Review: The Skeleton Cupboard by Tanya Byron


Title: The Skeleton Cupboard: The making of a clinical psychologist

Author: Tanya Byron

Published: Pan Macmillan June 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read on June 11, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Tanya Byron was just twenty two when, after graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of York, she moved to London to begin training as a clinical psychologist. For three years, Byron divided her time between studying at the University College London while completing a series of six month clinical placements in various settings within the National Health Service. The Skeleton Cupboard, subtitled ‘The making of a clinical psychologist’, is a fascinating account of the challenges and triumphs Byron faced during that period.

The narrative of The Skeleton Cupboard combines Tanya Byron’s experience of clinical training with her personal and professional development.

Byron notes that the case narratives have been created to show ‘real people, real lives’, and explore the complex, challenging and ‘bloody sad’ reality of mental illness and its treatment, but it is important to note that the cases she shares in The Skeleton Cupboard are composites, based not on individual patients but instead constructed from a range of clinical experiences. It is easy to forget that as each patient is utterly believable from the sociopathic Ray who threatens Byron with a knife in her office during her first placement, to twelve year old Imogen, suicidal after the drowning death of her younger sister, to Auschwitz survivor Harold suffering from the beginning stages of dementia.

The Skeleton Cupboard is much more than just a collection of case studies though. As Byron recounts her interactions with patients she also reveals her personal struggles as a somewhat naive and inexperienced young woman expected to treat patients presenting with a wide range of mental health issues. Byron admits that she often felt out of her depth, anxious about her treatment plans and her ability to help those in her care. Her own ‘stuff’, including the murder of her grandmother, occasionally interfered with her judgement and Byron sometimes found it difficult to let go of a patient when it was time to move on. I really liked Byron’s honest revelations of her own failings and the difficulties she had in developing the skills needed to become a practitioner.

I found The Skeleton Cupboard to be a fascinating read, sharing valuable insight into the difficult role of a clinical psychologist, and the lives of those people in need of their help. Though I would particularly recommend The Skeleton Cupboard to someone considering studying psychology, I think anyone with a layman’s interest in the field would enjoy this well written account.

Available to purchase from

PanMacmillan I boomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Bookworld I via Booko

Amazon AU I Amazon US


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jade @ Bits & Bobs
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 04:15:45

    I don’t read very many non fiction books, and when I do they are typically of the true crime variety or involve mental illness of some sort. I think that is why this book appeals to me so much. Thank you for exposing me to this one!



  2. Trackback: The Skeleton Cupboard: The making of a clinical psychologist | Science Book a Day

I want to know what you think! Your comments are appreciated.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s