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Top 5 books about unreliable therapists, chosen by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Case Study author Graeme Macrae Burnet takes his pick of books exploring the trials and tribulations of opening up

Graeme Macrae Burnet, a Booker Prize-shortlisted author, released Case Studythis month. It follows a woman who believes a charismatic psychotherapist was the reason for her sister’s suicide.

The bright literary talent chose his favourite books featuring unreliable therapists for The Big Issue.

A Case of Hysteria (Dora) by Sigmund Freud

Freud openly embellishes his teenage patient’s version of events and uses his speculations as the basis for his often outlandish analysis. One is left thinking: how much of Freud’s account should we believe?

A Severed Head by Iris Murdoch

Psychoanalyst Palmer Anderson is not quite the central character of Murdoch’s 1960s cult classic, but he’s as slippery and duplicitous as any of the others. It’s a novel that demands to be immediately re-read, just so you can work out exactly who’s been screwing who.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

The iron-fisted Nurse Ratched is not exactly a therapist, but Kesey’s 1962 novel became the lodestone of the anti-psychiatry movement which began to question whether the men and women in white coats really had our best interests at heart.

The Great Pretender by Susan Cahalan

A fascinating account of the notorious early 1970s experiment in which sane people presented themselves as schizophrenics to psychiatric wards. But was Professor David Rosenhan’s account of his subjects’ experiences as reliable as it first seemed? Cahalan builds a gripping investigative thriller from an infamous episode in psychiatric history.

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Zone of the Interior by Clancy Sigal

Glaswegian RD Laing was the great maverick of 1960s psychiatry. Here he appears in the guise of Dr Willie Last, leading his patients in a not always merry dance that leads you to wonder who is crazier, the therapist or the patient?

Case Study author Graeme Macrae Burnet takes his pick of books exploring the trials and tribulations of opening up
Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet is out now (Saraband, £14.99)

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