the insight for greater happiness and, presumably, a better life. For me, this book is a wonderful mixture of self awareness around comparison triggers, but with a focus on working towards your own dreams, so the urge to compare diminishes. A bit like stay in your own lane, and love it.

The book felt very relevant and topical because it pays due attention to the power of social media. Specifically the impact it has on the mental health of adults. Sheridan doesn’t suggest a digital detox but instead asks you to carefully curate your own social media. This means that you’re only looking at accounts that truly inspire you. And those that align with your vision for your own life.

This book was so insightful, easy and enjoyable to read that I was sad to finish it. I know it’s a tired old cliché but it honestly was like having a chat with a knowledgeable, wise friend. If you’re not yet ready to invest in the book then her Instagram account is also full of wisdom.

I’d love to hear your thoughts around either of these books, or if there’s a great book you’d recommend please leave the details below.

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