Book Review: Secret Keeper

Book cover: Secret Keeper: The Joys & Struggles of Being a Therapist by Marcia Kostoff

Secret Keeper: The Joys and Struggles of Being a Therapist by Marcia Kostoff gives readers an inside look at what it’s like to be a therapist. The author is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, and Certified Clinical Trauma Professional, and she specializes in CBT and DBT.

The book includes stories about the author’s experiences working with various clients. She writes that every one of her clients has changed her. They have “inspired me, worn me down, hurt me, made me proud and every emotion in between.”

Topics that are covered include lessons she’s learned from her clients, urges that she’s needed to rein in (like trying to fix people), navigating boundaries (e.g. around hugging), establishing trust, the importance of validation, and the little-t traumas that people often don’t recognize.

There are tips and lots of reassurance for people who are contemplating starting therapy, and at the end of the book there are also two letters written by her former clients to anyone considering therapy. The author assures readers that “no one is more of an expert in your mental health than you,” a perspective I always appreciate in a mental health care provider. Regarding intake appointments, she writes they “feel a little like first dates. You each often have some anxiety, hoping that the other person will ‘like’ you and that you will live up to their expectations. It also has the awkwardness often as well. Silences… long pauses…” So if you’ve ever felt awkward during a first appointment with a therapist, it might just be mutual!

The author is very open about the challenges of being a therapist and some of the things she’s needed to work on, like being more vulnerable and not expecting perfection. The Secret Keeper title refers to the confidentiality that’s necessary for clients, but can present challenges for therapists. The author admits that “we at times struggle to maintain any sense of emotional availability with the people in our own lives after carrying the weight of so many secrets.”

The book’s typography is creative, with different font sizes and weights, capital letters that are larger than lower-case letters, and wide spacing between lines of text. That kind of thing can decrease readability if it’s done badly, but in this book, it works well and is very easy to read.

I liked how this book gave a very honest, authentic, vulnerable look at what it’s like to be a therapist and how things look from that side of the therapeutic relationship. I think this book would be very reassuring for anyone who’s on the fence about starting therapy, and it would offer interesting insights for people who are in or have been in therapy.

Secret Keeper is available on Amazon (affiliate link).

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

You can find my other reviews on the MH@H book review index or on Goodreads.

6 thoughts on “Book Review: Secret Keeper”

  1. This sounds like another book that might be a good one for me to read right about now. I hadn’t heard of it before. Thanks 😊

  2. The premise seems really intriguing. I feel like most books I’ve seen written by therapists and professionals (granted, I don’t follow this as you do) are scholarly to show off the author’s credentials; there’s something nice about the idea of a more personal reflection.

    1. I think it probably depends to some extent on how well people are able to compartmentalize. I used to be a mental health nurse, and I didn’t find that difficult, but I was good at compartmentalizng.

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