‘Couch fiction – a graphic tale of psychotherapy’ is an illustrated tale of fictional psychotherapy sessions between James, a successful barrister, and Patricia, a psychotherapist.
Despite his wealth, James has a penchant for petty thieving and troubled relationships in his present and past. As the therapy sessions develop both his emotions and motivations and the nature and peculiarities of the therapeutic relationship that develops with Patricia are explored. Perry presents the therapeutic process as helpful and special, but also addresses the imperfections of the process. For different levels of interest or expertise in psychotherapy Perry has provides two texts in parallel. The graphic strip contains the narrative where we read the characters thoughts and speech, whilst footnotes underneath are more didactic and unpack the therapeutic techniques at play.
For the uninitiated especially there is much to discover from this book about the process of psychotherapy. However the dialogue is rather wooden, and the illustration is not particularly accomplished or interesting. I also found the dual approach to narrative unsatisfactory, as it’s jarring to read both simultaneously but neither is fully satisfactory on their own. The ability to innovatively combine words and pictures is one of the strengths of graphic novels so the decision to opt for a dual approach is perhaps a missed opportunity.
Finally, although she is at pains to present realistic characters, Perry does yield to the temptation to give her story a resolution, whilst never conceding that one of the great frustrations of psychotherapy is that full resolution of the difficulties of the subject of therapy is rarely achieved in the neat way she presents.