“The real motivation was purely selfish. I was on a quest to help myself. I believe the same is true for most people who go into mental health. We are drawn to this profession because we are damaged—we study psychology to heal ourselves. Whether we are prepared to admit this is or not is another question.”

In the third chapter of Part 1, Theo describes his motivation for training to become a psychotherapist. He first gives a canned but acceptable response to the interviewers from The Grove, but then he also explains his true motivations to the reader, which he acknowledges were selfish ones. Because of his own struggles with mental health, Theo feels that he has been drawn to psychotherapy because of his own damaged nature. Further, he feels that this is true of most people who work in the field of mental health, who similarly learn about psychology in order to overcome their own psychiatric issues. Diomedes later agrees with his assessment, noting that everyone working at The Grove is a little crazy. Theo’s experiences as a patient both motivate his desire to work in mental healthcare and inform his methods as a therapist. Theo’s statements here underscore the thin divide between patient and therapist at The Grove. In his sessions with Alicia, he will at various points assume the role of both therapist and patient, sometimes speaking and sometimes listening.  

“I told her about my father, and growing up in that house; she seemed curious to know as much as possible about my past and what had shaped me and made me who I am.  


I remember thinking, There’s no going back now. We were crashing through every last boundary between therapist and patient. Soon it would be impossible to tell who was who.”

In Chapter 11 of Part 4, Theo and Alicia have a long-awaited discussion after Alicia agrees to speak with Theo in the hopes, she claims, that he will understand her. This conversation marks a notable shift in their relationship. While mute, Alicia’s silence allowed Theo to read into her silence whatever he wished, even imagining that her silence conferred approval upon his plans to treat her. Once she agrees to speak, however, she no longer serves as a blank canvas but can instead communicate her own account of events and her own thoughts and opinions. In this session, the relationship between Theo and Alicia is depicted as one of equals rather than a hierarchy. Rather than maintaining a cold detachment while listening to Alicia’s tale, they have a conversation in which Theo shares as much as he receives. He speaks about his traumatic childhood and she, in turn, shares details from hers. Theo, who has already pushed the boundaries of professional behavior many times, notes that they “were crashing through every last boundary between therapist and patient.” After they open themselves up to each other emotionally, Theo finds it difficult to distinguish between his own emotions from those of Alicia, as their identities and roles have begun to merge.