The Good Psychologist By Noam Shpancer

    Rating: 3.25* of five

    The Publisher Says: Noam Shpancer's stunning debut novel opens as a psychologist reluctantly takes on a new client—an exotic dancer whose severe anxiety is keeping her from the stage. The psychologist, a solitary professional who also teaches a lively night class, helps the client confront her fears. But as treatment unfolds, her struggles and secrets begin to radiate onto his life, upsetting the precarious balance in his unresolved relationship with Nina, a married former colleague with whom he has a child—a child he has never met. As the shell of his detachment begins to crack, he suddenly finds himself too deeply involved, the boundary lines between professional and personal, between help and harm, blurring dangerously.

    With its wonderfully distinctive narrative voice, rich with humor and humanity, The Good Psychologist leads the reader on a journey into the heart of the therapy process and beyond, examining some of the fundamental questions of the soul: to move or be still; to defy or obey; to let go or hold on.

    My Review: Wonderful line-by-line writing! Lovely images, and a very delicate hand at description. Characters that make an impression on your readerly senses.

    But not a novel, really. More like the internalized effects of living a life in the psychologist's seat made into an essay. Not so much acted out as acted. The unnamed psychologist, a damned decent man, can be summed up in one clean metaphor: He finds a broken-down old piano, hauls it home, and gets a professional piano-tuner to come and fix its battered old carcass up. The tuner, being a responsible sort, says the Good Psychologist could go get a new piano for less than it'll cost to bring the old one back to life. The psychologist thanks him, and orders the remake to proceed. It does. Beautiful music ensues.

    Well, that's it, really. Not that this is in any way a bad book, but it would HUGELY irritate me to pay twenty-four United States dollars for it. Twelve, yes. MAYbe fourteen. Over twenty? Oh HELL no.

    First novels, such as this is, published initially in harcover are a bad idea, in this climate of frugality and underemployment. Take heed, publishers, and move to a trade paper format.

    How interested are you in the inner life of a shrink? If very, buy the book. If mildly, don't.

    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Noam Shpancer Original review:

    What a snooze fest.

    Updated Review:

    Do you want to read a book where literally nothing happens? Do you enjoy stories where you’re led to believe there’s some big discovery about to happen only to find that no, it’s actually fucking pointless? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then boy do I have the book for you.

    Here’s yet another Overdrive audiobook I snagged while waiting for more credits. Life with the World’s Busiest 18-Month Old leaves little time for “actual” reading but offers ample opportunities for audiobooks! And I have been burning through them at the speed of light!

    Anyway, I did a very brief scan of the description of this one before deciding that it sounded interesting. A stripper, a psychologist and the potential for things to get dirty. The potential lied. This was boring, under developed and exaggerated.

    We’ve got a stripper with a bad case of stage fright. But that’s not all folks! (Cue the sappy music) She’s trying to get her child back from Evil Baby Daddy. Oh, you thought that was it? Nope. Not even close. She’s also being threatened by her Russian Mafia boss! Yup. I think this author wanted to see how many clichés could be jammed into one character.

    We’ve got a doctor who is so apathetic it’s kind of terrifying. His patients’ lives mean nothing to him. And while I can see where this is important- separating their lives from your own as their doctor- I still think it’s important for a doctor to want to help his patient out of genuine concern for their well-being. I don’t know exactly what I’m getting at here, other than to say that his indifference to everyone else’s life was reason enough for me to NEVER want to go see a psychologist.

    The writing was decent. I particularly liked the formatting. The psychologist teaches a class at a local college at night and you get his lectures which relate to something that is about to occur between him and his patient. He uses the phrase “The good psychologist” quite often while lecturing indicating the do’s and don’ts of doctor/patient relations.

    Literally nothing really happens. It was a neat little insight into phycology but that was about all it had going for it. I didn’t like anyone in the book nor could I relate. The narration was not great either which did not help me enjoy it.
    Noam Shpancer I thought this was going to be at least a 4 star read and was hopeful about it as the blurb sounded very much interesting. Unfortunately the audiobook just didn't pop up for me. The book went pretty much in the background and I had difficulty getting invested in this. Noam Shpancer 3.5 stars

    Read more reviews at Reviewing Shelf.

    When you come across the word 'psychologist' in the book title and google the author to find out he's a clinical psychologist himself and working in the area of anxiety disorders, your curiosity is piqued and you buy it during an online sale. The book patiently waits to be picked up for a couple of years until it's finally brought to the forefront of the bookshelf during spring cleaning and set down by the bedside to be read.

    You try not to let your expectations hit the roof and start reading without peeking at the synopsis. Gradually, you find yourself being pulled in by the setting of the therapy, the interesting client to see which direction it will take. You find yourself enthralled by the really good examples, the psychologist gives to the client and mentally make a note to add that to your therapeutic skills. And then you are put off by the casual throwing around of the client information and find yourself doing a 'you didn't do that!' only to tell yourself this is fiction and perhaps the author is taking creative liberty, don't go all ethics on him. And you read on.

    The plot could have been made more interesting than it was. It did appeal to me when it began. But the only thing that held my interest steadfast was the really good examples given by the clinical psychologist to his client as well during his class. Those I intend to make use of in my therapeutic practice. I liked a bit of the unravelling but I am sure my expectations did get in the way. Perhaps I was looking for an ethical, doing it by the rules, clinical psychologist who leads the client from point A to point B but of course, this isn't a text and not made to be taken in that way. So well, it made for an interesting one-time read but perhaps a non-psychology background reader would do it more justice by being objective about the plot and the treatment.

    Noam Shpancer Noam Shpancer has written a heady and unique novel that takes its primary form as therapy sessions between a psychologist and a stripper. The psychologist has a limited clinical schedule in his anxiety clinic and teaches a university class to augment his income. He also plays weekly basketball with a group of guys that he barely knows. He's been involved in a love affair with another psychologist, Nina, and they have a child together. This relationship is ebbing.

    The Good Psychologist is the protagonist of this novel and also the referent of the university class on clinical psychology - what makes a good psychologist. The Good Psychologist is never given a name. The author is very knowledgeable about many psycho-therapeutic modalities, especially cognitive behavioral therapy. As a clinical social worker and marriage and family therapist, I found this book fascinating. It reads somewhere between a textbook and a novel of clinical methodology.

    The chapters switch between sessions with the psychologist's 4 p.m. client, a stripper named Tiffany, his university teachings, his time or phone calls with Nina, his basketball games and an odd chapter or two where he is alone or getting his piano fixed. The gravitas is in the session time. It is in the classroom where the psychologist's knowledge, charisma and sensitivity come to light. The author describes the university classroom as though it were real. It brought me back to my clinical work in graduate school and I was impressed with the class's accuracy and thoroughness.

    As the novel opens, the psychologist and Nina are ending a passionate affair, one in which she wants to become pregnant by him. She loves her husband but he is ill and unable to provide her with a child. She will never leave him. She and the psychologist have an agreement that he will never try to see his child. Nina and the psychologist have an easy relationship, speaking frequently and e-mailing one another for personal and professional reasons. As the novel progresses, their interchanges become more professional and less personal and finally start ebbing altogether. Nina is the person to whom the psychologist is closest and he is losing her.

    His 4 p.m. appointments with the stripper are often troubling to him as he traverses the difficult issue of boundaries. He consults with Nina about this and tries to be ethical and correct in his treatment. However, he often trips himself up or is tripped up by extenuating circumstances. Tiffany, the stripper, is a difficult client with a lot of baggage, some of which she transfers onto the psychologist.

    We get to know some of the students in his class and learn to appreciate the knowledge he imparts. He utilizes Socratic teaching methods, eclectic psychoanalytic methodology and cognitive behavioral modalities. Additionally, he utilizes narratives, metaphors, and stories from the old masters. His students seem to respond to him and it is clear to the reader that he is making some bold inroads to his students' thinking.

    The psychologist is lonely and alone. He lives in a sparsely furnished apartment with cherished gifts from his clients and one mondo-sized piano. He has no friends or acquaintances. He is a world of one whose life is acted out in his clinic and in his classroom. Without Nina in his life, he has no one left who is dear to him. He yearns, from time to time, to see his daughter Billie, but remembers the promise he made to Nina. This creates strong tensions for him.

    I loved this book. I don't think it is a perfect choice for every reader but I think that any reader that is interested in psychotherapy, clinical sessions, and the heart of what makes a good psychologist, will be transfixed by this remarkable book, a debut novel written with the wisdom of a master writer.
    Noam Shpancer

    Noam Shpancer portrays the oft-hidden world of psychotherapy with unparalleled authenticity, compassion, and wit . . . An astonishing debut.—Jonathan Kellerman

    Noam Shpancer's stunning debut novel opens as a psychologist reluctantly takes on a new client—an exotic dancer whose severe anxiety is keeping her from the stage. The psychologist, a solitary professional who also teaches a lively night class, helps the client confront her fears. But as treatment unfolds, her struggles and secrets begin to radiate onto his life, upsetting the precarious balance in his unresolved relationship with Nina, a married former colleague with whom he has a child—a child he has never met. As the shell of his detachment begins to crack, he suddenly finds himself too deeply involved, the boundary lines between professional and personal, between help and harm, blurring dangerously.

    With its wonderfully distinctive narrative voice, rich with humor and humanity, The Good Psychologist leads the reader on a journey into the heart of the therapy process and beyond, examining some of the fundamental questions of the soul: to move or be still; to defy or obey; to let go or hold on. The Good Psychologist

    This book consists of a fictional psychologist's lectures to his therapy class, the narrative of his own life which involves his endless longing for a married female supervisor with whom he had an affair and a child, and his treatment of a stripper with a sexual abuse history who is having trouble stripping after a new trauma at the hands of a male customer. While I found some of the discussions of theory fascinating,and the author has clearly thought a lot about his work, the fact that the good psychologist isn't really put me off. And I don't think the author intended the title ironically at all.

    Like many therapists, this one's abilities are marred by his narcissism; he likes to hear himself talk, and think, and ponder, and self-congratulate. Even his self-doubt turns into self-congratulation. He pontificates to his students who are presented as stereotypes (the born-again Christian; the TWO indistinguishable white-teethed smiling females; the Type A perfectionistic young woman)from whom he appears to learn nothing. Nothing seems to get in despite his image of himself as sensitive and perceptive. Worse, he doesn't see any problem in taking supervision on his current case from a woman with whom he's in love -- the need for boundaries apparently doesn't apply to him. And he blames the patient for becoming sexual when he enters into an reenactment with her by using an invasive and paternalistic form of quasi-hypnosis to relax her! after she tells him about her father's abuse. Of course his wise explanation of her behavior is enough to set her back on the right track, feeling gratitude and respect for her good doctor. Finally (plot spoiler) he culminates her therapy (which he deems a success) by watching her strip. And of course it all works out splendidly; she's grateful, healed, except for the fact that she flees at the end. From her life or from her therapy? Maybe I missed the intended irony. Noam Shpancer Skilled not only in his unusual approach in narration, Noam Shpancer is also quantifiably knowledgeable as a clinical psychologist and a psychology professor.

    In his masterful debut novel, he displays the intricacies of successful clinical psychological intervention and professorial academic allocution while offering a glimpse of the inner turmoil of the solitary protagonist’s daily life.

    If such an unexpected premise is not sufficient to draw immediate attention, the guileless reader also senses a subliminal awareness of being an unsuspecting client of our nameless psychologist.

    But in every situation, the good psychologist always attends to movement, to the wind in the sails; always seeks, like a surfer, to catch the good wave and exploit its momentum. The sole purpose of every thought, every utterance, every gesture you produce in the therapy space is to advance the client’s agenda: to listen to the client, to understand the client, to allow a protected space for his explorations, to share with him your knowledge of the inner architecture, to train him in the proper use of the psychological tools. All the materials of the therapeutic encounter, all its expressions and gestures exist for one legitimate purpose: discerning their role in the process of the client’s healing.” (Pages 115-116)

    I found it difficult to appropriately categorize this book. In one sense, it definitely fits the parameters necessary to define it as literary fiction. At the same time, it wouldn’t surprise me if these carefully orchestrated episodes are the result of the author’s personal experiences, thus, it becomes a fully realistic depiction of his own life, i.e., autobiographical fiction. Finally, the subtle nuances directed toward the unwary reader suggest a minimal possibility that reeks of a “self-help” manual. Noam Shpancer’s one literary Rubik cube will not suffice, nor should it. Noam Shpancer This is an interesting novel about a psychologist who is good at his craft, and even better at teaching it. But living life is not easier for a good psychologist than for his clients and some of his decision making, especially involving the married lover, are immature and irresponsible. The protagonist is unnamed, simply called the psychologist. He is careful to create distance between his clients and himself, by using the cliched clip board and note taking to put a barrier between client and doctor. By not knowing the psychologist's name the reader has distance too, we know what he is thinking, feeling and doing, but we still can't fully identify him. He gets a challenging client whom he really wants to help and it causes him to drop the barrier and get overly involved in her life. He seems to be heading toward a midlife crisis as the lonely life he leads comes to the fore and he practically stalks the lady he is in love with. The psychologist is moved when he sees an abandoned piano and he spends an exorbitant amount to fix it so it'll play. I found the piano to be the sweetest metaphor I've seen in a long time. They seems like two peas in a pod and the psychologist seems to be holding out that someday someone will invest the kind of care in him, as he did for the useless old piano. Noam Shpancer 3.75/5

    Yorumu için: Noam Shpancer The Good Psychologist is one intriguing book. Part psychology instruction manual and part novel, it explores a male psychologist’s professional and personal lives and the intersection between them. The author Noam Shpancer has a unique take on both the professional (therapy and teaching) and personal (a single man who helped a colleague by fathering her child when her disabled husband couldn’t). He offers many powerful, clever metaphors for life experiences that clearly illuminate his clients, students, and the reader.

    The author’s voice is unusual, as is the lack of quotation marks throughout the story. Beyond my love for his creative metaphors (which I will quote liberally below), it’s hard to know what to make of this novel.

    I read some other reviews of this novel on Goodreads, and some readers were put off by the psychologist’s arrogance. He does seem dismissive when describing the students in his class and how he doesn’t care to get to know them; that all young people look similar and distant to him p.32. However, while I’ve met my share of egotistical psychologists, I don’t believe he is one of them. I think the fact the author grew up in Israel, combined with his blunt cognitive approach, make him seem cold or arrogant when he’s not really that way at all. Calling the main character a “good” psychologist is more about irony or striving to be good instead of boldly proclaiming he’s the best psychologist ever. I was appalled when one of his first therapeutic responses was “So what?” but then I read on and understood this was part of his style and perhaps even his charm. In the beginning of the novel, the psychologist sounds conceited, but through growing to understand him I began to accept him more (which parallels his emphasis on the importance of acceptance in therapy). He does seem to be an effective therapist and teacher, using his own distinctive style.

    Parts of this story made me uncomfortable. His main client is a stripper whose panic attacks prevent her from performing her job. Explicitly following the anxiety “exposure” treatment model, the psychologist actually goes to the strip club to offer her support after they’ve worked together to deal with her anxiety more effectively. When she splays herself naked in front of him, I squirmed. I’m wondering if this psychologist, who seems a bit over-sexed at times, went a bit too far with his exposure treatment? (Excellent play on words by the author).

    I found so many quotes I wanted to share, including these brilliant metaphors:

    Crying is the trail of blood that leads to the corpse in the bushes. p. 12

    You grew up in the country, he says, right? Well, fears are like mice in the fields. Nobody likes mice, but if you run away from them, if you deny their existence, they will only multiply and ruin the crops and gardens, take over the house. You must go after them and hunt them down. The same is true with fears. You are training here to become an anxiety hunter. Not an anxiety victim. Not anxiety prey. p. 42

    Think of a swimmer trapped by an undertow. His response would usually be to try to swim against it. But that would cause him to tire, cramp, and drown, done in not by the current, mind you, but by his erroneous response. To save himself, the swimmer should let the current carry him to sea, where it will dissipate, and the swimmer can paddle around and back to safety. The same principle holds true for our negative emotions, which should be accepted, even though the impulse to push against them is strong. p. 59.

    And his thoughts on therapy, which he states so well:

    The big bang theory holds that a successful treatment is characterized by a movement toward the killer insight, the miraculous climax, the rattling catharsis that will release dammed-up emotions, wash away the pain . . . The big bang theory is iconic. It’s the dream of the handsome prince who kisses Sleeping Beauty and takes her to a life of wealth and happiness. It’s the dream of winning the lottery. But waiting for a dreamy prince is not a serious relationship strategy. And the hope of winning the lottery is not a serious plan on which to base your financial future. And the story of therapy, here, in this world, is different entirely . . . There is no purifying insight. There is no magic wand. There is no big bang, only small tremors, each meaningless on its own. And even if there is catharsis, still the true healing occurs afterward, after the kiss, after the waking up, after the insight and metaphor, and it is embodied in the gray repetitive grind of daily practice, of learning a new language, stuttering, with clenched teeth. pp. 80-81.

    And herein lies the secret of the therapy experience: acceptance, genuine acceptance of the client, warts and wounds and injuries and all. Such acceptance pushes back the fear of death, even if just for a while, for the therapy hour, like a flashlight’s beam of light calms the person who’s walking through darkness even without chasing the darkness away entirely. Acceptance allows the client to rest, allows him time and space within which to sense himself fully, sober up, look inward and around him, organize the matter of his being, tune his instruments, play the right note. p. 149

    I believe therapists, psychology teachers, and therapy clients will enjoy this novel for its insight into human nature and the therapy process.
    Noam Shpancer

    read & download The Good Psychologist