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The Courage to Suffer

A New Clinical Framework for Life's Greatest Crises

Daryl R. Van Tongeren, PhD Sara A. Showalter Van Tongeren, LCSW

Suffering is an inescapable part of life. Some suffering is so profound, so violating, or so dogged that it fundamentally changes people in indelible ways. Many existing therapeutic approaches, from a medical model, treat suffering as mental illness and seek a curative solution. However, such approaches often fail to examine the deep questions that suffering elicits (e.g., existential themes of death, isolation, freedom, identity, and meaninglessness) and the far-reaching ways in which suffering affects the lived experience of each individual.

In The Courage to Suffer, Daryl and Sara Van Tongeren introduce a new therapeutic framework that helps people flourish in the midst of suffering by cultivating meaning.

Drawing from scientific research, clinical examples, existential and positive psychology, and their own personal stories of loss and sorrow, Daryl and Sara’s integrative model blends the rich depth of existential clinical approaches with the growth focus of strengths-based approaches.Through cutting edge-research and clinical case examples, they detail five “phases of suffering” and how to work with a client's existential concerns at each phase to develop meaning. They also discuss how current research suggests to build a flourishing life, especially for those who have endured, and are enduring, suffering.

Daryl and Sara show how those afflicted with suffering, while acknowledging the reality of their pain, can still choose to live with hope.  

“Daryl and Sara skillfully weave together psychological theory, research findings, clinical wisdom, and their own personal story to create a powerful and insightful narrative that will be useful to therapists, researchers, and anyone who is suffering.”

Crystal Park, PhD, professor of psychology, University of Connecticut

“A courageous, poignant, and helpful guide to living bravely through the downs and ups of suffering. Regardless of whether you are a professional counselor, you—and people you care about and seek to help—can benefit from this synthesis of personal life, existential thought, and positive psychology.”

Everett L. Worthington, Jr., PhD, Commonwealth Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University and author of How Do I Forgive?

“If you are facing adversity, this is a must read book. Daryl and Sara offer a new framework for the important task of helping people flourish and find meaning amidst suffering by developing the courage to engage it.”

Jamie Aten, PhD, Blanchard Chair of Humanitarian Disaster Leadership, Wheaton College, and author of A Walking Disaster: What Surviving Katrina and Cancer Taught Me about Faith and Resilience

"Guided by a helpful sunset-to-daylight metaphor and enriched by case examples, psychological research and theory, and specific clinical suggestions, this book is a must-have for anyone wanting to engage tough issues about suffering—whether inside or outside a therapy context."

Julie J. Exline, PhD, professor, department of psychological sciences, Case Western Reserve University and co-editor of APA Handbook of Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality

The Therapist's Bookshelf

"This book is an absolute must read for therapists."

Frontiers in Psychology

"This volume is a treasure chest for individuals, clients, and therapists, and for anyone who fears addressing their own pain and suffering. The authors present a gentle approach to deal with core issues in every person’s life and give sensitive guidance. The content of the book is authentic—it is impressively authentic; the reader can recognize that the authors know what they are talking about, the suffering, the pain, and the resurrection toward increased flourishing and meaning. But not only that: they also present the reader with a great, practical knowledge of existential interventions—based on various cases which are well chosen—,and explain how to apply them and make them usable in therapy or for the self."

Reformed Journal

“[A] timely gift. . . . The Courage to Suffer deserves a place on every therapist’s shelves, in every pastor’s library, and in the hands of every person concerned with cultivating meaning and finding flourishing in the darkness. Here is a book that instills what its title upholds.”