Friday, September 3, 2010

Review: The Good Psychologist

Author: Noam Shpancer
Format: galley proof - 256 pgs
Characters: The psychologist, the 4 o'clock patient, various students
Subject: psychology
Genre: fiction
Source: Review copy from Henry Holt and Company
Publication Date: August 2010

Bottom line first: This one is definitely worth finding and reading. The story is told from the point of view of the psychologist (we never learn his name) and begins as he agrees to take on a new patient- a young girl who is experiencing anxiety attacks and can no longer work.  She is an exotic dancer, and can't perform.

As the book progresses, Shpancer moves us effortlessly between therapy sessions with the patient, and the psychologists' evening classes at the local college, where he is teaching Introduction to the Principles of Therapy.  We learn much about the subject, much about the psychologist, and enough about several of his students to give us a rounded picture of how to treat anxiety, and what can cause it. As the class learns various techniques to treat patients, the psychologist is carefully guiding his patient through a minefield of issues, drawing her out, giving her homework, and ultimately helping her confront and overcome her fears. Over all of this, the author weaves a poignant story of the psychologist's personal relationship with Nina, a former colleague (and mother of his child) who is married to someone else.  It's difficult to say more without spoiling a wonderful story for the reader.

Shpancer himself is a practicing clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at Otterbein College in Ohio. One wonders if the story is at all autobiographical.  It certainly is clinical, sharply focused, and at the same time, easily understood by the novice who has no knowledge of the subject.  His writing is clear and compelling, empathetic and clinical at the same time.  A short, page-turning, well-done debut.  Let's hope for more.


  1. an interesting novel about psychology? hard to believe but I will if you say so!

  2. This sounds very interesting to me on so many levels. I have a BA in Psychology and am interested in the topic of therapy. Also, I have a daughter who has had some mild issues with anxiety. I'm going to be sure to get this one from my library. Thanks for telling us about it.


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