powered by centersite dot net
Psychotherapy
Resources
Basic InformationMore InformationLatest NewsQuestions and AnswersVideosLinksBook Reviews
Maximizing Effectiveness in Dynamic Psychotherapy Self-Compassion in Psychotherapy101 Healing Stories101 Things I Wish I'd Known When I Started Using HypnosisA Primer for Beginning PsychotherapyA Therapist's Guide to Understanding Common Medical ProblemsACT With LoveAlready FreeAssessment and Treatment of Childhood Problems, Second EditionBad TherapyBefore ForgivingBeing a Brain-Wise TherapistBiofeedback for the BrainBody PsychotherapyBody SenseBoundaries and Boundary Violations in PsychoanalysisBrain Change TherapyBreaking ApartBuffy the Vampire Slayer and PhilosophyBuilding on BionCare of the PsycheChoosing an Online TherapistClinical Handbook of Psychological DisordersClinical Intuition in PsychotherapyClinical Pearls of WisdomCo-Creating ChangeCompassion and Healing in Medicine and SocietyConfessions of a Former ChildConfidential RelationshipsConfidentiality and Mental HealthConfidingContemplative Psychotherapy EssentialsCouch FictionCounseling with Choice TheoryCritical Issues in PsychotherapyCrucial Choices, Crucial ChangesDecoding the Ethics CodeDepression 101Depression in ContextDo-It-Yourself Eye Movement Techniques for Emotional HealingDoing CBTDoing ItE-TherapyEncountering the Sacred in PsychotherapyEnergy Psychology InteractiveEssays on Philosophical CounselingEthics in Psychotherapy and CounselingEveryday Mind ReadingExpressing EmotionFacing Human SufferingFairbairn's Object Relations Theory in the Clinical SettingFamily TherapyFavorite Counseling and Therapy Homework AssignmentsFlourishingFlying ColorsGod & TherapyHandbook of Clinical Psychopharmacology for TherapistsHandbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual ClientsHealing the Heart and Mind with MindfulnessHealing the Soul in the Age of the BrainHeinz KohutHow People ChangeHow to Give Her Absolute PleasureHow to Go to TherapyIf Only I Had KnownIn SessionIn Therapy We TrustIn Treatment: Season 1Incorporating Spirituality in Counseling and PsychotherapyIs Long-Term Therapy Unethical?Issues in Philosophical CounselingIt’s Your HourLearning from Our MistakesLetters to a Young TherapistLogotherapy and Existential AnalysisLove's ExecutionerMan's Search for MeaningMetaphoria: Metaphor and Guided Metaphor for Psychotherapy and HealingMindfulness and AcceptanceMindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for DepressionMindworks: An Introduction to NLPMockingbird YearsMomma and the Meaning of LifeMotivational Interviewing: Preparing People For ChangeMulticulturalism and the Therapeutic ProcessOf Two MindsOn the CouchOne Nation Under TherapyOur Inner WorldOvercoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and BehaviorsPhilosophical CounselingPhilosophical MidwiferyPhilosophical PracticePhilosophy and PsychotherapyPhilosophy for Counselling and PsychotherapyPhilosophy PracticePhilosophy's Role in Counseling and PsychotherapyPlato, Not Prozac!Psychologists Defying the CrowdPsychology, Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis, and the Politics of Human RelationshipsPsychosis in the FamilyPsychotherapyPsychotherapyPsychotherapy As PraxisPsychotherapy for Children and AdolescentsPsychotherapy for Personality DisordersRational Emotive Behavior TherapyRational Emotive Behavior TherapyRationality and the Pursuit of HappinessRecovery OptionsRent Two Films and Let's Talk in the MorningSaving the Modern SoulSecond-order Change in PsychotherapySelf MattersSelf-Compassion in PsychotherapySelf-Determination Theory in the ClinicSexual Orientation and Psychodynamic PsychotherapyStrangers to OurselvesTaking America Off DrugsTales of PsychotherapyThe Art of HypnosisThe Case Formulation Approach to Cognitive-Behavior TherapyThe Crucible of ExperienceThe Education of Mrs. BemisThe Fall Of An IconThe Gift of TherapyThe Great Psychotherapy Debate: The Evidence for What Makes Psychotherapy Work The Husbands and Wives ClubThe Love CureThe Making of a TherapistThe Mummy at the Dining Room TableThe Neuroscience of PsychotherapyThe Neuroscience of Psychotherapy: Healing the Social BrainThe New PsychoanalysisThe Philosopher's Autobiography The Portable CoachThe Portable Ethicist for Mental Health Professionals The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday LifeThe Problem with Cognitive Behavioural TherapyThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Psychotherapy Documentation PrimerThe Real World Guide to Psychotherapy PracticeThe Schopenhauer CureThe Talking CureThe Therapeutic "Aha!"The Therapist's Guide to Psychopharmacology, Revised EditionThe Therapist's Ultimate Solution BookThe UnsayableThe Wing of MadnessTheory and Practice of Brief TherapyTherapyTheraScribe 4.0Thinking about ThinkingThriveToward a Psychology of AwakeningTracking Mental Health OutcomesTreating Attachment DisordersWhat the Buddha FeltWhat Works for Whom? Second EditionWhy Psychoanalysis?Yoga Therapy
Related Topics

Psychological Testing
Mental Disorders
Mental Health Professions

by Irvin D. Yalom
Harperperennial, 2001
Review by Heather C. Liston on May 23rd 2002

The Gift of Therapy

            For the general reader interested in psychotherapy, there is no more interesting writer than Irvin D. Yalom.  The author of eleven previous books, one of which (When Nietzsche Wept) is actually a novel, Yalom is a psychiatrist and practicing therapist who also happens to be a gifted storyteller.

            His newest book, The Gift of Therapy carries the subtitle “An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients,” and it consists of eighty-five very short essays on what he has learned in thirty-five years in practice.  He brings to his work as a writer the power of experience—as a therapist, and also as a patient.  He himself has been through Freudian analysis, gestalt therapy, Rolfing, marital-couples work, support groups, and even—in the 1960’s—a nude encounter group, and he has studied and worked with some of the great names in the history of his field (Rollo May, Eric Erickson, and others).  There seems to be no sort of patient he has not encountered and no question about the process of therapy with which has not personally struggled.

In fact, speaking of experience, one of the best parts of the book is the dedication: “To Marilyn, soulmate for over fifty years and still counting.”  The author’s wife, Marilyn Yalom, Ph.D., is the senior scholar at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Stanford University and, like Yalom, a writer both serious and popular. This tribute to an extraordinarily long relationship between two professionally successful people is as powerful an argument for effective therapy and self-examination as anything else in the book.

            In these eighty-five chapters of one to three pages each, Yalom offers manageable bits of advice, embedded with intriguing stories of real patients.  Some of his suggestions seem almost obvious (“Therapists must be aware of their own dark side and be able to empathize with all human wishes and impulses.”) and some are more startling (“I make it a point to touch each patient each hour . . .) but all are thought-provoking.  Admitting at all times that therapists are human too, he rejects the “blank slate” school of therapy that says the doctor should reveal nothing of himself so as to be available for pure transference.  Of course the therapist is a real person with a life and feelings of his own, says Yalom, and it is not only OK to reveal that, it is therapeutic for the patient.  In fact, “Therapist disclosure begets patient disclosure.”  He offers thoughts on coping with sexual attraction to patients, and ways of dealing with your feelings about patients who repulse or annoy you.

            There is a welcome lack of orthodoxy in Yalom’s work.  He seems open to a variety of methods, applied with the individual patient and situation in mind: “the task of experience therapists [is to] establish a relationship with the patient characterized by genuineness, positive unconditional regard, and spontaneity.”  Therefore, he says, “the therapist must strive to create a new therapy for each patient.” How to do that is much of the content of this book: how to listen; how to empathize; how to provide useful feedback without upsetting your patient; how to upset the patient when appropriate so as to provoke her to new insights and difficult growth.

            The Gift of Therapy is a quick read.  You can zip through it all in one sitting, or digest each pithy, self-contained essay one at a time, while sitting in your therapist’s waiting room.  If you do, you will almost certainly get some good ideas about what to discuss with her when you go in, and how to do it.

 

© 2002 Heather C. Liston

Heather C. Liston studied Religion at Princeton University and earned a Masters degree from the NYU Graduate School of Business Administration. She is the Director of Development for The Santa Fe Children's Museum, and writes extensively on a variety of topics. Her book reviews and other work have appeared in Self, Women Outside, The Princeton Alumni Weekly, Appalachia, Your Health and elsewhere.