Saturday, October 11, 2008

Occasional Therapy for Your Midlife Years by Dr. Ellyn Gamberg

Occasional Therapy for Your Midlife Years by Ellyn Gamberg
Copyright 2008
Ellis & Young
Nonfiction - Self-help/Psychology
196 pages

Whether or not midlife means a whole new script, it is a time when we can shape our lives without all of the "should or shouldn't haves" that may have constrained us earlier. It will take some work and effort on your part, but you have all the tools at your disposal, right now.

. . . the area of the brain that controls our "fight or flight" response is known to mellow with age. Not surprisingly, then, older adults show less evidence of fear, anger and hatred than younger adults. Psychological studies confirm this, proving that older adults are less impulsive and less likely to dwell on their negative feelings. Without revisiting that college biology class too much, suffice it to say that our brains actually improve with age.

What led you to pick up this book? Ugh. I'm middle aged. Sucky. Yes, I still think it sucks, even after reading the book (although I do know a few of my strong points as a mid-lifer).

Describe the book without giving anything away. The cover says it all: 12 sessions to combat your crisis. You don't have to be in misery to read the book, though. There are plenty of life-affirming statements that make the book a decent read, in general, if you just need to feel better about being "middle aged". The author discusses the meaning of the term "middle age," physical changes, emotional and psychological issues, marriage/divorce/widowhood, changes in the family situation, aging parents, etc.

What did you think of the format? I like the way the book is laid out in sections, so that if a particular part doesn't fit your needs (I skimmed the divorced/widowed/single section) you can breeze right past it or you can zone in on a specific concern.

Describe your favorite portion of the book: I think I preferred it when the author spoke in generalities about middle life and changes. Some of the specifics simply don't fit my life and I did occasionally get hung up, because of that. Once I got myself to mentally shift a bit and say, Okay, my parents are both dead, my marriage is better in midlife than it was when I was younger, and I've never worked outside the home full-time so this, this and this simply don't fit . . . Move on, chicky, I was fine. I enjoyed her descriptions about the brain and how it improves in middle age, how to focus on the future instead of the past, etc. It's certainly an uplifting read.

Recommended? Yes, absolutely. While I don't think every section will fit everyone's needs, it's really not written as a cure-all. You can zone in on the section you need and she makes recommendations about when you should seek professional help. I think Occasional Therapy is actually one of the better self-help books I've read and I think it would be great to revisit certain sections.

In general: Occasionally, the author's sense of humor was annoying and she overused parentheses. Otherwise, I think it's a rare book in that it speaks to its audience better than most. It's written with a broad enough perspective that a lot of it worked for me. Most books like this are built on the assumption that everyone has worked half their life. She did occasionally make mention that some people haven't even begun their work lives by middle age, although not often. I got hung up in the middle on that "ponder your accomplishments" section. Otherwise, I enjoyed the reading and thought it was well done.

Cover thoughts: Business and psychology books have the most tiresome covers -- either bold lettering or a huge, grinning photo of the author. Ugh. This one is nicely done, though. I like the layout. It's more original than most.


  1. Self-helpish type books have never really been my thing, but I may have to look in the library for this. So far, my biggest problem with mid-life is just that I feel too old to have young kids. In some ways, I still wish life had gone as I'd always assumed it would with the whole kid thing happening a decade earlier. Of course, at the same time I can't stand how fast they're growing up. Hmmm...if I could just find a way to grow younger as they grow older...
    Anyway, great've definitely left me interested.

  2. Debi,

    My problem is quite the opposite -- I married and had kids so young that I feel like I missed out on the fun part of life. One of mine is grown and gone, though, and you'll find that it's very satisfying when you have a child out in the world, making a living. Not that I don't miss my little ones. :)

    Most self-help books are a little too narrow in scope. I do think Occasional Therapy is better than average because she at least tried to cover all the bases. I can't say she succeeded 100% because some of us just don't fit into the normal parameters, but it's still quite good.


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