Counselling for Toads Review

So Badger and Mole and Ratty and Toad settled down to a life of leisure in the Wild Wood, or so it had been hoped. We catch up with them in this semi-fictionalised account by Robert de Board as they approach middle age. Mole, stirring himself from him winter slumber chances upon Toad in a very depressed state.

“First they nursed him. Then they encouraged him. Then they told him to pull himself together. Finally Badger could stand it no longer. That admirable animal, though long on exhortation, was short on patience. ‘Now look here Toad, this can go on no longer,’ he said sternly. ‘There is only one thing left. You must have Counselling!’”

And so it is that Toad meets Heron and their once weekly counselling sessions begin. Counselling for Toads presents a unique insight into the mechanism of Transactional Analysis, a mode of psychoanalytical counselling developed by the Canadian psychiatrist Eric Berne. Via the Parent-Adult-Child and the ‘I’m okay, you’re okay” model we view Toad’s life and reevaluate his actions, many of which will be familiar to readers of the Wind in Willows.

Transactional Analysis, a branch of psychoanalysis set up almost in opposition to the Freudian movement, is what many patients will now undergo when referred. I confess that before reading the book I had been rather ignorant what exactly happens during counselling. Some patients return from it finding it entirely transformative, others desist after the first session (“what’s the point of them asking me how I feel all the time”) and others become dependent on it despite seemingly showing no outward benefit.

Robert de Board maintains the written style of Kenneth Grahame’s classic and the result is that is that Counselling for Toads is remarkably easy but profound read. Once one gets over the shock of seeing one’s childhood fictional friends reduced to middle age despondence there is an incredible amount to take in even if you can never quite stop yourself from wondering if Tigger is now happily dosed up on Lithium somewhere. For doctors this book provides a wonderful window into what happens when the psychology referral is made; more than that however it provides a window into how we ourselves act.

Items Reviewed

Book: Conselling for Toads
Author: Rober de Board
Published: 1998

  1. Just read your review of Counselling for Toads, I totally agree its great book. First, read it couple of years ago, great insight into TSA. Working in this area-I can see lot of my clients resonating with Toad.

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