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Letters to a Young Therapist: Stories of Hope and Healing

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  1,820 Ratings  ·  134 Reviews
Mary Pipher's groundbreaking investigation of America's "girl-poisoning culture," Reviving Ophelia, has sold nearly two million copies and established its author as one of the nation's foremost authorities on family issues. In Letters to a Young Therapist, Dr. Pipher shares what she has learned in thirty years as a therapist, helping warring families, alienated adolescents
Hardcover, 181 pages
Published July 14th 2003 by Basic Books (first published 2003)
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Jun 28, 2014 Meowbie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a breathtakingly trite book, passed off as a series of saccharine letters to a supervisory grad student called Laura. After the fact, it comes as both a disappointment and a relief to learn that Laura is fictitious. As another reviewer aptly said, Pipher's relationship with Laura borders on inappropriate and the notion of declaring a favourite so emphatically also feels icky.

The title is a tilt towards Rilke, but expect none of Rilke's magic in these pages. The quotable passages that I
Sep 25, 2010 CJ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up while browsing because when I flipped it open to scan a single page, I got caught for 10. She had hooked me, right in the middle of the book, so it had to come home with me. As a counselor, this book appealed to me because I found one of the most overwhelming aspects of providing therapy was the feeling that I wasn't really helping *enough*. (And yes, I had completed all my classes, my internship, etc., and knew that there is no way that a counselor, therapist, psychologist ...more
May 17, 2008 Katherine rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who's ever watned to shrink a head.
I'm picking my way through this book again, because sometimes I like to fantasize about being a therapist. I also like to stare into the photograph of Mary Pipher on the cover of the book; the love, goodwill, and sanity in that woman's face are almost enough to make you burst into tears.

'Letters to a Young Therapist' is simple but fluent; it covers a lot of ground in many short chapters dedicated to different challenges, frustrations, and joys of the therapist's life. It's a short book, but it'
This book was interesting. It didn't give me any new incredible insights on counseling, mostly just reinforced concepts I had already learned at the jail. It doesn't follow a storyline, so if you aren't interested in social work this book is probably not for you. It is written by a "seasoned" therapist in the form of letters to a new therapist explaining what she has learned about people and therapy over the years. Overall, a good read but nothing incredible.
Aug 18, 2010 Kevin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For the longest time, my favorite 'adult' book was one called 'If You Want To Write.' I love book because you can replace the word 'write' with any of your passions, and the book's words hold true.

'Letters to a Young Therapist' is my new favorite book for the same reason. (although, I'll readily admit that it helps if you're looking at the advice through the lens of understanding people or being in a helping profession). As a teacher, it was easy to make corrolations from Pipher's advice to the
Jul 20, 2015 Alexis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an amazing book. At my new job, the therapists I have shadowed tend to be very solution focused. I work mostly with pediatricians who seem to want quick fixes. For some issues, this works, but for others, it's down right silly! Mary Pipher does a wonderful job talking about the beauties of therapy, the pitfalls, and the overall process. Reading it helped me center myself in this new role and actually helped me solidify that I really want to be doing this even though it's hard at times. ...more
Jun 01, 2008 Mary rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who's other option is the telephone book. Maybe.
Recommended to Mary by: I did this to myself.
This book actually lands somewhere between "didn't like it" and "it was ok" for me, but - alas - goodreads doesn't allow half-stars.

As I suspected when I realized this was part of a series (called Art of Mentoring), they really should have left the form to Rilke. Pipher's book is endless advice, delivered in a manner so thoroughly forgettable, you can't even remember what you were told on the last page. The anecdotes she offers from her practice as evidence of her points are almost never develop
Aug 09, 2009 Wendy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First of all, Laura must really be someone special to get a whole book written to her. I've been advised I should be happy if I get the required one hour a week chat with a mentor, forget about poetic letters and advice that could become a book.

That aside, I am so on fire about this work (therapy) and this book is kindling. Good, simple, easy to read advice and it's written pretty too. It made me happy.
Jun 20, 2008 Diana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An awesome book if you work in human services at all, or even if you just like learning about people. Mary Pipher has been doing therapy for something like 30 years, and she's seen just about everything. She has a unique ability to weave a narrative out of a collection of case anecdotes which is somehow universal. I picked this book up years ago, and it is still one of my absolute favorites.
Sherry Tillinghast
This book is an inspiration for anyone studying to become a counselor or who is struggling as a counselor. There are good lessons to be learned from the author's experiences, particularly in terms of patience, accepting imperfection, and always doing one's best. I really enjoyed every moment of it.
Apr 19, 2015 KC rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
More like 2.5 stars. The Dear Laura thing was actually pretty awkward so I skipped those parts each chapter. I took a few valuable things away from the book, otherwise it was underwhelming. I expected much more since the author has been a therapist for so long.
Paul Baker
May 09, 2016 Paul Baker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This a lovely book that can be read by way more than therapists: in fact, it is a great recipe for solving many of life's therapeutic problems: a dash of common sense, a sprinkle of care, and a whopping dose of hope.

I highly recommend this book for everyone!
Jun 13, 2010 Jaycee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jaycee by: Therapists/Clinicians/Helping Professioinals, People who need some therapy but can only afford a paperback
Attn: SW Clinicals-- This book is a must-read! Let me know if you'd like to borrow it. (though I'll warn you now that I highlighted almost the entire thing.)
Apr 13, 2015 Tiffany rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: socialwork
A really enjoyable read and real life insight into the work of a therapist.
Jan 27, 2009 Debora rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was greatly moved by this book. Pipher gives us a superb and highly readable series of meditations on the joys and challenges of being a therapist. A must-read for therapists and counselors!
Courtney Smith Atkins
I read this back in college and thought it was pretty sweet. I re-read and stopped half way through thinking how lame it was. Today I give it a 2, back in the day-probably a 4.
Jul 14, 2017 Casey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a fantastic read. I am hoping to one day be a psychologist, even though I will just be starting college in a few months, this book has given me a lot of insight and made me think of many scenarios that I would not have imagined on my own.

The reason I read this book is because in the summary it says that the author will share what she has learned in her thirty years of clinical practice. I want to be able to learn about techniques, types of clients, and just the experiences and lif
Lindsey Trujillo
This was a wonderful, quick read for anyone in the mental health field. I am halfway through my program and will start having clients next semester. It was the most perfect time to read it and I have recommended it to all of my classmates. It can feel very intimidating to learn new theories, diagnosis, and a lot of new information about the "science of therapy." This book was a great reminder that people cannot be changed, and while theories and science are important, it is just as important to ...more
May 14, 2017 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Easy to read, advice for new therapists that also applies to life in general and getting along with people. Had a really sweet, accepting feeling to it. May read again.
Jun 19, 2017 Deanna rated it really liked it
As someone just beginning the journey toward becoming a counselling psychologist, I found this eye-opening and encouraging.
Aaron Lozano
Mar 08, 2017 Aaron Lozano rated it it was amazing
I read this while working at the private practice clinic I see clients at. It is a easy and yet poignant way of reminding myself of things I need reminded of.
I gave this book three stars, and I think it would have enjoyed it more if I had read it while I was trying to decide if I wanted to go into counseling or very early in my educational process. I still consider myself a "young therapist" (doing clinical work for just four years), but I found the book a little lacking in terms of deeper substantive issues related to therapy. This is not a research based or even theoretical book, but it is an anecdotal account of her experience as a therapist writt ...more
Jun 13, 2011 Brad rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology, borrowed
Pipher has a wonderful, down to earth tone when discussing her experiences as a psychologist. Her letters are filled with practical, commonsense advice that can (re)ground the burgeoning therapist. She is attendant to the anxiety felt when first starting out in this profession, but does not placate. Instead, she acknowledges the difficulties, the inevitable failures, and the personal journey as all a part of the process to becoming a proficient professional. Further, I think Pipher encourages yo ...more
Christian Geirsson
I probably read this book with a little more haste than it deserves, but I have a yearly goal to reach here okay, so leave me alone, who cares. But since I am indeed a young therapist (and one currently contemplating my future in the field), I found her advice wise and timeless, for the most part. The book is composed of letters written over a calendar year to a graduate student whom she is advising. Her letters contain lots of metaphors to nature and all the phenomena one would observe by takin ...more
Apr 01, 2016 Christina rated it it was amazing
What a gem! I think after years doing this work, the lessons talked about in this book are more relevant now then when I was first starting and everything was all theoretical and I had little foundation to really absorb and reflect. I found myself reading about silence and it reminded/challenged me to slow down sometimes. I think in the beginning I was more comfortable with silence because I was less confident. Now as I have more confidence I use silence less as an intervention and more for refl ...more
Jul 19, 2011 Jordan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Mary Pipher fits the mold as a great therapist who puts her energy into the next generation instead on a candy coated memoir. Mary has 30 years of experience working as a psychotherapist and in each chapter she tells stories about patients. She tells tales from the trenches and each seems very true to life and realistic. Her advice to the counselor whom she is mentoring often begins and ends simply. Occam's razor seems to be her practical recommendation in most instances. She is also very hones
Sarah Parkin
Nov 30, 2016 Sarah Parkin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was assigned to me in my Introduction to the Counseling Profession course, and I think it should be required reading in all counseling courses. It is a fruitful read, full of amazing quotes.

Here are a few examples that aren't spoilers:

"Inspiration is very polite. She knocks softly and then goes away if we don’t answer the door. "p.43

"Both writers and therapist walk a tightrope; we must give the work our all, and yet we must detach from success or failure." p.135

Most of the craziness i
Aug 18, 2013 AmoRead rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology, audiobook
As a new therapist seeing clients for the first time next week, learning about this book from a classmate was great timing. It was an easy read/listen, though it's densely packed with interesting insights, quotes, and tips that I'll want to remember as I enter this new career. I have a feeling I'll be listening to it again (which is why I'm glad I bought it from Audible vs. borrowing it from the library). The seasoned MFT author writes letters to a graduate student she is supervising, each one w ...more
Jonna Higgins-Freese
I enjoyed this book. Mary Pipher mentions in another book that there are writers with whom she would enjoy a ride to the recycling center. For me, Mary Phipher is one of those people. I'm not a therapist, but I found this book to be filled with sensible thoughts on living a good life, and insightful reflections on life's complexity.

Favorite passages: "As an old man who had lost his wife, a son, and a daughter, poet Robert Frost said that he could sum up everything he knew about life in three wor
Oct 21, 2015 Carolyn rated it really liked it
I've always found myself interested in therapy and therapists as a whole. Most likely because I understand the patient aspect but really want to understand the other side of the interaction as well. Mary Pipher's book was a lovely read with lots of insight and information on life as a therapist. I loved hearing her greatest joys from working with patients but also being able to read about her biggest challenges. It's nice to know that therapists get nervous or make mistakes in sessions too. I co ...more
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“Good therapy, gently but firmly, moves people out of denial and compartmentalization. It helps clients to develop richer inner lives and greater self-knowledge. It teaches clients to live harmoniously with others and it enhances Existential consciousness, and allows people to take responsibility for their effects on the world at large. For me , happiness is about appreciating what one has. Practically speaking,this means lowering expectations about what is fair, possible and likely. It means,finding pleasure in the ordinary.” 15 likes
“Therapy isn't Radio.We don't need to constantly fill the air with sounds. Sometimes, when its quite, surprising things happen.” 9 likes
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