Book Review: Living with Depression by Deborah Serani

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It’s not often that I am surprised.  But Dr. Deborah Serani’s book, Living with Depression, did just that – surprised me.  I was expecting a sort of boring book about depression – how it starts, why it ends – but was thrilled to discover (and within the first chapter no less!) something very different about Dr. Serani’s book!  Not only does she write about the topic as a expert in psychology (she’s a psychologist in private practice, as well as a professor), but also from the perspective of someone who has dealt with depression on a very personal level.

There have been other psychologists who have written about their own struggles with mental illness, but I found Dr. Serani’s candid admissions and forthcoming attitude about her mental health history to be not only refreshing but intriguing. I found myself wishing she had written more about herself and her family (full disclosure: While Dr. Serani and I have never met in “real” life, we have had several conversations via social media in the last few years).  And while it’s been done before, integrating personal and professional knowledge about depression made the whole book a quick and informative read.

In addition to recounting her own story, Dr. Serani also does a great job outlining all aspects of depression from the mundane (insurance coverage for treatment) to the academic (how psychiatric medications and psychotherapy actually work), to the most basic (what depression is, exactly).  I was most impressed with her discussion of what psychotherapy is and isn’t, and what one should and should not expect from it.  For example, psychotherapy patients should expect to work hard, be challenged, and make a real commitment to the process.  They should not expect to be given advice, get a “quick fix,” or find meaningful change in their lives without a bit of internal struggle.

I also love that Dr. Serani mentioned some (not very glamorous) but important aspects of treating depression, including getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, engaging in meaningful relationships, exercising, and maintaining a relatively tidy, organized home.  It’s not often that we see these things mentioned as part of an overall plan for the treatment of depression, so I was thrilled to see them get some air time in her book.

Living with Depression is a book that I will be glad to have on my shelf.  I highly recommend it for practitioners and lay people alike.  It is a quick, relatively easy read and individual chapters can serve as references in isolation. Check it out here.

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