Couple Therapy: Dramas of Love and Sex
by Barbara Bloomfield and Chris Radley
genre: psychology, social work, sex therapy, couple therapy
An educational graphic novel about the dramas of love and sex. Find out why I gave it 4 out of 5 stars!
Anthony and Andrea aren’t getting on. It’s five weeks away from their marriage and Andrea has caught her fiance cheating on the internet, with an older woman! Share this couple’s journey with their counsellor and become a fly on the wall as they journey into their most private and unknown places. Much more than a comic strip, the graphic novel Couple Therapy: Dramas of Love and Sex takes you into the hidden world of the Relate counselling room, and lets you into the private worlds of three fictional couples as they struggle to improve their relationships and their sex lives. Relate counsellor Barbara Bloomfield discusses each case with renowned family therapist, Prof. Rudi Dallos, as they share thoughts, theories and active techniques that will help each couple to understand what’s gone wrong and how to make changes for the better.
I’ve been looking to read some great sexuality books and I found this book somewhere along my search. The main thing that tipped me over the edge to buy it was that it was a graphic novel; an educational graphic novel book that role-played sessions between couples and therapists. Their Goodreads description is ‘This graphic novel, with extra therapist’s notes, allows you to sit in as three fictional couples enter the counselling room.‘ And it’s exactly that.
There are three scenarios that the book goes through: a new couple who are expecting a baby and the father is struggling with the idea of parenting, a couple who are struggling with their son and anniversary death reaction, and a couple who are about to get married but the woman suspects the man of having an affair while also dealing with a dominant mother who intrudes on their relationship. I liked the variety of scenarios but I would have liked more. I finished the book in an hour or so, and even though it has plenty of re-read value, I was kind of sad about how short it was. But then again, I also know how much effort and time also goes into making graphic novels and often they are finished faster than a heavy text book. I don’t regret the buy though, it was definitely worth it.
As you can see, you read the scene like a comic and then down below are the therapists inner thoughts as the scene plays out. Having this kind of perspective is fantastic as someone who studies psychology and is toying with the idea of becoming a clinical psychologist/counsellor. The extra insight provided by the therapist below the scenes are fantastic. It made me aware of what was happening in the scene and how the therapist was sculpting the session.
Even though this was still a book, I felt like it has been the most effective way of teaching these type of counselling skills through written word alone. I felt like I was watching people role-play and I was learning from the scene. There were some fantastic strategies, phrases, and questions that the counsellor used which I will make note of in case I do pursue that career path.
At the end of the three scenarios, the therapist Barbara discusses the session with her colleague Chris. They talk about the couple’s dynamic, the individuals, things she did well, things that he may have done if it was him, alternative options, and even explored some of the therapist’s insecurities. They were critical without being harsh. It doesn’t read like they are trying to falsely paint Barbara in the best light either, they are both constructively critical about how the session could have been improved or tweaked by the therapist. This type of after-discussion was great as a student wishing to learn more about counselling. A fantastic extra that I really appreciated.
Even though I think it had some great moments for teaching couple therapy, I was hoping that there would be a greater emphasis on sex therapy since ‘sex’ was in the title. Sex is covered but not deeply. Most of the sessions focus on getting the couple to communicate to each other and to find common ground. Naturally, this is very important to the work of sex therapy, so I didn’t mind nor regret purchasing the book, but I would’ve liked a scenario where the root of the relationship’s problem was in fact in sex. Not something else. But after all, even though sex is in the title, it is called ‘Couple Therapy’.
I think that there were moments where the scenes could have been fuller. There are one or two moments where the therapist reflects with a sentence that goes, “In real life I would be using more reflecting back, paraphrasing and circular questioning to emphasise with the extreme stress they must be feeling.” While it’s nice to hear what she would do, I’d much prefer you show it to me. You’ve made this book, you’ve made this scene, you’re role-playing it through the book, why not just show us what you’d do in “real life”. Students and readers want you to get as in depth as possible (after all, for students, this is meant to help prepare us to face the real thing).
All in all, I would’ve liked the book to be longer (because I enjoyed it so much), to have more scenarios (to teach me even more about common couples and different presenting problems), to go even more in depth, and have more emphasis on sex therapy (this might have been covered if there were more couple scenarios). I would have also liked to have had different therapists in different scenarios so we could get a feeling for how different therapists use different theories etc. The book mainly focused on systemic therapy. As a psychology student, I would have been interested to see a psychologist tackle a couple’s problem as well, to see if there are differences in the therapies used.
My favourite scenario out of the three was the first. It was in-depth, authentic, and had lot’s of interesting dynamics (multi-cultural couple, avoidant attacher, baby on the way, new couple in the honey moon phase). The third scenario felt the least… real. It was still informative and there were great moments, but the ‘star struck celebrity’ stuff felt a bit much. I did appreciate the addition of an external, authoritative figure trying to intrude on the couple’s therapy though. I imagine that does happen.
It would be really cool to see this book become a sort of series where they explore more scenarios and target groups and have different therapists. I found it very useful and an enjoyable, easy read. Which is impressive since most educational books are as dry as toast. It was such a fun way to learn! I think this will be a book I will come back to time after time just to read up on some of the key points made.
I’m also the first person to review this book on Goodreads and Amazon. So that’s cool!
Have you read an educational graphic novel? What do you think of using different mediums of teaching? Have you read a good book on couple/sex therapy?
4 out of 5 stars
- Want to learn more about couple therapy (including family drama, children, parenting, sex)
- Learn a lot from role-plays
- Are looking for a short, enjoyable, and educational read in counselling
This book is not for you if you:
- Were looking for a strictly ‘sex therapy’ book
- Wanted a book that deeply delved into a range of counselling and psychological theories
- Wanted a book that has more content so it takes longer to finish than an hour or so
– Ermisenda Alvarez
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