Emotionally Gripping Reads for Fans of 'In Treatment'

By Carrie McBride, Communications
June 23, 2021
photo or Uzo Aduba as Dr. Brooke Taylor in In Treatment

Image courtesty HBO.com

More than a decade has passed between season three and four of HBO's In Treatment, and it's back with a vengeance and a new therapist—Dr. Brooke Taylor played by Uzo Aduba. Each episode is an emotional journey as Brooke deftly pulls at verbal threads to help her patients get to the core of their pain and unhappiness, all while dealing with the aftermath of her controlling father's death. Dr. Taylor is not a passive sounding board for her patients as conversations become intense, sometimes verging on antagonistic, but always aiming to get at an emotional truth.

If you enjoy the intensity and blurred boundaries of the therapist-patient dynamic or being a fly on the wall as traumas and anxieties are unwrapped and picked apart, you may enjoy some of the fictional reads below which have psychologists and psychotherapists as the protagonist or that revolve around the experience of therapy. 

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Liliane by Ntozake Shange

Through the polyphonic voices of Liliane Lincoln's childhood friends, lovers, and conversations with her psychoanalyst, Ntozake Shange weaves the life of a remarkable young woman. Liliane Lincoln is an artist who exposes what she knows of herself to the world through her bold and colorful artwork. Gradually, however, Liliane realizes that in order to survive, she must come to terms with what she has kept hidden even from herself. Liliane is extraordinary vision of a woman learning to be who she really is.

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The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Alicia Berenson's life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London's most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word. Alicia's refusal to talk or give any kind of explanation turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the spotlight of the tabloids at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London. Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His search for the truth leads him down a terrifying path and threatens to consume him.

You may also like Michaelides's The Maidens.

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The Behavior of Love by Virginia Reeves

Working to revitalize a crumbling hospital and start a family with his artistic wife, ambitious behavioral psychiatrist Ed Malinowski becomes fatefully involved in the case of Penelope, a wrongly institutionalized patient who has fallen in love with him.

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The Visible Man by Chuck Klosterman

Therapist Victoria Vick is contacted by a cryptic, unlikable man who insists his situation is unique and unfathomable. As he slowly reveals himself, Vick becomes convinced that he suffers from a complex set of delusions: Y__, as she refers to him, claims to be a scientist who has stolen cloaking technology from an aborted government project in order to render himself nearly invisible. He says he uses this ability to observe random individuals within their daily lives, usually when they are alone and vulnerable. Unsure of his motives or honesty, Vick becomes obsessed with her patient and the disclosure of his increasingly bizarre and disturbing tales. Over time, it threatens her career, her marriage, and her own identity.

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When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin D. Yalom

In nineteenth-century Vienna, a drama of love, fate, and will is played out amid the intellectual ferment that defined the era. Josef Breuer, one of the founding fathers of psychoanalysis, is at the height of his career. Friedrich Nietzsche, Europe's greatest philosopher, is on the brink of suicidal despair, unable to find a cure for the headaches and other ailments that plague him. When he agrees to treat Nietzsche with his experimental &;talking cure,&; Breuer never expects that he too will find solace in their sessions. Only through facing his own inner demons can the gifted healer begin to help his patient.

You may also enjoy The Schopenhauer Cure by Yalom, himself a psychiatrist.

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State of the Union: A Marriage in Ten Parts by Nick Hornby

Tom and Louise meet in a pub before their couple's therapy appointment. Married for years, they thought they had a stable home life—until a recent incident pushed them to the brink. Going to therapy seemed like the perfect solution. But over drinks before their appointment, they begin to wonder: what if marriage is like a computer? What if you take it apart to see what's in there, but then you're left with a million pieces? Unfolding in the minutes before their weekly therapy sessions, the ten-chapter conversation that ensues is witty and moving, forcing them to look at their marriage—and, for the first time in a long time, at each other.

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The Listener by Rachel Basch

Told in alternating voices, a story about human connection and the many shapes that love can take follows school psychologist Malcolm Dowd as he discovers that nothing is predictable when one of his patients, a college freshman named Noah, becomes involved in his life. A wise and witty novel about the challenges to identity that arise in both adolescence and middle age—and the student and therapist who just may have the power to save each other.

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Inside by Alix Ohlin

When Grace, an exceedingly competent and devoted therapist in Montreal, stumbles across a man who has just failed to hang himself, her instinct to help kicks in immediately. Before long, however, she realizes that her feelings for this charismatic, extremely guarded stranger are far from straightforward. In the meantime, her troubled teenage patient, Annie, runs away from home and soon will reinvent herself in New York as an aspiring and ruthless actress. And Mitch, Grace’s ex-husband, who is a therapist as well, leaves the woman he’s desperately in love with to attend to a struggling native community in the bleak Arctic. With razor-sharp emotional intelligence, Inside poignantly explores the many dangers as well as the imperative of making ourselves available to—and responsible for—those dearest to us.

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The Seduction by Joanna Briscoe

Beth Penn lives a peaceful life with her partner Sol and their daughter Fern. But Beth is troubled by increasing unease. She cannot shake her uncertainty over her mother, who disappeared when Beth was a child, and she has a sense that her daughter is keeping secrets from her. So she goes to therapy. Dr. Tamara Bywater is there to help her patients. But what if the very person who is meant to be the solution becomes the most dangerous problem of all? And why is what's bad for us so enticing?

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A Good Enough Mother by Thomas Bev

Ruth Hartland is a psychotherapist with years of experience. But professional skill is no guard against private grief. The mother of grown twins, she is haunted by the fact that her beautiful, difficult, fragile son Tom, a boy who never "fit in," disappeared a year and a half earlier. She cannot give up hope of finding him, but feels she is living a kind of half-life, waiting for him to return. Enter a new patient, Dan—unstable and traumatized—who looks exactly like her missing son. She is determined to help him, but soon, her own complicated feelings, about how she has failed her own boy, cloud her professional judgement. And before long, the unthinkable becomes a shattering reality....

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The Good Psychologist by Noam Shpancer

After he takes on an exotic-dancer client whose anxiety is keeping her from the stage, a pshychologist finds himself becoming too deeply involved, jeopardizing his relationship with the mother of his child and blurring the lines between personal and professional, help and harm.

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Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!

Summaries provided via NYPL’s catalog, which draws from multiple sources. Click through to each book’s title for more.