Nic Beets is a clinical psychologist and family therapist who has specialised in relationship and sex therapy throughout his three decades of practice. He has been with the same partner since he was 17, fellow psychologist Verity Thom. They have two children who have taught them much about love and priorities. As well as seeing clients, Nic provides training and supervision in relationship therapy and the Developmental Model in particular. His new book Make Love Work has proven, practical strategies to help your relationship and make it flourish. Nic talks to NZ Booklovers.
Tell us a little about Make Love Work.
It’s a self-help book for people in long-term relationships. I’m attempting to unravel some of the very complicated things that make sustaining relationships difficult and suggest ways people can work on themselves to get the kind of love they want. Without dumbing anything down it’s designed to be easy to use. There are lots of exercises, and every chapter ends with the story of a couple that illustrates its main themes, as well as a bullet-point summary of the key points.
What inspired you to write this book?
Therapy is expensive and out of the reach of many people. I wanted to see if I could distill everything we have learned into a book people could use.
What research was involved?
I have been trying to make my own relationship better for over 40 years and helping others do the same for over 30 years. In addition to my training as a psychologist and family therapist, I have travelled to the US repeatedly to train in two different models of relationship therapy. As well as seeing couples, I also offer training and supervision to other therapists in relationship therapy. That means I have spent decades refining how to explain some very complicated ideas.
What was your routine or process when writing this book?
Having a contract with a deadline and a minimum word count at the start of the process helped me focus. The publisher also wanted an outline, which I wrote in one evening off the top of my head, and, I am amazed to say, is largely unchanged in the finished book. I set aside Friday of every week for 18 months and had a word target to reach for every day of writing (I simply took my contracted word minimum and divided it by the number of weeks till the manuscript was due).
I already had written many handouts for clients and blogs on various topics, so I began by distributing them among the chapters. So some chapters already had quite a lot of previous writing I could incorporate. I was very diligent about writing without second-guessing or editing as I went. Keeping the generative process separate from the critical reflection seemed very important to keep the flow going.
If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.
“Turn It Around” by the Black Seeds
“Always On My Mind” by Tiki Taane (We have a copy of the lyrics, painted by Tiki Taane, on our wall at home)
If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?
It kind of already has – it’s called “Hope Springs” (2012), starring Meryl Streep, and Tommy Lee Jones, with Steve Carell as the therapist. Although it’s condensed to fit into a movie, it’s the best depiction I have seen of the kind of process that couples go through in therapy.
What did you enjoy the most about writing this book?
Finding that the words flowed, and that I could actually accomplish this ambitious goal. I also loved working with an editor(s). Having someone sympathetic and knowledgeable improve my writing felt like the height of luxury after years of only ever having myself edit what I write.
What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?
When the final proof was signed off, my partner and I went out for a meal. However, it didn’t feel real till my advance copy arrived by courier. It was mid-morning but we cracked a bottle of bubbly! Coincidently, we had family visiting, so it was an impromptu little party.
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
“Last Tango in Cyberspace” by Steven Kotler. I love science fiction for the way it vigorously explores new possibilities. I enjoyed this book because while being a rollicking near-future thriller with a sardonic sense of humour, it also explores the notion that empathy is central to intelligence and the evolution of humanity as a species.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
I’m very focused on trying to train more couple therapists. There are nowhere near enough people with this specialised skill set to meet the demand for good relationship therapy. I do have a couple of ideas for other books but I will need a while without that pressure in my life before I even think about whether I want to write them
Allen & Unwin