“Map to Love” offers emotional guidance

Fred McCormick

One thing that two decades as a psychotherapist has taught Rob Jacoby is that it’s easy for anyone to lose their way on life’s journey. So he created a map.

In March, the Black Mountain resident released a book that functions as a map and textbook that helps readers navigate the often complex world of mental health.

In “The Map to Love: How to Navigate the Art of the Heart,” Jacoby leans on his experience as a therapist, currently at Solstice East in Weaverville, to provide a unique self-help book.

Jacoby began working with juvenile offenders in an Arizona prison in 1998, when he said gangs were rampant within the system. He quickly realized the complexities involved in serving the population.

“When I started working on my master’s degree, I realized that there weren’t enough people taking this information and making it easy to understand for someone that maybe hasn’t even finished high school,” he said. “Working with this population, I was able to take the things that I believed and write a theory. And over the years I’ve taken bits and pieces of that theory and taught it to kids.”

Jacoby found the most useful tools during therapy were diagrams and analogies he created to help his clients understand what he learned through formal education.

“After figuring out how to explain these complex theories I had written, I had a bunch of lessons that I had written,” he said. “There just came a point where I was using this (approach) every day. And it was so effective, I was like, ‘I’m just going to write a book.’”

“The Map to Love” needed to be “so big that if somebody never got to see a therapist that this book could explain everything,” he said. But Jacoby also wanted something concise that could be “read in two hours” by someone as young as 14.

Using the diagram from the which the book was named, Jacoby created a textbook to help readers learn how to address the root of depression and anxiety.

“The map shows people how to get back to where they were before all of their problems started,” he said. “Basically you get back to being in a place of love. If you look at a kid that’s playing with a big smile, they’re actually in a place of being in the present.”

The book helps readers develop an understanding of what they are feeling inside and the purpose of those emotions, according to Jacoby.

“My dream would be for everybody to have this as a textbook for a quarter in high school,” Jacoby said, “preferably in the ninth grade before high school takes its toll, because you’re going to be focused on relationships and social interactions more than you’re focused on your academics and no one has given anybody a textbook.”

Allyn Adcock has been the guidance counselor for the freshman class, as well roughly half of the sophomores, at Owen High School for three years. She said ninth grade brings “a lot more independence” for students that are coming up from the middle school level.

“We know that developmentally, social interactions are of extreme importance at that age,” she said. “The increased freedom, combined with having more students around them, is a really important time.”

Anxiety and depression are common for students navigating adolescence, when children are developing their identities, according to Adcock. Students arrive at school in various stages of preparedness.

“We have a lot of students that come in very equipped to handle the stress of freshman year, and we have some that are less equipped,” she said. “It really depends life experience, traumas in a student’s life and even family and community support. We really see a wide range.”

Adcock believes that all schools could benefit from curriculum such as Jacoby’s.

“I think there should be more of an emphasis on healthy relationships and positive communication nationwide,” she said. “As well as lessons on how to cope with anxiety and depression, which every human deals with in their life.”

“The Map to Love” is available on Amazon.com and has received endorsements from New York Times best-selling authors Marci Shimoff, who authored “Happy for No Reason” and “Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul,” and Wes Moore, who wrote “The Other Wes Moore.”