Shiny Happy Person – finding the sun between clouds of depression by Terri Cox (Published by Pulling the Trigger/Inspirational Series).
This book is a great read for anyone at any stage of mental health struggle (or supporting someone with the same). For the professional, I think it will be particularly of interest for someone early in their career getting to know themselves as practitioners and discovering that it is the clients who teach us most of what we need to know.
The author’s down-to-earth, approachable style means the book reads like literary diaries in the tradition of Adrian Mole and Bridget Jones. The author and protagonist, Terri, is warm and endearing. We are instantly invested in finding out what happens, while rooting for her every step of the way.
The graphic and vivid scenes of real-life bullying from Terri’s school days are heart-wrenching to read. As a therapist in private practice, I would say about 80% of my clients have experienced bullying at some point in their lives. It is therefore great to see the processes described in such detail to raise awareness and normalise the struggle for others.
Despite the difficulties Terri faces in her life, the one constant is the support and empathy available from her family and friends. Without professional training or the means to stage dramatic interventions, her support network’s determination to help Terri shines through at every stage.
The family dynamics are probably the most interesting insight for therapists reading this account. Most therapists have worked with a client who is a twin, and we know that this particular form of sibling relationship can have a huge impact on people in terms of individuation, identity, passivity/assertiveness and more. Terri talking openly about being a triplet is therefore eye-opening from a clinical perspective. The closed yet volatile dynamic of their interactions is keenly described.
For the general reader, the most helpful section may be the step-by-step guide to what really works for recovery (pp. 125-126). In summary, Terri recommends: decluttering, therapy, psychoeducation, exposure to nature, self-care, altruism and reframing.
The second of those – therapy – is discussed at some length. Colleagues will be relieved to read that she happened upon an effective and empathic psychotherapist who gives a good account of our profession! The detailed depiction of the therapeutic process will also pique the interest of the lay reader too.
The wonderful thing about Terri writing this with some hindsight is that she has not felt the need to whitewash the dark moments or her part in what was co-created, for instance, her romantic relationships.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of her extensive and brave self-disclosure is the update towards the end. Some of her issues did return to haunt her, but she is tackling them from such a strong foundation of congruence, support, authenticity and self-knowledge that the reader is left in no doubt that her resilience will see her through.
She gives others permission to struggle as, to use a phrase from addiction therapy: relapse is part of the cycle of change.
Reviewed by Cheryl Livesey, UKCP-accredited integrative psychotherapist in private practice and owner of Renaissance Therapy Centre in Harborne, Birmingham, UK. Get in touch with Cheryl via her website or Twitter.
(As a translator of French and Spanish and someone who lived abroad for many years, Cheryl also has an interest in cross-cultural counselling and literary and creative aspects of therapy)
DiClemenet, C.C., & Prochaska, J.O. (1982). Self change and therapy change of smoking behaviour: A comparison of processes of change in cessation and maintenance. Addictive Behaviour. &: 133-142.