The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients

The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients

by Irvin Yalom


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061719615
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/19/2017
Series: P.S. Series
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 36,695
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

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.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Remove the Obstacles to Growth

When I was finding my way as a young psychotherapy student, the most useful book I read was Karen Horney's Neurosis and Human Growth. And the single most useful concept in that book was the notion that the human being has an inbuilt propensity toward self-realization. If obstacles are removed, Horney believed, the individual will develop into a mature, fully realized adult, just as an acorn will develop into an oak tree.

"Just as an acorn develops into an oak..." What a wonderfully liberating and clarifying image! It forever changed my approach to psychotherapy by offering me a new vision of my work: My task was to remove obstacles blocking my patient's path. I did not have to do the entire job; I did not have to inspirit the patient with the desire to grow, with curiosity, will, zest for life, caring, loyalty, or any of the myriad of characteristics that make us fully human. No, what I had to do was to identify and remove obstacles. The rest would follow automatically, fueled by the self-actualizing forces within the patient.

I remember a young widow with, as she put it, a "failed heart" -- an inability ever to love again. It felt daunting to address the inability to love. I didn't know how to do that. But dedicating myself to identifying and uprooting her many blocks to loving? I could do that.

I soon learned that love felt treasonous to her. To love another was to betray her dead husband; it felt to her like pounding the final nails in her husband's coffin. To love another asdeeply as she did her husband (and she would settle for nothing less) meant that her love for her husband had been in some way insufficient or flawed. To love another would be self-destructive because loss, and the searing pain of loss, was inevitable. To love again felt irresponsible: she was evil and jinxed, and her kiss was the kiss of death.

We worked hard for many months to identify all these obstacles to her loving another man. For months we wrestled with each irrational obstacle in turn. But once that was done, the patient's internal processes took over: she met a man, she fell in love, she married again. I didn't have to teach her to search, to give, to cherish, to love -- I wouldn't have known how to do that.

A few words about Karen Horney: Her name is unfamiliar to most young therapists. Because the shelf life of eminent theorists in our field has grown so short, I shall, from time to time, lapse into reminiscence -- not merely for the sake of paying homage but to emphasize the point that our field has a long history of remarkably able contributors who have laid deep foundations for our therapy work today.

One uniquely American addition to psychodynamic theory is embodied in the "neo- Freudian" movement -- a group of clinicians and theorists who reacted against Freud's original focus on drive theory, that is, the notion that the developing individual is largely controlled by the unfolding and expression of inbuilt drives.

Instead, the neo-Freudians emphasized that we consider the vast influence of the interpersonal environment that envelops the individual and that, throughout life, shapes character structure. The best-known interpersonal theorists, Harry Stack Sullivan, Erich Fromm, and Karen Horney, have been so deeply integrated and assimilated into our therapy language and practice that we are all, without knowing it, neo-Freudians. One is reminded of Monsieur Jourdain in Molière's Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, who, upon learning the definition of "prose," exclaims with wonderment, "To think that all my life I've been speaking prose without knowing it."

The Gift of Therapy. Copyright © by Irvin Yalom. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1Remove the Obstacles to Growth1
Chapter 2Avoid Diagnosis (Except for Insurance Companies)4
Chapter 3Therapist and Patient as "Fellow Travelers"6
Chapter 4Engage the Patient11
Chapter 5Be Supportive13
Chapter 6Empathy: Looking Out the Patient's Window17
Chapter 7Teach Empathy23
Chapter 8Let the Patient Matter to You26
Chapter 9Acknowledge Your Errors30
Chapter 10Create a New Therapy for Each Patient33
Chapter 11The Therapeutic Act, Not the Therapeutic Word37
Chapter 12Engage in Personal Therapy40
Chapter 13The Therapist Has Many Patients; The Patient, One Therapist44
Chapter 14The Here-and-Now--Use It, Use It, Use It46
Chapter 15Why Use the Here-and-Now?47
Chapter 16Using the Here-and-Now--Grow Rabbit Ears49
Chapter 17Search for Here-and-Now Equivalents52
Chapter 18Working Through Issues in the Here-and-Now58
Chapter 19The Here-and-Now Energizes Therapy62
Chapter 20Use Your Own Feelings as Data65
Chapter 21Frame Here-and-Now Comments Carefully68
Chapter 22All Is Grist for the Here-and-Now Mill70
Chapter 23Check into the Here-and-Now Each Hour72
Chapter 24What Lies Have You Told Me?74
Chapter 25Blank Screen? Forget It! Be Real75
Chapter 26Three Kinds of Therapist Self-Disclosure83
Chapter 27The Mechanism of Therapy--Be Transparent84
Chapter 28Revealing Here-and-Now Feelings--Use Discretion87
Chapter 29Revealing the Therapist's Personal Life--Use Caution90
Chapter 30Revealing Your Personal Life--Caveats94
Chapter 31Therapist Transparency and Universality97
Chapter 32Patients Will Resist Your Disclosure99
Chapter 33Avoid the Crooked Cure102
Chapter 34On Taking Patients Further Than You Have Gone104
Chapter 35On Being Helped by Your Patient106
Chapter 36Encourage Patient Self-Disclosure109
Chapter 37Feedback in Psychotherapy112
Chapter 38Provide Feedback Effectively and Gently115
Chapter 39Increase Receptiveness to Feedback by Using "Parts"119
Chapter 40Feedback: Strike When the Iron Is Cold121
Chapter 41Talk About Death124
Chapter 42Death and Life Enhancement126
Chapter 43How to Talk About Death129
Chapter 44Talk About Life Meaning133
Chapter 45Freedom137
Chapter 46Helping Patients Assume Responsibility139
Chapter 47Never (Almost Never) Make Decisions for the Patient142
Chapter 48Decisions: A Via Regia into Existential Bedrock146
Chapter 49Focus on Resistance to Decision148
Chapter 50Facilitating Awareness by Advice Giving150
Chapter 51Facilitating Decisions--Other Devices155
Chapter 52Conduct Therapy as a Continuous Session158
Chapter 53Take Notes of Each Session160
Chapter 54Encourage Self-Monitoring162
Chapter 55When Your Patient Weeps164
Chapter 56Give Yourself Time Between Patients166
Chapter 57Express Your Dilemmas Openly168
Chapter 58Do Home Visits171
Chapter 59Don't Take Explanation Too Seriously174
Chapter 60Therapy-Accelerating Devices179
Chapter 61Therapy as a Dress Rehearsal for Life182
Chapter 62Use the Initial Complaint as Leverage184
Chapter 63Don't Be Afraid of Touching Your Patient187
Chapter 64Never Be Sexual with Patients191
Chapter 65Look for Anniversary and Life-Stage Issues195
Chapter 66Never Ignore "Therapy Anxiety"197
Chapter 67Doctor, Take Away My Anxiety200
Chapter 68On Being Love's Executioner201
Chapter 69Taking a History206
Chapter 70A History of the Patient's Daily Schedule208
Chapter 71How Is the Patient's Life Peopled?210
Chapter 72Interview the Significant Other211
Chapter 73Explore Previous Therapy213
Chapter 74Sharing the Shade of the Shadow215
Chapter 75Freud Was Not Always Wrong217
Chapter 76CBT Is Not What It's Cracked Up to Be ... Or, Don't Be Afraid of the EVT Boogeyman222
Chapter 77Dreams--Use Them, Use Them, Use Them225
Chapter 78Full Interpretation of a Dream? Forget It!227
Chapter 79Use Dreams Pragmatically: Pillage and Loot228
Chapter 80Master Some Dream Navigational Skills235
Chapter 81Learn About the Patient's Life from Dreams238
Chapter 82Pay Attention to the First Dream243
Chapter 83Attend Carefully to Dreams About the Therapist246
Chapter 84Beware the Occupational Hazards251
Chapter 85Cherish the Occupational Privileges256

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Gift of Therapy 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
BriBriNY More than 1 year ago
I am currently in graduate school and plan on working as a counselor once I've finished. I have found this book informative and enjoyable to read. The insights are shared in a way that is unique from other books, since this one doesn't follow a typical textbook format. Highly recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a fan of Yalom and this book did not disappoint! As a psychologist in private practice, I enjoyed reading and learning from this master therapist. As a teacher, I found the brief chapters easy to read and accessible to students and practitioners of all levels.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is great. I am a student currently studying psychology and found this to be very helpful in teaching me more about the events that go on in a therapists office that you can not find in a textbook.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm a therapist and I recommend this book to all my colleagues - seasoned therapists and trainees alike.
celticgoldusa More than 1 year ago
How could I, a lowly counseling psychology masters student, ever provide negative feedback to the most awesome Irv Yalom?! In fact, this may be one of the single most important books I have ever read in the history of my masters degree on the subject of actually being in the room with a client. It is at once funny, touching, deeply personal, and most importantly, very educational. This book comes with my highest recommendation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book has been refreshing to read. The format is conversational, almost as though Yalom is talking out his thoughts to the reader. Yalom is clear to state that the points made are his opinion but I find that his techniques do not always disagree with other therapy orientations...overall, The Gift of Therapy is a very good book to have in one's therapist library, to read over and over.
Lindsay_H More than 1 year ago
Yalom is incredibly insightful. I like the format; it made for quick and easy reading to have each topic labeled so clearly.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although THE GIFT OF THERAPY is written primarily for therapists and their patients, it offers a gift as well to those who are not currently in therapy--or who have never been. Many of the "tips"--85 in all--give advice about how to establish a caring, supportive, empathetic relationship, the heart of therapy according to Yalom. But is this not the heart of any meaninful relationship, whether with friend, lover, child, or even close business associate? This book distills the experience of decades of doing therapy, both individual and group, in jargon-free language (remember Yalom is also a novelist), but it also calls on the wisdom of a tradition that includes Freud and Jung, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, and contemporary therapists as well. I just reread GIFT OF THERAPY after six months, and was happily surprised at how often I had called upon the ideas in the book to enhance and deepen my everyday relationships
Guest More than 1 year ago
I much preferred Dreams: Gateway to the True Self. It just had more depth and insight to the questions we really want answered.
Parthurbook on LibraryThing 26 days ago
My first Yalom book, and it's clear that he writes with great insight from many years of experience. The advice in here - a series of letters and notes to Clients and therapists alike - are rooted in a profound understanding of the relationship between two people in a room, one of whom is seeking 'answers', the other seeking to help. Practical and engaging.
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