Rogers' book is the story of her very first psychotherapy patient, five-year-old Ben, as well as the story of her own problems and her experiences as a patient in psychotherapy, both unsuccessful and successful. She records her thoughts and feelings about both "stories," learning, as the therapist and the patient, how each informs the other in complex ways.
Ben, at the tender age of five, already has a troubled history. He has been diagnosed with "oppositional personality disorder." Since this book was published in 1995, this diagnosis might now be called oppositional defiant disorder (ODD.) Ben's biological mother deserted him and he has been in at least a few foster homes, the first having exposed him to severe neglect, which included his having spent most of his time in a crib, locked up in a room. In fact, horrifyingly, he was found in his crib only after firefighters had evacuated the rest of the family from a fire in the house.
in the midst of Rogers' treatment of Ben, she has a mental breakdown, is hospitalized for a few months, and then gradually works her way back to mental health, functionality, and her therapy with Ben. She has had the experience of unsuccessful therapy with a woman she refers to as Melanie, an experience that likely contributed to her breakdown. Subsequently, she has therapy with Blumenthal, who helps her in innumerable ways, helping her understand how her own experiences and problems are an important part of her therapy with Ben. Blumenthal helps her to navigate through to the end of her treatment of Ben and to navigate through to the completion of her own education and subsequent career.
The book contains great insight into the rewards and risks of psychotherapy, the importance of our childhoods, and the richness and complexity of the psychotherapuetic relationship.