Mary Pipher is a clinical psychologist and author. Her books include Reviving Ophelia, which was #1 on the New York Times bestseller list for 26 weeks, The Green Boat: Reviving Ourselves in Our Capsized Culture, and Letters to a Young Therapist, now available in a revised edition.
From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: Your book Letters to a Young Therapist was first published in 2003. How did this revised edition come about, and what do you see as the major changes in therapy since the book’s initial publication?Visit Mary Pipher's website and Facebook page.
A: I wrote the book right after 9/11. I had finished a book on refugees, and I was emotionally shot. I was happy to be asked by Basic Books to write about our field. The world seemed out of control [and it helped to write this book].
It was a popular book; students would write me…it was influential in their decisions to be therapists. Our basic mission is to heal the human heart, and it’s a really important one.
Because it was so popular, the publisher asked me to do a new book with a new cover, to update it. I was delighted. I hadn’t thought much about these issues in a long time, and I willingly accepted.
[I’m] rethinking how the world changed in 16 years. I’m struck by the idea that human beings haven’t changed very much—they still have their basic needs, basic family structure, ways of getting in horrible [situations].
On the other hand, the speed that the world has changed has greatly accelerated. The number of things that were different was incredible.
For example, I felt immediately that the emotional climate for Americans was much rougher even than 2001. They’re working harder, money is tighter, they’re more stressed out about college payments, house payments.
The 24-7 media cycle generates a cycle of fear. It’s left people damaged…If you define a democracy as having control over the forces that control your life, none of us feel that way…I wanted to write about that.
Another issue that’s very different is technology. It presents issues to families that it didn’t in 2001. Texting has become even more common. Sexting—if you’re the mother of a teenage girl or boy.
Facebook relationships—one problem we have is people reconnecting with old partners and having clandestine relationships.…Those kinds of problems come with the new digital technology.
Then, there’s another way to look at this: How has therapy changed? Therapy is much improved. There are better protocols.
[For many years] there wasn’t a good model for how to do marital therapy. I still do a lot of speaking at big workshops—now that I’m seeing what people know about marital therapy, I realize what we didn’t know in 2001. [Also] for borderline personality disorder and for OCD.
There are problems—there’s much more medicalization of psychological problems. Big Pharma is advertising on TV… I probably referred a dozen people to a psychiatrist or physician [to get drugs prescribed]. Now it’s so common…My point of view is that’s not a good change.
One big change in our field is that a lot of therapists are now...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: The Green Boat.