When I began this blog I wrote about being a graduate student in psychology, and doing therapy training with clients in Davis House at Humboldt State University. When they train you to be a marriage family therapist, you get a lot of theory and general outlines about dealing with various clients and issues. You don’t get a lot of detail; the idea is you will learn the detail as an intern, while working with clients and supervisors. That was when I discovered this book.
“The Healing Choice: Your Guide to Emotional Recovery After an Abortion” is written by Candace De Puy (Ph.D., LCSW) and Dana Dovitch, Ph.D., MFCC), both licensed psychotherapists with private practices in Los Angeles. (Published by Fireside Books, 1997). It is written to be a self-help book, though they encourage readers to talk with a therapist if strong feelings arise. De Puy and Dovitch encourage readers to use a journal, and work through the questions asked in various exercises, constantly examing their own experiences and feelings. Mixed throughout the chapters are stories about previous clients (names changed), and what the possible reactions to various situations might be. It draws on research and their own work with a multitude of clients. Chapters include “The Pregnancy” (often not talked about when there has been an abortion, but still a very real experience), “The Abortion,” “Separation, Solitude, and Isolation,” “Guilt,” “Anger,” “Spirituality and Religion,” “Facing Loss,” “The Process of Healing,” and “Acceptance.” The chapter on guilt is one of the best discussions of guilt I have ever read, and includes a discussion of mature guilt and toxic guilt. I’ve used that chapter as a guide for discussing guilt with a variety of clients in a non-abortion context (and in working with my own guilt issues).
One of the best things about this book is that it does not take sides on the abortion issue. It does not presume to tell people what to do, instead focusing on healing. I bought the book when I read an excerpt from their introduction: “This is a book for any woman who feels psychological pain from her abortion . . . this is not a book about judgment, politics, or religion” (p.13). Even people who are convinced abortion was the right choice may have issues that need healing, perhaps because of their families or the culture at large. It does address the role of spirituality and how that may affect a person’s healing, but there are no assumptions about spiritual choice. You will notice I keep writing “person” rather than “woman;” while this book is primarily for women, it also addresses the fact that men are impacted by abortion, and these exercises and chapters could also help a man with the healing process.
This book is a relatively inexpensive paperback ($14 cover price, $11.25 at amazon.com, and am sure you can find it used). Yet it packs more wise, healing advice than many expensive, fat textbooks I’ve been required to read over the years. If you have had an abortion, or know someone who has (each year 1.6 million American women have abortions), this book can help you understand and deal with reactions to that event. I highly recommend this book.