Dr. Jacqueline Simon Gunn – In the Therapist’s Chair

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

In The Therapist’s Chair

My book is a unique composite of psychotherapy clinical case studies and vignettes giving a behind the scenes look at what it feels like to be in therapy. The general concept is to give my readers the opportunity to really feel what it is like to be engaged in a therapeutic relationship. Unlike other psychology or self-help books, “In the Therapist’s Chair,” is a jargon-free description of how I work with my patients. I expose a lot of what I am feeling while working with each patient, providing the reader the novel opportunity to experience the emotions and thoughts that I, as a psychologist, experience. It is also an excellent didactic book, insofar as, instead of explaining to students how to perform techniques of psychotherapy in the abstract, it actually exposes them to actual techniques as they are happening. It brings the therapeutic process to life.

Tell us something about yourself.

I am from a family of artists. Interestingly, although psychology is much like an art, it is also a science. The influence of the fostering of uniqueness in my family is so integrated and fundamental to my personality that many people upon first meeting me often think I am a SoHo artist.

I am also an athlete. I have been running competitively for close to 20-years. I have run many races including full 26.2 marathons. I recently also began swimming. Do I see a triathlon in my future?

What inspired you to write this book?

One of my supervisors suggested that I write and submit a case study to one of the psychoanalytic journals. She shared that I have a very unique way of working and some very interesting and intriguing patients. One day I sat down to write a case study and suddenly I felt so invigorated, I just kept going, and the case study became a book.

How did you choose the title?

Interestingly, I chose the title after I decided on the book cover. I was exhausted one day after writing for many hours, and was lying down relaxing when I started thinking about an oil painting my Mom did that was of a rocking chair overlooking water. The chair suggests a quiet place for contemplation. I was so excited. I decided this would make a perfect cover and then seconds later, it literally washed over me….”In the Therapist’s Chair.” “Perfect,” I thought with a big sigh of relief!!

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I have always written, even as an adolescent. Of course, during my academic training, I had to write many papers, the final and longest one being my dissertation. I always received very positive feedback. In fact, the professor who became my dissertation chair, asked to work with me, after reading and grading a paper I had written in his class. He told me I was the most creative writer he ever had as a student. In my mind, one of my long term goals was to write a book. I struggled for a while, wondering if I want to stay with the typical research oriented academic writing I was used to, or go out on a limb and write something relatively unique in my profession. “In the Therapist’s Chair,” is a unique amalgamate of clinically informed didactics with a very creative, evocative and personal writing style.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I like to wear a funky hat while I am writing. It helps me to feel in touch with my creativity.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

In “In the Therapist’s Chair,” I used letters instead of names, thus preserving the anonymity of my patients. In the book I am currently working on, I am using pseudonyms for my patients’ names. I have carefully chosen names that I believe evoke a certain image that on a very fundamental level grasps the essence of each patient and their individual story.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

The most significant thing I learned was how much work the marketing of a book takes after writing it. For me, writing as a creative process is easy, freeing and extremely enjoyable. Marketing, on the other hand, is something I was unfamiliar with and really takes more time and energy than writing the book. I have learned so much from my publicist on how to present myself and my work to the public.

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

I may have made the book a bit longer; many people that have read my book, including laypeople, said when they were finished reading it, they wanted more.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

I really read many types of books. Of course, contemporary psychology and philosophy are at the top of my list. I also love character driven novels. There have been times that a character-driven novel- my favorite being– “The Kite Runner,” has pulled me in and I literally finished it within two days.

Favorite author? That’s easy, Irvin Yalom and Rollo May, both prolific writers and teachers of existential/dynamically oriented psychology. They also both really emphasize and encapsulate surviving the human condition. I have been quite influenced by their writing in my own work. In fact, “In the Therapist’s Chair,” has been compared to Dr. Yalom’s books and way of thinking. For me this has been the highest compliment!!

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

Yes, I am deeply ensconced in the writing of my next book, and I am quite excited about it. Without saying too much, it is going to have multiple layers, and is a non-fiction account of my work with various different patients. However, it is going to read like a novel, insofar as, the chapters will shift back-and-forth between patients.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Picking a topic or story that one is not only interested in but, feels very connected to who one is, is very important. Even while writing my dissertation, which involves exhausting all the literature on the topic, I remained interested and curious about my topic. In fact, I am still very interested in my dissertation topic. This could possible suggest a topic for my third book.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

Students of psychology, beginning therapist, people in therapy, contemplating entering treatment or interested in how therapy works. Individuals that are interested in learning more about themselves as they identify and empathize with the patients struggles in their stories.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?