The silent patient by alex michaelides

There was simply silence. 

And so, with no further revelation forthcoming, the disappointed media eventually lost interest in Alicia Berenson. She joined the ranks of other briefly famous murderers; faces we remember, but whose names we forget. 

Not all of us. Some people—myself included—continued to be fascinated by the mystery of Alicia Berenson and her enduring silence. As a psychotherapist, I thought it obvious that she had suffered a severe trauma surrounding Gabriel’s death; and this silence was a manifestation of that trauma. Unable to come to terms with what she had done, Alicia stuttered and came to a halt, like a broken car. I wanted to help start her up again—help Alicia tell her story, to heal and get well. I wanted to fix her. 

Without wishing to sound boastful, I felt uniquely qualified to help Alicia Berenson. I’m a forensic psychotherapist and used to working with some of the most damaged, vulnerable members of society. And something about Alicia’s story

resonated with me personally—I felt a profound empathy with her right from the start. 

Unfortunately, I was still working at Broadmoor in those days, and so treating Alicia would have—should have— remained an idle fantasy, had not fate unexpectedly intervened. 

Nearly six years after Alicia was admitted, the position of forensic psychotherapist became available at the Grove. As soon as I saw the advert, I knew I had no choice. I followed my gut—and applied for the job.


MY NAME IS THEO FABER. I’m forty-two years old. And I became a psychotherapist because I was fucked-up. That’s the truth— though it’s not what I said during the job interview, when the question was put to me. 

“What drew you to psychotherapy, do you think?” asked Indira Sharma, peering at me over the rims of her owlish glasses. 

Indira was consultant psychotherapist at the Grove. She was in her late fifties with an attractive round face and long jet-black hair streaked with gray. She gave me a small smile— as if to reassure me this was an easy question, a warm-up volley, a precursor to trickier shots to follow. 

I hesitated. I could feel the other members of the panel looking at me. I remained conscious of maintaining eye contact as I trotted out a rehearsed response, a sympathetic tale about working part-time in a care home as a teenager; and how this inspired an interest in psychology, which led to a postgraduate study of psychotherapy, and so on. 

“I wanted to help people, I suppose.” I shrugged. “That’s it, really.” 

Which was bullshit. 

I mean, of course I wanted to help people. But that was a secondary aim—particularly at the time I started training. 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 or not is another question. 

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