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Love's Executioner: & Other Tales of Psychotherapy Paperback – June 5, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 248 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

New York Times
“Dr. Yalom demonstrates once again that in the right hands, the stuff of therapy has the interest of the richest and most inventive fiction.”

Washington Post Book World
“Like Freud, Yalom is a graceful and canny writer. The fascinating, moving, enervating, inspiring, unexpected stuff of psychotherapy is told with economy and, most surprising, with humor.”

Los Angeles Times
“Yalom is a gifted storyteller, and from the sound of these tales, a no-less-gifted psychotherapist. He restores a sense of awe and mystery to an endeavor that all too often gets mired in the muck of jargon and categorization.... In addition to bringing the reader up close to his patients, and to a process often (necessarily) cloaked in secrecy, he gives the reader an un-airbrushed picture of the therapist, warts and all.”

Chicago Tribune
“Here is the naked therapist, stripped of the armor of god-like omniscience, aware of his flaws.”

San Francisco Chronicle
“Inspired.... Yalom writes with the narrative wit of O. Henry and the earthy humor of Isaac Bashevis Singer.”

Newsday
Love’s Executioner is Yalom’s wise, humane, stirring and utterly absorbing account of how 10 of his patients try to cope with what he calls ‘existence pain’ — the knowledge that death is inevitable, that each of us is ultimately alone, that life has no clear meaning, but that we nonetheless have the freedom ‘to make our lives as we will'..... Irvin Yalom’s book is charged with hope and generosity of spirit.”

Miami Herald
“By his honesty and literary talent, Yalom convinces us that these are, in his words, ‘everyman, everywoman stories’ and that in each of these ‘crazies,’ in my word, is a little bit of you and me.”

Toronto Star
“Dr. Irvin Yalom ... bravely steps into this chaotic void in Love’s Executioner ... [H]e brings understanding, order, and the ‘feel’ of the process of psychotherapy as few before him have done.”

Globe and Mail
“Dr. Yalom’s point is not to merely document psychological abnormality, it is to demonstrate that ‘it is possible to confront the truths of existence and harness their power in the service of personal change and growth.’ Read Love’s Executioner, and weep.”

Sunday Herald (Melbourne, Australia)
“[Yalom’s] honesty can be unnerving ... Love’s Executioner offers a tragic, deeply felt vision of the human condition. In demystifying the therapist-patient encounter, Dr. Yalom brings us into broader territory: he reminds us of our need for intimacy and trust and the struggle necessary to achieve them.”

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
“The vicissitudes of neurosis and its treatment have always provided irresistible material for dramatic narratives. In Love’s Executioner Yalom demonstrates that in the right hands, the stuff of therapy has the interest of the richest and most inventive fiction.”

Monterey County Herald
“[I]nsightful.”

Existential Analysis (London)
“In Love’s Executioner I marvelled at Yalom’s courage in writing about therapeutic relationships which had not been a great success and also at his skill in bringing these encounters to life.”

Rollo May
“Irvin Yalom writes like an angel about the devils that besiege us. These beautifully wrought true stories go way beyond therapy; they are incisive and moving tales of life, by a wise psychotherapist.”

Erica Jong
Love’s Executioner is one of those rare books that suggests both the mystery and the poetry of the psychotherapeutic process. The best therapists are at least partly poets. With this riveting and beautifully written book, Irvin Yalom has joined their ranks.”

Bernie S. Siegel
“These stories are wonderful. They make us realize that within every human being lie the pain and beauty that make life worthwhile.”

Phillip Lopate
“This is an impressive transformation of clinical experience into literature. Dr. Yalom’s case histories are more gripping than 98 percent of the fiction published today, and he has gone to amazing lengths of honesty to depict himself as a realistic flesh-and-blood character: funny, flawed, perverse, and above all, understanding.”

Maggie Scarf
“These remarkably moving and instructive tales of the psychiatric encounter bring the reader into novel territories of the mind — and the landscape is truly unforgettable.

Anthony Storr
“Dr. Yalom is unusually honest, both with his patients and about himself.”

Joanne Greenberg
“I loved Love’s Executioner. Dr. Yalom has learned something that fiction writers learned years ago — that people’s mistakes are a lot more interesting than their triumphs.”

About the Author

Irvin D. Yalom, M.D., is an emeritus professor of psychiatry at Stanford University and a psychiatrist in private practice in San Francisco. He is the author of many books, including Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, The Gift of Therapy, and When Nietzsche Wept.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 2 edition (June 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465020119
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465020119
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (248 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first read Love's Executioner a few years ago and was so taken with it, I've recommended it dozens of times. Recently, I listened to the audio version Love's Executioner: & Other Tales of Psychotherapy, which was great (it also includes an interesting interview with Irvin Yalom) and I heard some things I hadn't picked up when reading it. In fact, I realized this work has such depth, it is worth revisiting again and again. What makes it so good? It contains the wisdom of a master existential therapist, who is also a gifted storyteller (Love's Executioner is non-fiction, based on real case histories, but it reads like fine fiction).

And what is existential psychotherapy? It begins with the idea that our fundamental psychological dis-ease results from difficulties baked into human existence, such as our fear of death and our ultimate aloneness. Or as Yalom writes in Love's Executioner prologue: There are "four givens that are particularly relevant to psychotherapy: the inevitability of death for each of us and for those we love, the freedom to make our lives as we will, our ultimate aloneness, and, finally, the absence of any obvious meaning or sense to life. However grim these givens may seem, they contain the seeds of wisdom and redemption. I hope to demonstrate, in these ten tales of psychotherapy, that it is possible to confront the truths of existence and harness their power in the service of personal change and growth." *

That paragraph captures the core blueprint of the book, but if you stopped there you'd be missing out. Like all great artists, Yalom brings those essential issues to life so you feel them in your bones.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book should be required reading for anybody either undergoing psychotherapy or providing it. Irvin Yalom uses his experience with ten clients to illustrate how people change in therapy. Sometimes the change comes out of brilliant insights, sometimes it comes from the therapist's mistakes. Either way, Yalom's integrity in relating these vignettes helps the reader understand the process better.
If you're not in therapy, perhaps this book will help you understand yourself and your internal processes a bit better. Which of Yalom's patients do you identify with? Which to you totally reject? Either of those patients, and Yalom's treatment of them, has something to teach you.
If you are in therapy, notice how Yalom treats his patients, how he thinks about them. How does this compare to your relationship with your therapist? Do you experience the same challenges, the same caring, the same dynamic? Or do you just show up and whine for an hour?
As a therapist, I found Yalom's work particularly brave. Who would write a book about their mistakes? Yet, from his mistakes, I find myself learning--and also better enabled to learn from my mistakes. Reading Love's Executioner helped to keep me from sitting on that God-like Throne and remember to be a human being with my clients; a fellow sufferer, an ally in the healing process.
And if the idea of therapy seems not to apply to you, then you may simply find this book a fascinating story about how a thoughtful and insightful man deals with the sorrows, wounds, and needs of other human beings. These stories impart a powerful understanding of human relationships, whether you're involved in therapy or not.
Five stars for candor and courage.
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Format: Paperback
This book was written by a man of great courage. He has openly and honestly exposed all of his personal and professional weaknesses. As a therapist myself, it was refreshing to read an honest representation of what actually occurs in therapy rather than a self-serving and white-washed version of what happened. The strength of this book is in Yalom's ability to express the intricacies of the therapeutic process, the stages that each therapeutic relationship can go through, and its impact on both therapist and client. Another strength, is Yalom's willingness to openly expose his own therapeutic failures. I have learnt a great deal from him about what actually works in therapy. I have also re-learnt the value of not inflicting one's own biases on one's own clients. This problem can be solved by either resolving one's own issues, or referring the client to someone else who may better suit the client's needs. Yalom openly confronted what occurs when a therapist persists with a client, when they are unable to create an effective therapeutic relationship. No-one is perfect, not even the great Yalom. In exposing his own weaknesses, Yalom risks being misunderstood or even ridiculed. However, by taking this risk, Yalom offers the reader the opportunity to thoroughly examine the therapeutic process itself, what works and what fails for therapists and clients alike. It was a great read, I couldn't put it down!
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Format: Paperback
Before pointing out a few caveats about Love's Executioner, I want to first make clear that I believe this is a truly excellent book. But here are some notes, which will address some concerns and potential concerns others may find helpful:

I first picked up Love's Executioner in the early 90s, soon after it came out. At the time, the book was getting a lot of attention. It stayed on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list for quite a while--a rarity, if not an unique achievement, for a book about psychotherapy. So I came to the book with high expectations. I settled in expecting to be dazzled, but after a couple/few chapters lost interest, wondered what the fuss was about, and put it back on the shelf. (I should mention I was in my 20s at the time.) Somewhere along the line, the book disappeared from my library. Recently I bumped into it again, and am very glad I tried again. With the second try, I whipped through the book, absorbed by Dr. Yalom's sensitive, but real portrayal of ten of his patients and his relationship with them. The book is insightful, intimate, and articulately expressed. Good on you Dr. Y.

I'm giving these personal details to illustrate caveat #1: This is a great book, but many will not find it exactly a page turner (though on the second go round, I didn't want to put it down). Despite the dramatic title, we're not talking John Grisham here. The ideal reader will be psychologically oriented. In my case, when I first picked it up I suspect I wasn't mature enough to appreciate its subtlety. I have given this book as a gift to many people. A few of them, were underwhelmed, though in retrospect I should have anticipated that since those friends had never been in therapy and aren't psychologically attuned.
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