Review: Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzer

I’ve heard my best friend sing the praises of this book for some time now. I guess I thought it was more of a business leadership book (it is that also). But now that I’ve read it I think it’s a “must have” book for both therapists and clients. This is literally the best book on communication that I’ve ever read. They give lots of relationship examples in addition to business examples. We communicate. with everyone we come in contact with – so yes, this works if you are in business, but it also works if you’re a stay at home mom trying to communicate with your kids or partner – and everyone in between.

Basically, a conversation becomes crucial whenever you are having a difference of opinion with someone that is causing emotions to run high. Sounds familiar right? We all have those! They start with asking you to work on yourself. Do you know what you want and what you don’t want? The want is usually easy – I go into a conversation knowing what I want. But what about what I don’t want? I want to achieve my outcome, but I don’t wan’t to have a fight, become estranged or end up hating each other. We so often forget that we need to find a way to talk about what we want without endangering the relationship.

The authors talk about how to recognize when safety has been lost in a conversation, because people will stop talking or start fighting when they don’t feel safe. They teach you how to restore the safety of the conversation so that you can get back to the topic at hand. They talk about the stories we tell ourselves in these situations and the assumptions that we make that can take a conversation off track. And they teach you how to be persuasive without being abrasive.

They then move to the other person and teach how to continue a productive conversation when the other person isn’t managing it well, either retreating into silence or blowing up. They talk about how to make sure that what is decided in the conversation actually turns into results and action. And finally, they give a whole bunch of examples of situations you might run into that would be challenging.

I honestly think every single one of my couples should read this book before we even start therapy, because it would just give us a solid foundation to start with. I can’t think of a single person who would not benefit from this book. Buy it, read it, and go forth to have better conversations!

The link above is an Amazon affiliate link and I receive a small compensation from each purchase.

Review: Helping Couples by Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott/Dr. David Olson

I was super excited about this book — actually so excited that I reached out to them to see if they’d send me a free copy for my review and they did! Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott have a marriage assessment test called SYMBIS, based on their book “Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts”; and Dr. David Olson is the designer of the marriage assessment called Prepare-Enrich. They also have a website, www.helpingcouples.org, associated with this book. First, I think it’s totally cool that even though most people would see these as competing assessments, these professionals just see that the world needs MORE marriage help than ever, and we can’t be competing in this endeavor. I personally am certified to do both Prepare-Enrich and SYMBIS with couples. I can never decide which I like better, so I usually end up just having people take both! And most of my couples love taking both, because they are a little different and there’s so much value in each one.

If you’re familiar with either of these assessments or these authors, you might note that they are technically Christian authors. However, there is nothing inherently Christian about this particular book. In addition, the assessments are geared somewhat towards a religious audience, but I use them with all kinds of couples, and the fact that there are some spiritual questions has never been an issue. You can find the SYMBIS at www.symbis.com, and Prepare-Enrich at www.prepare-enrich.com. I highly recommend getting certified in these assessments if you are a counselor.

Now to this book. My only complaint is that I wanted more, but to be fair, they did say in the introduction that this was not an exhaustive book on marriage; but they hit all the high points. And in fact, I think this is a great book to have around as kind of a “top-level” reference guide for therapists and counselors. My favorite thing about the book is all the science and statistics, because I find that statistics resonate particularly well for men. Couples like to know we are not just guessing but that we have some science to back up our thoughts and interventions. And people are much more likely to do things or stop doing things if they know the cost. For example, if I tell a couple that “the odds of divorce for couples who have monthly date nights is 30% lower than those who hardly ever go out” (page 98), I think they are more likely to actually do it than if I just say “date nights are good for you”.

This little book (I read it in two hours) covers all of the basics, gives a ton of good statistics, and is just a great reminder of some of the most important points to helping couples. If you help couples you know that it’s so easy to get lost in the weeds – there’s so much going on! But if you make sure you hit the points in this book, you will be on your way for sure. And you can always delve much deeper into any of the topics with these authors’ other books. I would definitely recommend having this on your shelf for quick reference if you are a therapist or coach working with couples.

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

Review: Sometimes Therapy is Awkward by Nicole Arzt

Nicole Arzt is a licensed therapist and also runs the funny Instagram account “psychotherapy memes”. This book is really mainly for therapists; and especially those therapists who are fairly new to the field. Although, I have been a therapist for 20 years and I also really enjoyed it.

Arzt starts out dispelling a bunch of myths about therapists – that we are all secure and confident, that we have our sh*t together all the time, etc. This is a great starting point for this book because it really highlights the fact that we are all just human and doing the best we can. She then launches into insecurity and the many ways that it shows up for therapists. It’s easy to think that therapists always know exactly what to do with their clients (especially if you read a lot of therapy books!) but it’s just not the case.

She talks about getting into the right mindset to be successful and talks about how to even approach your very first therapy session. If you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, join the club! Arzt is very encouraging on this front.

She also talks about how to be a good employee and team player; how to set good boundaries as a therapist; how to cope with burnout and fatigue; and some of the ways that the modern world has transformed therapy and being a therapist.

I really recommend this book if you are starting out as a therapist – I’m personally handing it to all my associates. But even if you’ve been a therapist awhile, you’ll find it valuable – the best part is just feeling like you can be REAL and that it’s ok to just be a regular human.

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