Voicelessness and Emotional SurvivalRichard A. Grossman, Ph.D.


Voicelessness and Emotional Survival:  Notes from the Therapy Underground (2018) by Richard Grossman, Ph.D.

Introduction from the book

“Sadly, it is the rare person who can enter another person’s world at the deepest and most vulnerable level. One of the main reasons I chose to become a therapist was to learn how to do just this. Naturally, I had expected that, as a result of their training, therapists would be far better than most at entering other people’s worlds, overcoming whatever obstacles and barriers they found in the way. But, over and over again my psychology teachers, supervisors and personal therapists taught me that they were no better than others at entering another person’s world, even though they believed they were experts. 

But another important question needs to be answered first:  Is it critical that all therapists be able to “hear” and enter a patient’s world in this way?  In fact, for many patients the answer is no.  Many patients are satisfied with practical advice, learning ways of training their brain to respond to distress in a new and different manner, or receiving simple emotional support as they struggle with the omnipresent pain that life and living with other human beings brings. But as I have learned in my own life and by co-experiencing the lives of others, aloneness at the deepest level is often the most troublesome and hindering aspect of “being” in this world. And having another person with you—sometimes in person, but also held in the cognitive and emotional parts of memory—is one of the most important and healing parts of therapy.  Because I learned this so early in my “training,” my career has been devoted to studying “voicelessness” and what can be done to help people who suffer as a result of it.

Why can’t most therapists listen accurately and with empathy? And why do all therapists believe they can? This book addresses these questions.  The follow-up questions are even more important: Can therapists be re-taught to enter another person’s world at the deepest and most vulnerable level?  And, if they can’t, what are current and future patients to do with this dark reality?

I thought it useful to begin this book with my own personal experience with voicelessness in order to illustrate how “deaf” and destructive the psychology/psychiatry/psychotherapy world—and the world in general—can be, how alone one can feel in it and why I learned to conceptualize and practice psychotherapy in a different way.  More importantly, I hope my personal history provides the reader with data and evidence for the concepts I write about in the second part of this book—character, subtext and repetition—concepts that play significant roles in the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of patients and therapists alike, and human beings in general. Finally, I will talk about important issues that interfere with the “process” of finding a good therapist and the need to monitor whether or not your therapist is having a significant positive effect on your life.”

P.S. Warning! The prologue of this out-of-the box book is a 10-minute play written by the author. The reason for this dark comedy being included is explained at the end of the book. Enjoy!

The book is available from Amazon.

Just as important as a therapist’s view is the perspective from the other side of the therapy room. Below is a link to a detailed, thorough and thoughtful book written by Sara Field, one of my ex-long-term patients who suffered from a rare, life-threatening and very difficult to treat Adult Attachment Disorder. The book describes her long-term, multi-session per week therapy experience and the very significant ways it changed her life:

The Mathematician and the Teddy Bear–My epic struggle to let someone in