The Gift of TherapyIrvin Yalom
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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