I was recently invited to review A Neuropsychologist’s Journal: Interventions and “Judi-isms.” Normally this wouldn’t take me long as I would get the gist of the book by quickly skimming through it. Instead I found myself engrossed in reading this book word by word, cover to cover. The short chapters had me hungrily turning the 459 pages for more, and at times, I just could not put it down.
Now, I must admit, I am acquainted with Dr. Guedalia’s work as we are professional colleagues and I have heard her speak on numerous occasions, and, as I read her book I could almost feel her presence because her writing style manages to capture the essence of who she is, both as a person and a professional. This makes the book enjoyable for both the professional and lay reader alike.
Dr. Guedalia, in describing the American psychiatrist Milton H. Erickson’s approach (p. 83) captures her own style as well: “For [Milton] Erikson, the unconscious mind was creative, solution-generating, and often positive. But more than anything else, his ability to ‘utilize’ anything about a patient to help them change, including their beliefs, favorite words, cultural background, personal history, or even their neurotic habits, fit with my ideas of the goals of therapy: to help my patients solve problems, achieve goals, and change their behavior.” This is what she shows us in this book.
Dr. Guedalia wears many hats. The head of neuropsychology at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, she brings us into her life – whether as a member of the hospital’s emergency response team, while conversing with Chaim K (a respirator dependent quadriplegic man who co-authors her column for The Jewish Press), winning an award, or as an eshet chayil around her Shabbat table.
We gain insight into Guedalia’s world through her little “Judi-isms,” whether sitting with her in her office or watching her in her non-professional capacity. This is far from boring and I encourage you to put on your roller blades as this woman makes tracks!
As a clinical psychologist, I particularly liked the case presentations that make up more than a quarter of the book. These unique vignettes take you from assessment and diagnosis to treatment in an educative and informative yet highly enjoyable manner. More importantly, this incidental learning is far more easily absorbed and remembered than what is attempted through the typical dry teaching format frequently used in graduate school. Her unconventional approach can’t help but excite lay readers as they too are subtly drawn into the world of neuropsychology.
A Neuropsychologist’s Journal: Interventions and “Judi-isms” is primarily a compilation of the many articles Dr. Guedalia has written for the community since 2004 as a regular columnist for The Jewish Press. It is safe to say that just about any topic has been grist for the mill and one quickly sees that her breadth of professional and overall knowledge is quite astounding.
One finds not only an informed discussion of, for example, brain tumors, child sexual abuse, neurofibromatosis, psychosis and phantom limb pain, but Dr. Guedalia’s understanding of genetic disorders, ethical issues and other medical problems, along with her inclusion of Torah, Tehillim, and halacha at opportune moments leads us to see how we can choose to bring Jewish values into every aspect of our day to day life.
One thing that stands out with certainty is that Dr. Guedalia is a teacher through and through. She is a curious woman and you can’t help but get drawn in on her quest for answers. At times you may feel as if you’re reading a good Sherlock Holmes mystery as you find yourself absorbed by the nuance and detective work Judi utilizes to piece together various aspects of a rather bizarre puzzling situation to come up with an accurate diagnosis of some of the more esoteric problems that can present in our practice.
Thus, one not only gains insight into the world of a neuro/medical/developmental/rehabilitation psychologist, which in itself would be more than enough, but one sees the workings of a very wise, humane mother, grandmother, great grandmother and all time mensch in action.
Clearly skilled at, and loving her work, her enthusiasm is contagious and while at times you may be taken aback by her unconventional approach, it is fascinating to see just how she thinks out of the box. Being a more senior member of our profession, I find this quite refreshing. Guedalia is not afraid to talk about both her successes and failures, something not everyone can and would do on paper, which is a gift that comes with age and confidence.
Her candid opinions, lack of fear, determination and skill all work together to enable her to give insightful advice and she is a strong advocate for those less fortunate in all realms of life. She demonstrates a multicultural sensitivity to those in her working environment, and she models seeing the positives in people as she notes clients’ strengths and abilities. Her appreciation of the commonalities of human behavior engenders the trust and mutual respect of her patients and in turn our admiration of her.
Whether it is to get help for a young child or to unabashedly open her home to strangers and absorb “the homeless” at her Shabbat table, her kindness, caring and dedication stand out as exemplary. I particularly liked the story of the young yeshiva student who came to her for a Shabbat meal and afterwards asked if he could come back during the week to practice piano. She gave him the combination to the lock on her door and for several months he came to her home to practice. How many people would be so generous?
Guedalia has a lot to say and I think in her desire to be all-inclusive, she may have put in just a bit too much. At times topics didn’t seem to flow or were somewhat tangential and I found myself wondering just why she chose to include what she did. This may be the fault of the editing. As one looks down the Table of Contents, one is left wondering just how history, politics, Bible, 42 case presentations, Israeli current events, her own personal story, and 25 stories about Chaim K, along with copies of speeches and eight peer reviewed articles, all come together in one book.
Nevertheless, as one searches beyond the content of this book, one sees that A Neuropsychologist’s Journal: Interventions and “Judi-isms,” is simply as unconventional as the author herself. Like the author, if you are open to it, you will learn volumes about topics you didn’t even know you were interested in. Simply sit back and take a small dose of Dr. Guedalia’s curiosity, skill in thinking out of the box and refreshing honesty and humility along for the read.
Finally, Dr. Guedalia also tells you about her own personal journey as a two-time cancer patient, and if nothing else, you begin to understand her desire to leave something meaningful behind to her family, her friends, her students and her patients. For me, reading about this fireball’s interventions and Judi-isms in action, was not just interesting and enjoyable, but a real gift.
This review first appeared in The Jewish Press