I think Forward’s book was one of the best ones I could have started with. I connected with her writing in a way I did not expect to from the first page, the first few words. There is a power to the words she commits to the page, a power to the horror elicited by the quote she uses to start the book, a quote from one of her own clients.
Forward manages to present each case, each one of her clients, with the soothing kindness I imagine she showed them. Relevant details are recounted with care, important conversations transcribed in such a way that we can feel the emotions that would have been there during the counselling session. It’s not just an educative read for aspiring counsellors to come to grip with the myriad of issues that toxic parents of any kind can leave their children with. It’s not just a collection of cases for us to read through to see the different stages of therapy with these people. Susan Forward’s Toxic Parents is an emotional journey through self-understanding, pain, acceptance, and, most important of all, hope. Forward takes the hand of the reader and takes us on the most difficult journey of a lifetime, the journey of self-understanding and self-acceptance.
There is power in the cases she uses in her book: not only does she represent both genders equally but she also tells the stories of people from all walk of life and all levels of society. She writes in a way that creates a bond in between us and the people she speaks of so that we find ourselves deeply affected by their story, moved with them as they learn of the hope their life still holds and ultimately reach out for it.
Forward’s writing style is simple and does not suffer from the pompous voice of some academic writing. She writes simply and beautifully for her audience. She breaks down everything is perfectly sized parts that are easy to tackle one at a time. She makes clear the stages of the counselling process and humanises even the most technical of discussions. As part of the book she shares her techniques, which I found to be very valuable personally, and are definitely things that I would feel able to use with clients as they would give me a way to help them that I know has been tried and tested.
On a personal level I found this book very powerful. I cried whilst reading it, I felt filled with righteous anger towards the parents that had so damaged the children that they were meant to love. It elicited many very strong emotions, that I began to be able to control more easily as my reading of the book went on. I think that is a very important step for someone training to be a counsellor as those are emotions that our own clients might elicit in us and we must know to not let them show, to keep that part of our human nature under wrap whilst we show kindness and understanding. This book definitely helped me achieve this: by putting me repeatedly face to face with these cases I learnt to keep a handle on my own feelings.