The College Shrink

From the publisher: 

Life is hard. Too hard for many of us to navigate alone. That’s why we sometimes need to reach out to someone to help us understand it all. To keep pointing us in the right direction. Emily had spent her entire life trying to be one of the good ones. Trying to make a difference at an elite university in New Jersey, where she had been a curious student and now, for almost 20 years, an overworked psychologist.

Can you imagine what it is like to be a therapist in a college counseling office where one quarter of a highly ambitious undergraduate populace make appointments each year? Seeing eight confused, anxious students each day, five days a week, not to mention trips to the hospital emergency room on nights and weekends. Young people struggling with the academic, athletic and social demands that life has placed on them and struggling with a full spectrum of mental health issues—some benign and others that will have lifelong consequences.

Our Emily is immensely likable and admirable in the way she cares for her clients. Bright, engaging, compassionate, but, it turns out, increasingly selfish and flawed when she becomes rattled by her husband’s indiscretions and can’t handle the fallout. She begins to blur professional and ethical lines with her colorful but fragile clients, seeking their help to rediscover her own direction. What follows is an intense and endearing story as Emily’s world unravels, and she, often wrongly, becomes enmeshed in her clients’ lives—and they in hers.

We often assume the people who are paid to handle the emotions of another human are somehow immune from the problems that life can bring. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Good things happen from Emily’s work. But there are also some devastating results that can be traced to her negligence as a therapist. We don’t love Emily any less, but we’re not sure we can forgive her, either.

When you spend a great deal of time writing, the characters you develop become your closest friends. In The College Shrink, their uniqueness steers the story in a way quite different than originally envisioned, taking us on an emotional rollercoaster via their intersecting struggles. As one reviewer commented, “There are times where you gasp and times when you shake your head.” But, ultimately, you will truly miss these people when the story is complete.