Profiles in courage by author Catherine Gildiner
Good Morning, Monster, offers the reader compelling profiles in courage by telling the stories of five patients who faced significant challenges to their mental health.
In her author’s note, Catherine Gildiner, a clinical psychologist who was in private practice for 25 years says that she wanted the book to be both inspirational and a learning tool. It does indeed work in both ways.
Gildiner has not written dry clinical case studies, but instead deeply moving accounts of people trying to come to terms with childhood trauma. These journeys of discovery are both thought provoking and surprising. As Gildiner writes, “In many ways psychology is like archaeology. As you dig down to uncover each layer and carefully dust off the artifacts that emerge, you eventually find a whole buried world that seems stranger than fiction.”
Each profile provides the reader with the backgrounds of the patient and gives the details of the different therapeutic approaches that were used. One thing that is common to all the profiles is the relationship that develops between Gildiner and her patients. The importance of trust cannot be over emphasized in terms of achieving a successful treatment and Gildiner is adept at describing how this was established, not always easily, in each instance.
This is most evident in the case of her patient Danny, a Cree man who first saw Gildiner after the death of his wife and child. Gildiner writes that, “Freud, along with all the other European founding fathers of psychotherapy, knew nearly nothing of Indigenous culture, and neither did I.”
Gildiner, recounts how she had to reach out to native elders and attend their ceremonies as a way of understanding a culture that was unknown to her in order to effectively communicate with Danny and build a relationship with him. She provides fascinating insights into how this relationship slowly formed and is not shy about explaining the missteps she took during their initial sessions.
Other cases include the musician Peter, the son of Vietnamese immigrants who was severely mistreated by his mother and Laura who had to deal with issues of parental abandonment. There is also Madeline, whose case provided the title of the book. Yes, her mother actually managed to convince Madeline that she was a monster.
What is striking is the courage it takes for each patient to face the realities of a painful childhood and come to terms with how it is affecting their adult life. This process often proves challenging and Gildiner likens it to entering a labyrinth to slay a Minotaur.
Facing their monsters is never easy but Gildiner recounts these struggles in an engaging way often explaining complex clinical terms in plain language that is easily understood. No mean feat.
The reader is also given insights into Gildiner and she provides details on how each patient impacted her. As she says, “these five courageous psychological warriors made an indelible impression on me when they were my patients. I still think of them often.”
A book launch will be held in Creemore on Nov. 9 featuring Gildiner in conversation with local therapists Eric King and Gillian Harris. The event will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Station on the Green. Admission is free.
Good Morning, Monster will be published on Sept. 3. Copies can be pre-ordered at Curiosity House Books in Creemore.