Penn State

Jose Soto - Associate Professor of Psychology, Penn State University Park

Book Title: Girl, Interrupted

Author: Susanna Kaysen

Book Description:

This 1993 memoir of author Susanna Kaysen’s struggles with mental illness and the mental health system documents the complexities surrounding psychopathology and treatment. The book provides a raw account of what it was like for Ms. Kaysen to be a patient at a world-renowned psychiatric facility, McLean Hospital, in the late 1960’s. In so doing, it raises countless questions about the nature of mental illness, the boundaries of normalcy, the utility of hospitalization, and the effectiveness of drug treatments. And while I can reflect back on these lessons learned, what I remember most from the first time I picked up Girl, Interrupted is being fully captivated. In reading Ms. Kaysen’s account of her experience and those of her fellow patients, I was transported to another world I found both fascinating and daunting. It was that intrigue that prevented me from putting the book down and inspired me to pursue a career in clinical psychology. Two years later I found myself working as a research assistant in the very same halls of McLean Hospital, in awe that I had managed to transport myself within the pages of this powerful story. It was not coincidence that brought me there, but the love for a field of study sparked by Kaysen’s memoir.  The passion for clinical psychology that this book ignited long ago continues to this day in my role as a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Associate Professor in Penn State’s Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program.

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