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The Gift of Therapy


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If the future of psychotherapy lies in psychopharmaceuticals and the short-term therapies stipulated by HMOs, argues Yalom, then the profession is in trouble. Yalom, the recipient of both major awards given by the American Psychiatric Association, professor emeritus of psychiatry at Stanford and the author of both fiction and nonfiction volumes about psychotherapy, writes this book in response to that crisis. Based on knowledge gained from his 35 years of practice, the resulting book of tips (a "gift" for the next generation of therapists) is an enlightening refutation of "brief, superficial, and insubstantial" forms of therapy. Yalom, who references Rilke and Nietzsche as well as Freud's protege Karen Horney and the founder of client-centered therapy, Carl Rogers, describes therapy as "a genuine encounter with another person." He suggests that therapists avoid making DSM IV diagnoses (except for insurance purposes), since these "threaten the human, the spontaneous, the creative and uncertain nature of the therapeutic venture." He also encourages psychotherapists to use dream analysis, group therapy and, when appropriate, wholly inventive forms of treatment. Traditionalists will probably squirm at some of his suggestions (particularly "Revealing the Therapist's Personal Life" and "Don't Be Afraid of Touching Your Patient"). Other tips, though, such as "Never Be Sexual with Patients" are no-brainers. Although the book dies somewhat in the second half, and not much here is new, the wise ideas are perfectly accessible. (Jan.) Forecast: Yalom has explored many of these ideas before. His followers will certainly be charmed, and newcomers patients as much as therapists may be won over by his openness and tender tone. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

These two books defend the professional treatment of psychological problems by listening and responding in the Freudian manner, and they deplore the current dominance of neuroscience, pharmacology, and behaviorism. In Why Psychoanalysis?, French psychoanalyst, historian, and critic Roudinesco refers to our "depressive society" and our loss of subjectivity in the era of individuality. She fiercely defends Freud against "fanatical" opponents, even claiming that he was not antifeminist. Roudinesco will appeal to scholars of Freud and Jacques Lacan, of whom some knowledge is assumed. Unfortunately, though Roudinesco wants psychoanalysis to be a science, she often waxes polemical when a clear, objective evaluation of Freud is needed. For that, a general audience will be better served by Elio Frattaroli's Healing the Soul in the Age of the Brain (LJ 8/01). For a more readable presentation of the cultural nexus of psychiatry, Julian Leff's The Unbalanced Mind (LJ 11/15/01) is outstanding. In The Gift of Therapy, Yalom (psychiatry, emeritus, Stanford) writes for both the professional and the lay reader a good idea, since educated consumers help bring professionals into the real world. He favors some self-disclosure by therapists, home visits, meeting with significant others, nonsexual touching, and time for reflection on each session. In 85 short chapters, he presents little pearls of ideas shaped from 35 years in practice. Yalom's view that the therapist is also healed in the process reminds this reviewer of James P. Carse's philosophy. Yalom's latest is essential for therapy trainers and fine for general libraries with psychology and self-help collections. For a general selection of this respected psychiatrist's earlier work, including fiction, consider The Yalom Reader (Basic Bks: Perseus, 1998). E. James Lieberman, George Washington Univ. Sch. of Medicine, Washington, DC Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

"[Yalom's] wise ideas are perfectly accessible." -- Publishers Weekly
"An absorbing guide" -- Boston Globe

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