One of my favorite things about studying to become a family therapist was reading the different case studies that were presented in each of my textbooks. When I was given Dr. Mary Speed’s Mixed Nuts to read and review I was looking forward to seeing a variety of scenarios in one book and with the therapist’s spin on them, as well.
Dr. Speed opens the book with a heartfelt and sincere thank you to her patients and clients. It’s clear she takes her work seriously and wants to her readers to understand she is privileged to be able to listen to people each day and work with them to help alleviate their most pressing issues and problems. Dr. Speed carries this sincerity and honest love for her work and her clients throughout the entire book.
That being said, I was somewhat disappointed in this book. Her clients’ stories were interesting but didn’t draw me in and want me to keep turning pages.
The case studies were generalized in a way that didn’t give you enough of an in depth picture of the clients but did let you see that Dr. Speed knows what she’s doing in the therapy room.
It would be very easy to start at page one of Speed’s synopsis of some of her most fascinating clients and cases and go right to the end, page 85, but I found I wanted to find topics that were more interesting to me first and then go back and read the rest.
Case in point:
Having been someone who worked through Postpartum Depression I went to that topic first. Dr.Speed is therapist who works with clients dealing with a wide range of issues and it seems the majority of them are things we’d be privy to in our everyday lives.
I didn’t think that finding a topic such as PPD would be all that difficult.
I found depression and I found addiction and I found holiday shoulds, all chapter titles and topics throughout Dr. Speed’s alphabetically arranged book. Finally, I came to Mothering and assumed that was where I’d find the info I wanted about PPD and Dr. Speed’s experience with it.
Dr. Speed uses her section titled “Mothering” to discuss a young woman who has come to her and opens up about her chances of becoming a mother.
“Time has run out on me. I’ll never be a mother now,” the woman says.
The biological fact of the matter is that this woman will not become a mother but Dr.Speed takes the opportunity to talk with her about how she is able to mother in other ways. This young woman is a constant and strong presence in the lives of her friends and their children. Speed makes it clear that this is a form of mothering. The young woman is given a chance to explore her own life and the wonderful ways that she has been gifted with women who have mothered her and cared for her. She’s learned to mother others through those who have mothered her. Dr.Speed artfully directed this young woman out of her funk that was induced by her desire and lack of ability to become a mother and helped her to see that she was missing that mothering was not just about physically birthing a child.
This was how many of the chapters went. The client comes in with an issue and it was perceived (by them) to be caused by one thing but Dr. Speed works with them to help them see that they can work through the issue and recognize what’s really at the heart of their problems. She did this skillfully with a client who came in with an addiction problem. My first guess was that the addiction section would be focused on drugs, alcohol, or even sex but Dr. Speed chose to relay a client with a food addiction that went all the way back to her childhood.
The beautiful young woman, as Dr. Speed described her, seemed to have no issues whatsoever. She had beauty, she was sporting a gorgeous ring and she really could not put her finger on what brought her in to see a therapist. She felt as if she was doing something too much. So much so that it was becoming dangerous.
It was a cycle for her, a craving, an indulgence, guilting promises to do better.
It just kept going around and around and the young woman wanted it to stop. But she could not pinpoint where it had all come from and Dr. Speed used her skill and ways of talking and listening to draw that out of the young woman. As the young woman worked her way through her childhood and her food issues it became clear that she had an addiction to food and it stemmed from a need to be loved and hugged rather than stuffed and comforted with food. Dr. Speed worked with this young woman and helped her tentatively admit her addiction and work through her blame and eventually this young woman loses weight and begins to open herself up to those around her.
The book is a great starting point for something deeper and greater. I would have loved to have seen direct interviews with clients. I would have loved to have been able to read the reactions of the men that Dr. Speed worked with in the Fathering section, or the women whom she talked with about achieving a simpler life within their relationships or friendships. Dr. Speed just begins to scratch the surface of these issues and what we want to know about them.
Her topics are pertinent to what we’re living but once she gives us a little bit of a story on her client the sections turns into a textbook about that topic, and truthfully, not that interesting of a textbook.
When you go into the therapeutic hour, which is only 45 minutes usually, the therapist takes an entire history on you and your life and what has brought you into therapy. That history is what makes you who you are and what brings you into the therapist’s office. I just wish Dr. Speed had found a better way to share that history- along with the outlined stories- with us, as well.