The Gift of Therapy

Just finished reading "The Gift of Therapy" by the noted psychiatrist and therapist, Irvin Yalom, MD. I had read Dr. Yalom's writings on group psychotherapy and his hilarious and poignant case studies in the book "Love's Executioner." "The Gift of Therapy" is a well-written look at case studies that form an open letter to today's therapists. As soon as I finished the book, I passed it on to a gifted client who is in graduate school, preparing to become a therapist. There is no more interesting writer in the field of psychotherapy than Dr. Yalom. He is a gifted storyteller with a wonderful mind that can easily analyze an individual client and the broader issues in the industry. What strikes me about Dr. Yalom is both how he truly belongs to no school of therapy -- cognitive behavioral or insight-oriented or psychodynamic, for example -- but instead has an amazing ability to pick and choose different elements of each school to create a unique therapy for each of his clients. What a neat philosophy - a welcome lack of orthodoxy, a recognition that each client has truly different needs that goes beyond that general concept -- which everyone can agree on -- and permeates his therapy. I find in my work life coaching and in my own personal therapy this line from the book sums up what works best: “the task of experience therapists [is to] establish a relationship with the patient characterized by genuineness, positive unconditional regard, and spontaneity.” One of the reasons I choose life coaching as opposed to tradition therapy is that it allows me to more freely bring to bear a wider variety of individualized treatments for my clients. The other striking thing about Dr. Yalom is his willingness to admit his mistakes, in the book and to his clients in session, and his ability to use those mistakes he makes as a touchstone for his clients learning and his own. It's insightful and a great read. I finished it in one evening.

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