Who knew there could be a “how to” book regarding the “impossible profession”? Well, Sheldon Bach has written one. In The How-to Book for Students of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy (Karnac Books, 2011), Bach speaks plainly and with warmth about the many difficulties facing new clinicians ranging from setting and collecting fees to dealing with the sadomasochistic transference/countertransference matrix. Bach is funny, opinionated, and ready to roll with the absurd. In this interview he gently dismantles many sacred ideas in the field and offers clinicians, whether seasoned or fledgling, a way to work that brings one back to the basics, to the transference, to the unconscious, and to the power of psychoanalysis as a useful technique for treating all forms of human suffering, including the psychoses and manias too commonly abandoned to medication.
He is a beloved teacher; indeed, this book grew out of his students’ needs for clinical savoir faire and is, as he tells us, a collection of emailed nuggets and short reactions. In essence, these are his written responses to students’ requests for how to deal with clinical conundrums. Alas, when asked how he deals with patients who do not pay him, forgetting their checkbooks and so forth, he said he never had to deal with such problems. As a clinician, I’m eager to find out how he avoids them.