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The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients Paperback – May 12, 2009
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“An absorbing guide” (Boston Globe)
About the Author
Irvin D. Yalom, M.D., is the author of Love's Executioner, Momma and the Meaning of Life, Lying on the Couch, The Schopenhauer Cure, When Nietzsche Wept, as well as several classic textbooks on psychotherapy, including The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, considered the foremost work on group therapy. The Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Stanford University, he divides his practice between Palo Alto, where he lives, and San Francisco, California.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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?".Read more ›
But it left me with questions for the author (and some serious reservations)--never a good feeling at the end of a book.
On the one hand, I appreciate that his training was to remain distant from patients where, as he described it, even helping an elderly woman put on a coat would be frowned on. I appreciate that, through experience with real-life patients, he realized the importance of establishing warmth, an interpersonal connection, a -human- relationship with patients rather than a distant "psychiatrist-as-remote-God-like" figure.
However, reading many of the chapters here, I couldn't help but think some of the therapy methods he describes could be too intimate and too seductive with his patients. I kept feeling that it would be very easy to act like this and wind up crossing the line--or being misunderstood--in a therapy setting. Sexual attraction (and, as he says, even unconsummated love that is mutually felt) is a recurrent theme in so many stories he shares from his practice.
There seemed to me to be much too much emphasis on talking about the therapist-patient relationship each week. Dr. Yalom writes, over and over, that he realizes he is far more important to his patients, personally, than they are to him. And yet he also seemed to intentionally intensify their feelings for him in the course of therapy, giving example after example of how he pushed them to share dreams about him, fantasies about him, etc.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Students are excited to have it in their collection. Good condition.Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
This is a good book but keep in mind that the theorist behind it is from the existentialist school of thought and much of what is discussed related to that particular theory.Published 3 months ago by Cricket2050
Beautifully written starting point for orienting psychotherapy patients to psychoanalytic and psychodynamic type psychotherapy.Published 3 months ago by Dr. Lovina Chahal
Love, love, love. Can't say enough about this book. A must read for newer clinicians!!Published 3 months ago by Wendy