Review: The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor

Sonya Renee Taylor is an advocate for a body-shame free society. She’s not just talking about fat, but also any kind of body-shame or “body terrorism” (as she calls it) that is perpetrated in our world. This is a second edition, but it wasn’t clear to me what has changed since the first. There is also an accompanying workbook, so that might be helpful if you want to do more work around this issue.

Taylor wants us to embrace “radical self-love”, which is no easy task given the body-negative messages most of us have taken in over our lifetimes. She talks about our “origin” stories – the first time we remember feeling ashamed of our own bodies for whatever reason. But then also talks about media messages and governmental sanction of discriminations for various reasons. This isn’t just about fat-shaming, but shaming for all kinds of body-related reasons: disability, race, sexual orientation and so on.

She asks us to make peace with our own bodies and the bodies of others, and gives lots of practical advice about how to practice “shame free inquiry” of ourselves and others. This book challenged a lot of my thinking, and made me go “huh” several times, so in that sense I recommend it to everyone. I do feel like it left me wanting more, though, for reasons I can’t put my finger on. It could be that the workbook would give me the additional reflections that I was kind of longing for.

I received this book from Net Galley for my review, and the 2nd addition will be available for purchase on February 9, 2021.

Disclaimer: The link above is an Amazon affiliate link and I receive a small compensation from orders placed through this link. Summaries are NOT intended to replace purchase of the book, but simply to save you time reading!

Review: How to Heal Yourself from Depression by Amy Scher

Amy Scher calls herself an “energy therapist”, although as far as I can tell this doesn’t come with any particular credentials. This book is a variation on Emotional Freedom Technique, or “tapping”, as it is sometimes called. Scher explains EFT and also adds several energy techniques that she has created specifically for working with depression.

First a couple of general observations. If you’ve read my reviews before, you know that I am not a super big fan of this new trend to drop f-bombs and other swear words in what should be a therapeutic book. Not that I am any kind of prude when it comes to language, but 1) it seems inappropriate for this genre of book and 2) it feels affected, like the author is trying too hard to be super cool. In my view, it may make the book inaccessible to certain audiences, and why would you want to do that? However, I get that this may be my own personal pet peeve. Also, I had to laugh at a certain point in this book when she said something was too “woo-woo” for her, because I’m thinking “I don’t know, lady, energy healing is about as “woo-woo” as it gets!” That said, she quotes some people I really admire like Candace Pert (author of “Molecules of Emotion”) and some of the available research on epi-genetics and so forth. And let’s face it, depression is such a pervasive problem that if you haven’t been able to find relief in traditional methods, why would you not try anything that might work?

The book is broken into parts, with Scher first explaining the different techniques, and then going on to apply them to all kinds of different situations. Besides the traditional EFT techniques, she gives us a daily practice, temple and thymus gland tapping, chakra tapping, and a script she calls “The Sweep”, intended to “sweep away” old beliefs and challenges. All of these techniques are explicitly explained in the book, and several can be found in videos on her website, www.amybscher.com.

She goes into detail on our beliefs and how we acquire and retain them; our emotions and how they drive our unhelpful thoughts; trauma, both in our lives and “generationally”. For each of these she explains how to use the techniques and which should be used for what. Then in the “keeping the changes” part of the book, she talks about how to interpret your body’s signals, how to set good boundaries and say no, and some commitments you can make to yourself to keep yourself healthy going forward. So there is a lot of information in this book that is fairly “mainstream” as well as the instructions on energy healing.

Lastly, she talks about “muscle testing” – which is a technique you can use to determine what to work on if you don’t remember the trauma for example; or if you can’t determine which emotion you need to clear. It can also be used to decide which technique to use and how long to use it for. While this seems a little “out there”, I will self-disclose that a local acupuncturist used “muscle testing” to determine what my son was allergic to, and he was spot on. I tried her technique because it seemed a little more vague; and was shocked to find that it totally worked!!

So while this book will not be for everyone, it might be worth checking out; especially if you or your clients have had no luck with traditional depression treatment – what’s the harm? While I would never offer this as a replacement for the more traditional treatments, I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest someone try it if they are at their wit’s end. Hey, it might even really work for them, and even if it doesn’t, I bet they will still glean some useful information. This book will be out in February and can be pre-ordered now. I received my copy from Net Galley for my review.

Disclaimer: The link above is an Amazon affiliate link and I receive a small compensation from orders placed through this link. Summaries are NOT intended to replace the purchase of the book, but merely to save you time reading!

Review: Shortcuts to Mindfulness by Catherine Auman, LMFT

Catherine Auman follows my Instagram @therapybooknook, and she sent me this book for my review. Auman calls herself a “spiritual psychotherapist” and is trained in Transpersonal Psychology. She also lived in India for a time, studying tantra. My only real issue with this book is the title; I was expecting more instructions on mindfulness, how to do it and such. Although mindfulness is developed by paying attention, there is very little in this book that is directly related to mindfulness itself. Instead, I like the subtitle, which I think conveys better what the book is about: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth.

This book is made up of 100 short two-page chapters that cover pretty much everything you can think of that would relate to personal growth. I love the format, because it is one of those books you can read cover to cover, or just pick up when you have 5 minutes and read one random 2-page chapter. She covers everything from breathwork, depression and anxiety (and supplements that might help both), forgiveness, self-esteem, sex…the list goes on. For therapists, I think it’s a nice little book if you have a break between sessions to just open up and get a little nugget of inspiration.

There are two chapters I particularly liked. Auman confronts the popular myth that “you have to love yourself before you can love others”. This rarely questioned saying is just not true – we learn through relationships and we are wired to be interdependent. She also talks about “premature” forgiveness, which I love. I find that a lot of my (especially Christian) clients move to forgiveness right away because they think they should – which Auman says is “as helpful as putting a Band-Aid on a broken arm”. I love this, and I’m going to steal it and use it!

Speaking of Christian clients, I’m not sure this book is totally accessible for more conservative Christians, although they might not pick up a book about mindfulness anyway. I agree with everything Auman says, but talking about the “yin and yang” of sex (for example), might be problematic for readers who don’t come from, or aren’t familiar with, that philosophy.

Overall, though, I loved the book and will definitely be keeping it on my shelf at the office for reference! It’s out now and can be ordered at the link below.

Disclaimer: The link above is an Amazon affiliate link and I receive a small compensation from purchases made through this link.

Review: Nervous Energy by Dr. Chloe Carmichael, Ph.d.

Overall, I really like this book. Dr. Carmichael is a New York City based therapist who specializes in “high functioning people”. This is actually my only real complaint about the book. Low functioning people she defines as people who struggle to meet their most basic needs (food, shelter, employment), who have mental health diagnoses that prevent them from doing these things, or who have big social challenges. High functioning people, on the other hand, are people who are successfully employed, were successful in school, pay their bills and have some savings, have satisfying relationships, and so forth. She says that while lower functioning people need weekly therapy to learn skills and be in the presence of a higher functioning person, higher functioning people may not need weekly therapy and tend to need more goal-oriented and practical approaches. Maybe I don’t really think this designation is necessary because I do work with more high functioning clients and not at an inpatient or county mental health facility? But I feel like most of us therapists (in fee for service private practice anyway) are seeing higher functioning clients, and it’s such a huge category that I think making any really large sweeping statements about the whole group is insufficient. But be that as it may, this book is for “high functioning” clients who need practical tools for their particular issues.

While anxiety is typically categorized as “bad”, Carmichael explains that some level of healthy anxiety – or “nervous energy” – is what makes a lot of high functioning clients successful. And while this energy/anxiety is great to get through school or be successful at a high paced job, sometimes it is not helpful in their personal lives or inside their heads. So she gives 9 tools that she has found helpful in teaching high functioning or driven clients to cope with excess anxiety or energy. Many of these tools are common mindfulness or CBT tools that many therapists use, with both high and low functioning clients. There were a few things I found here that I thought were new, but most of the information can be found elsewhere. Still, I did really like the organized way that she laid out the information and the examples and step-by-step instructions that she portrayed.

The 9 tools are: 1) a three part breath (a mindfulness technique that is grounding); 2) Zone of Control (making lists of what you can and can’t control); 3) Mental shortlist (a list of things you’d rather be thinking about besides the thing you are ruminating about); 4) a To-Do List with Emotions (adding emotions can help clarify why you’re having trouble getting your to-do list done); 5) Mind Mapping (a visual map of all the thoughts and feelings you have about a certain issue); 6) Worry Time (scheduling worry time so you don’t worry all the time!); 7) Response Prevention (finding alternatives to a behavior you want to stop doing); 8) Thought Replacement (finding a replacement thought for a problematic one); and 9) Anchoring Statements (simple statements to ground you when you are panicky).

I have used almost all of these techniques with clients, but I like the idea of keeping this menu “handy” with certain clients so that I can more easily remember them and decide when they are appropriate. I also think that a lot of clients would really like this book, as it explains very simply and clearly how to do each technique and when/why you would. I’ll definitely buy a copy for my shelves!

This book won’t be out until March 23, 2021, but you can purchase my summary below in order to access some of the information now; or it can also be pre-ordered from the link below. I received my copy through Net Galley for my review.

Disclaimer: The link above is an Amazon affiliate link and I receive a small compensation from purchases made through this link. Summaries are NOT intended to replace purchase of the book, but simply to save you time reading.