K's Reviews > Brooklyn Zoo: The Education of a Psychotherapist

Brooklyn Zoo by Darcy Lockman
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's review
Aug 08, 2012

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bookshelves: ebooks, memoirs, professionallit
Read from August 08 to 13, 2012

Mmmrrmmmpppphhhh -- wrote a long and thoughtful review of this book, now lost in cyberspace due to an electrical short. Sigh. I will try to reconstruct, but will probably end up shortening and simplifying. Maybe that's a good thing.

When I read "Orange is the New Black," I wondered whether approaching a memoir with a high degree of curiosity about an experience is a set-up for disappointment, as reading about the mundane details can end up seeming rather boring and banal. In this case too, I think I went in with inflated expectations as I was perhaps overeager to read about someone else's doctoral internship in psychology and to compare notes.

There were definitely some parallels between Darcy's experiences and mine. Darcy and I both received psychodynamic training in graduate school (although she felt decidedly more positive about hers than I felt about mine), only to discover that this failed to prepare us for working with full-blown psychosis in an inpatient setting. Darcy, however, experienced other frustrations as well. Her supervisors not only failed to provide her with the guidance she sought but actually told her straight out that they disliked her (in my field, the distinction between evaluating someone professionally and evaluating them personally can get blurred). She felt unappreciated as a lowly psychology intern in a setting where interventions were largely medication-driven and psychiatry residents ruled the roost. And worst of all, her placement was so poorly run that it was later written up for, among other things, failing to provide appropriate clinical leadership which may validate some of Darcy's difficulties with her supervisors. Although some reviewers snark, perhaps accurately, that Darcy's own contributions to her problems remain unacknowledged by her, clearly the situation itself was far from ideal.

While I enjoyed reading about Darcy's experiences and reminiscing a bit about my own, somehow this memoir was not as affecting for me as I hoped it would be. Perhaps some of the problem was that Darcy spent a great deal of time describing the various patients she met which somehow felt repetitive although it really should have been more interesting. Meanwhile, when Darcy finally has the blow-up with her supervisors, it almost appears to come out of nowhere -- a little foreshadowing and a few dropped hints but not much actual build-up or development.

Was the whole thing perhaps too superficially rendered? Or were my expectations unrealistic? I'm not sure, so I think I'll just give it a 3 and call it a day. It was certainly an interesting read for me, even if Darcy wasn't the long lost twin I had hoped to find.
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Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

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message 1: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Vegan This is on my to-read list so I'll be particularly interested in your opinion of it, Khaya.

message 2: by K (new) - rated it 3 stars

K Great! I'm looking forward to reading and reviewing it. I relate to the topic in a very personal way because my own doctoral internship in psychology was a tremendous time of both stress and growth for me. I'm hoping the book will be a good exploration of that.

message 3: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Vegan Well, I assume everyone's experience is unique, though there must be similarities too.

message 4: by K (new) - rated it 3 stars

K The book has a low average rating, so I don't know whether she depicted it in an engaging way. But I'll let you know!

message 5: by Lisa (last edited Aug 08, 2012 01:56PM) (new) - added it

Lisa Vegan Thank you, Khaya. I've been eager to read it, but I'm also always thrilled to take books off my bloated to-read shelf. Whatever your opinion, I'll be interested.

message 6: by K (new) - rated it 3 stars

K Thanks, Lisa! I look forward to discussing it with you.

message 7: by MAP (new)

MAP Wait wait wait...she described the patients she met? Can we do that? I always assumed if ones gives enough information that the client can identify themselves, you've probably gone too far (talking about in a public/published setting here.) If I was a client and discovered a psychologist had written about me, I'd be piiiiiiiisssssed.

message 8: by K (new) - rated it 3 stars

K I was thinking that too. She used names and everything, although I assume the names were changed. In terms of the patients' details, though, I don't think they could have been identified. I can't remember it all, but some of the details I do remember were things like, "the man described a compulsive urge to molest his step-daughter"; "the woman's guardian sold her apartment against her wishes," "she displayed signs of full-blown mania," "she said such-and-such to me in the waiting room," "she insisted she didn't need to be there," etc., etc. I think it was pretty vague and probably stuff you'd only recognize if you were there with her at the time.

message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

The author's note states that names and identifying information have been changed. Not to do so would be illegal and unethical and might result in licensing board and ethics complaints.

message 10: by MAP (new)

MAP I just think it's slippery slope to release ANY information like that in a book. It's one of the reasons I think writing a memoir as a psychologist would be so disappointing/boring -- I'd be SO UNCOMFORTABLE mentioning ANY information about a client. Even if it squeaks in under the ethical boundaries.

message 11: by K (new) - rated it 3 stars

K It's true. Maybe part of the reason the memoir left me colder than I would have liked was that the author had to be very guarded in terms of what she revealed about the clients.

message 12: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Vegan I've read so many psychology books that are made so much better because of the case histories and mini case histories in them. As long as enough identifying information is changed, and preferably permission granted, I see no problem, and I'm someone who cares a great deal about confidentiality.

message 13: by K (new) - rated it 3 stars

K In Love's Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy, Yalom claimed that he obtained the clients' permission to be depicted in the book. While that's probably the ideal way to go, I can't imagine it's simple to do. I agree that case histories are very informative, and many authors seem to manage to write them, presumably without breaching ethical boundaries. It may be different if you're writing a memoir, though, as opposed to an educational text.

message 14: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Vegan I guess it partially depends on how much the memoir is about the clinician and how much they focus on particular clients. If a reader can identify a client by reading a memoir, I think there is a problem, and I know that has happened on occasion.

message 15: by K (new) - rated it 3 stars

K Agreed. And sometimes it's hard to predict what information will be identifying, and for whom. I think it's possible to describe a case history in vague, general terms without giving identifying information but arguably, the more vague and generic the description, the more superficial and less useful to the reader.

message 16: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Vegan Well, sometimes they deliberately change identifying data, which is done for medical as well as psychological case histories. I have to trust that the changes, sometimes drastic, won't change the pertinence of the stories.

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