06 May 2023

Review: The Therapist by Hugh Mackay

The Therapist by Hugh Mackay book cover

* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

Australian Hugh Mackay is a psychologist and social researcher and he knows what makes us tick. Literally! Hugh Mackay is known for studying attitudes and behaviour and I thoroughly enjoyed his non fiction titles What Makes Us Tick in 2022 and The Inner Self in 2021.

In The Therapist, Martha Elliott is a Psychotherapist with a different approach to her treatments, often employing breathing techniques and foot massages within her sessions to help patients ease into their therapeutic discussions with her.

Martha's colleague and business partner Rob have consulting rooms in Chatswood Sydney. Rob has a different treatment style and I enjoyed his work discussions and business relationship with Martha.

The story kicks off with a few new patients for Martha and we seamlessly drop into her day-to-day life, learning about her from the very outset:
"Her handsome face radiated kindness, optimism and an eagerness to ease the pain of all those (well, almost all) who came to her for advice, support, guidance... or for nothing more than the comfort of her patiently listening ear. Perhaps for the reassurance that here was someone who was finally taking them seriously." Page 1
Reading a novel about a psychologist written by a psychologist was a little like Inception, and had me wondering how much of Martha - if any at all - was Mackay himself on the page. We're privileged to sit in with Martha on her treatments which offered an intriguing glimpse into the consulting room for those of us who haven't been to therapy lately/before.

The issues our characters are dealing with include loneliness, relationship breakdowns, IVF and in one case, a desire for revenge. These problems held my interest and while I was hoping the plot would take us into darker thriller territory - like The Family Doctor by fellow Australian author Debra Oswald - Mackay kept to the relative safety of domestic noir.

I enjoyed the brevity of the novel and with my copy coming in at less than 250 pages, many authors could learn from Mackay's concise writing style that still manages to deliver in depth character exploration and growth.

The Therapist by Hugh Mackay is recommended for readers who are curious about what really happens in a therapist's consulting room, and if you enjoyed Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb - also a psychotherapist -  this will be right up your alley.


My Rating:

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