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The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients Paperback – May 12, 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 274 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“[Yalom’s] wise ideas are perfectly accessible.” (Publishers Weekly)

“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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1 edition (May 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061719617
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061719615
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (274 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,530 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dr. Yalom is a good writer and offers a unique perspective here on his decades of work in psychotherapy. It's definitely thought-provoking reading, and very easy to follow.

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.
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