The Courage to Suffer – Review

The Courage to Suffer – Review

The Courage to Suffer: A New Clinical Framework for Life’s Greatest Crises by Daryl R Van Tongeren and Sara A. Showalter Van Tongeren

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The Courage to Suffer outlines a new approach to therapy with clients facing ongoing suffering. Some clients come to us needing help coping with something they have experienced or changing patterns in their thoughts, relationships or lives. Others walk in our doors with burdens that they will carry forever. This book is geared towards therapists who serve the latter. The authors combine existential therapy with positive psychology to create an approach that allows clients to grieve their losses and create meaning in their new life.

The authors share their experience with infertility and an unexpected death in the family. They use case examples of people living with disabilities, chronic mental challenges, and terminal diagnoses. They combine research, theory and their clinical experience in this guide to provide you with a framework for walking with people who are going to have to carry pain.


The Courage to Suffer was written by Daryl R Van Tongeren and Sara A. Showalter Van Tongeren, a husband and wife team. Daryl is an associate professor of psychology at Hope College in Michigan. Sara is an LCSW who has a private practice. You can find her practice here. Make sure to follow her account, The Existential Therapist on Instagram too!


I specialize in parents of kids with special needs so over the years I have found myself trying to piecemeal together an approach for them that acknowledges the grief while allowing for hope. This is the first book I’ve seen that really does that in a way that makes sense for my practice. I love the way that they organized the process of moving through pain to meaning into the stages of sunset to daylight. That framework makes sense and gives hope. They also detail what the therapeutic focus should be in each of the stages so you have a gameplan tailored to where your client is in the process.


I would have liked more vignettes, especially in the earlier chapters so I could see exactly what this approach would look like in my office. As the book goes on, there are several and they are very helpful.


I think this book is an absolute must read for therapists. However, if you work from a brief therapy model or in a setting where you see clients for a limited number of sessions, you will likely find this approach frustrating. Understanding the model may still be helpful but it is not something you can move through in six sessions. If you work with clients who are carrying hard things, this book will be incredibly helpful in understanding their unique needs and meeting them where they are.


If you know of another book we need to review, let us know about it here or tell us about it in the comments. Make sure you’re also following The Therapist’s Bookshelf on Facebook and Instagram.

Many therapists enjoy recommending books to their clients to supplement the work they are doing together. We also use books to help ourselves grow as people and practitioners. Remember though that books are never a replacement for real human connection or for therapy when it’s needed. If you find yourself needing a therapist, a great place to start is Psychology Today. If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Le Shepard

Le Shepard, LPC earned her MA in Counseling Psychology from Texas Woman's University in Denton, TX. She sees clients face to face at Wise County Christian Counseling and works with individuals or couples through her online-only private practice. 1000 Hills Counseling & Consulting. Le loves to read, adventure, and play with her corgi or kids.

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