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The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients Paperback – January 7, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Speaking directly to the current generation of counselors, The Gift of Therapy lays out simple suggestions that blend personal experience with professional objectivity. This is a book that will remind you why you entered the field in the first place. With tips on avoiding diagnosis (except for insurance purposes), when to disclose personal information, and why it's important to leave time between patient appointments, the recommendations are aimed at therapists, but they may be useful to patients who want to know what to expect from their counselors. Some references to the DSM-IV may be a little over the layperson’s head, but in general the writing is clear and understandable for lay readers as well as professionals.

Each chapter is just a few pages long, a nice format for busy folks whose reading time occurs in snippets. A single topic is addressed in each chapter, and author Irvin Yalom doesn't waste any time in getting to the point. Many of the sections revolve around balancing the "magic, mystery, and authority" that come with the job of freeing your clients of their reliance on you.

From when to offer an occasional hug to finding the perfect time for deeper questioning, Yalom's experienced observations will help you achieve even greater professional effectiveness while avoiding some of the more obvious traps in this HMO-directed age of mental health care. --Jill Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

If the future of psychotherapy lies in psychopharmaceuticals and the short-term therapies stipulated by HMOs, argues Yalom, then the profession is in trouble. Yalom, the recipient of both major awards given by the American Psychiatric Association, professor emeritus of psychiatry at Stanford and the author of both fiction and nonfiction volumes about psychotherapy, writes this book in response to that crisis. Based on knowledge gained from his 35 years of practice, the resulting book of tips (a "gift" for the next generation of therapists) is an enlightening refutation of "brief, superficial, and insubstantial" forms of therapy. Yalom, who references Rilke and Nietzsche as well as Freud's protege Karen Horney and the founder of client-centered therapy, Carl Rogers, describes therapy as "a genuine encounter with another person." He suggests that therapists avoid making DSM IV diagnoses (except for insurance purposes), since these "threaten the human, the spontaneous, the creative and uncertain nature of the therapeutic venture." He also encourages psychotherapists to use dream analysis, group therapy and, when appropriate, wholly inventive forms of treatment. Traditionalists will probably squirm at some of his suggestions (particularly "Revealing the Therapist's Personal Life" and "Don't Be Afraid of Touching Your Patient"). Other tips, though, such as "Never Be Sexual with Patients" are no-brainers. Although the book dies somewhat in the second half, and not much here is new, the wise ideas are perfectly accessible. (Jan.)Forecast: Yalom has explored many of these ideas before. His followers will certainly be charmed, and newcomers patients as much as therapists may be won over by his openness and tender tone.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (January 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060938110
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060938116
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #71,853 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University. Author of nonfiction psychiatry texts, novels, and books of stories. Currently in private practice of psychiatry in Palo Alto and San Francisco, California.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

145 of 150 people found the following review helpful By Tw Rutledge on January 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Twenty years ago when I read Irvin Yalom's Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, I knew that I wanted to be a psychotherapist. These 20 years later, reading The Gift of Therapy, I am reminded that I made an excellent choice.
Irv Yalom's "open letter to a new generation of therapists and their patients" speaks to three essential aspects of myself: the psychotherapist, the human being, and the writer.
As a psychotherapist I am validated for thinking outside the traditional boxes and challenged to keep learning with every client I see. Yalom offers everything from specific suggested questions to ask clients to the wisdom of his experience such as "therapy should not be theory-driven, but relationship-driven," and "though the physicality of death destroys us, the idea of death can save us."
As a human being I am reminded that there is seldom --- if ever --- only one valid explanation for how we become who we are. And I am enlightened by Yalom's reminder of Paul Tilich's list of four "ultimate concerns" --- death, isolation, meaning, and freedom.
As a writer I am thoroughly entertained by how Yalom puts a sentence together. For instance, speaking of the importance of dream interpretation in therapy, he writes, "Pillage and loot the dream, take out of it whatever seems valuable, and don't fret about the discarded shell."
Most of all, as I close my now well-worn, underlined and dog-eared copy of Irv Yalom's new book, I am inspired by the man and the psychotherapist who has been, and remains, a hero of mine. (I suppose Irv would consider that literary transference.)
Bottomline: great book for therapists and non-therapists alike.
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78 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne Retzinger on December 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
The Gift of Therapy
by Irvin Yalom, M.D.
Reviewed by Suzanne M. Retzinger, Ph.D.
Waiting for my brother to complete his three-hour dialysis, I browsed the bookshelf provided for the waiting. I came across Love's Executioner and read it for the first time. I had read Yalom's Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy text in grad school - like all requirements. Now he grabbed me by the shoulders and forced me to listen - inspired, I had to read more and found The Gift of Therapy (2003, Perennial edition; 263 pages $12.95).
Yalom is the first, of many that I've read on the therapeutic relationship, who doesn't "talk" about the therapeutic relationship - but "shows" it - a path for the bold to venture, a real connection between therapist and patient. My interest in his work lies in his openness about his own feelings and how he uses them therapeutically. Nothing, he says, "takes precedence over care and maintenance of my relationship to the patient,... and how we regard each other." Most patients come to therapy starving for intimacy, their conflicts being precisely in this area - and it is the therapeutic relationship, itself, that creates change.
For this reason, the "blank screen" model is far from what Yalom sees as effective patient therapist relationship; he sees therapist opaqueness as counterproductive. Because of the alienated nature of many clients' lives, the here and now space between therapist and patient is what matters. It's about the space that we create with our clients and how we use that space - "the betweenness". Yalom spells out 3 levels of therapist transparency that can be productive or not, asking of each, "is this disclosure in the best interest of the client?".
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54 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Rocco B. Rubino on May 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Long after Dr. Yalom has departed for that great therapist's office in the sky, this book will still be known as a must read for the novice and veteran counselor because of the common-sense and compassionate advice it offers. This is Dr. Yalom's Opus Magnum.
I first came across Dr. Yalom's works when I took a required course in group therapy, and his text on the subject was the reference for the course. It did not take me long to gain a sense of awe at his wisdom, the likes of which can only be compared to something usually reserved for a demi-god. Nevertheless, Dr. Yalom is a wise man who has "been there," and his writings reflect the wisdom of his years.
The Gift of Therapy will renew your sense of passion for the mental health field. Dr. Yalom has a way of giving his readers insight into the therapy process, which affords the practioner or therapist-to-be a vantage point that will make him or her appreciative of all of the good we can do in the service of humankind.
There were times when reading this book, when I had to set it down and ruminate on what I had just read; Dr. Yalom has a way of expressing the profound, without pedantry, and the sublime, without silliness. After reading this book I am literally in awe of this "giant" and I am proud that we are both serving humanity in the same field.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Cassandra on January 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is the latest book by Irvin Yalom, whose books I've been following over the years. From the very first page of the introduction, Yalom's writing is gripping & right to the point. He mentions turning 70 years old, which has made him feel a need to "pass on" his knowledge & some of his experience to younger generations of therapists & patients. This is what he tries to do in this substantial book, a book of tips, long on technique & short on theory (as Yalom himself says).
Each "tip" that Yalom gives comes from years of experience & in most cases, makes perfect sense. Something that should be noted is that his book is not written, I think, for the non-psychologically trained reader. It's aimed towards psychotherapists, & tries to steer them in the direction of good choices & good therapeutic work with clients / patients. Most tips may seem like common sense to most psychologists / psychotherapists, but if you think a little bit more about them, most of them are not used as often as they should be. Also, apart from the more obvious tips, Yalom offers a whole range of extremely innovative (& maybe some times controversial) pieces of advice. These chapters alone are, in my opinion, well worth the price of the book, since they make you sit down & think.
All in all, a great reference book for psychotherapists which comes alive through wonderful, clear writing, & lots of lively clinical examples.
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