A therapist creates moving portraits of five of her most memorable patients, men and women she considers psychological heroes.
Catherine Gildiner is a bestselling memoirist, a novelist, and a psychologist who practiced privately for 25 years. This book focuses on five brave men and women who overcame enormous trauma—in her view, heroes who should be celebrated. With a novelist’s storytelling gift, Gildiner recounts the details of her patients’ struggles and their paths to recovery and weaves in her own tale of her growth as a psychologist. In therapy, patients have to become vulnerable by stripping away their defenses, but so do therapists, who cannot hide behind a title, a desk, or even their specialized knowledge.
The five cases described include a successful but lonely musician suffering sexual dysfunction; a young woman who, at the age of eight, had looked after her two siblings after her father, likely a murderer, abandoned them in a rural cottage; a glamorous workaholic whose wealthy, hideously negligent mother had greeted her each morning with “Good Morning, Monster”; an indigenous man who’d suffered greatly at a residential school; and a young woman whose abuse at the hands of her father led to a severe personality disorder.
Each patient presents a mystery at first, one that will only be unpacked over years. They arrive, sometime unwillingly, to try to overcome an immediate challenge in their lives, but discover that the source of their suffering is an entirely different matter. It will take courage to face those realities, and it requires creativity and resourcefulness from their therapist.
Each patient embodies the virtues of self-reflection, stoicism, perseverance, and forgiveness as they confront the real source of their problems and work unflinchingly to face the truth. Gildiner’s account of her journeys with them is moving and insightful and sometimes humorous. It offers a behind-the-scenes look into the therapist’s office and explains how the process can heal even the most unimagineable wounds.
Reviews and Endorsements:
“These compelling, heart-in-throat stories prove no one is “damaged goods.” I'm in awe of the five patients and of Gildiner’s exceptional creativity as she guides each one toward emotional freedom.”
—Rona Maynard, author of My Mother’s Daughter and former editor of Chatelaine
“Like Oliver Sacks, Catherine Gildiner loves her patients and Good Morning, Monster is her entertaining account of helping five of them save themselves and in the process teach her a thing or two about being a psychologist. Gildiner is a master of shoot from the hip nonfiction—funny, direct, and honest about what she sees in others and what she sees in herself. Highly readable!”
—Susan Swan, author of The Wives of Bath and The Dead Celebrities Club
“In these riveting case studies, Catherine Gildiner takes the reader on five voyages deep into the hell of monstrous misbehaviour by mothers, fathers, and institutions, and shows us the scarred child victims who turn into heroes of survival. These stories are almost mythic in their power and veer close to tragedy, but eventually lead to redemption with the help of a therapist who acknowledges her own mistakes and seeks to know herself better as well as the patients she is treating. I couldn’t put this book down.”
—Antanas Sileika, author of The Barefoot Bingo Caller and Provisionally Yours
“This is a compelling and compressed journey through years of psychotherapy for each of these five people, with crystalline moments of connection and meaning. Along the way, some essential elements of both psychological theory and practice are made clear—as are fragments of Gildiner’s life and persona. She is no blank slate. She’s astute, active, pragmatic, and hopeful. She is unafraid to be directive or unconventional and not shy about expressing happiness when her patients’ lives improve—because she cares not simply about how they think and feel but also about how they function and live. She is also—as is known by anyone who has read her earlier books—very funny. Humour in psychotherapy can be dangerous; in her hands, it is a respectful example of shared humanity. Her wit and wisdom are gifts shared with these five people—and now with all of us readers.”
—David S. Goldbloom, Senior Medical Advisor, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health; Professor of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Co-author, How Can I Help? A Week in My Life as a Psychiatrist
“If you ever doubted that unconditional love from a parent to a child was the most important component in the development of a happy, fully-functional adult, Good Morning, Monster puts that notion to rest for good. Catherine Gildiner reflects on five of the most interesting subjects she treated as a clinical psychologist and describes in detail the journeys they took to recovery. Whether it was sexual abuse or traumatic neglect, the results were the same for Laura, Peter, Danny, Alana, and Madeline. Whether it was an Indigenous man who was a victim of the residential school system, or a rich and successful business woman from a privileged background, psychological trauma played no favourites. Dr. Gildiner describes in detail her successes and mistakes in terms that anyone can understand. Written for the general public, this book shows that there is hope for even the most damaged among us.”
—Don Lynch, Six Nations Public Library
“Ms. Gildiner provides an extraordinary look at the process of psychotherapy in ways that offer the reader insights into her patients and candidly into her own process. We come to understandings about developmental challenges, trauma, and the moments that bring about change with these resilient characters. This is captivating re-telling from a master storyteller.”
—Eric King, clinical social worker and former clinical director at both J.D. Griffin Adolescent Centre and Pine River Institute
“Good Morning, Monster highlights our changing cultural values and shifting approach toward psychotherapy, and in doing so is more relevant than ever . . . In each of these cases success depends on certain Freudian principles: long-term psychotherapy, dream analysis, discussion about the unique relationship between therapist and client. These and other aspects of psychotherapy are increasingly being overlooked and undervalued in our cultural search for easy answers and quick fixes, yet as Gildiner’s work shows, they are indispensable for achieving lasting change.”
—The Winnipeg Free Press
About the Author:
Catherine Gildiner has been a clinical psychologist in private practice for twenty-five years. Her bestselling memoir Too Close to the Falls was published in Canada, the US, and the UK to wide acclaim in 1999. It had two sequels: After the Falls and Coming Ashore, also bestsellers. Her novel, Seduction, was a national bestseller. She lives in Toronto.