Gift of Therapy, The

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" Anyone interested in psychotherapy or personal growth will rejoice at the publication of The Gift of Therapy, a masterwork from one of today's most accomplished psychological thinkers. From his thirty-five years as a practicing psychiatrist and as an award-winning author, Irvin D. Yalom imparts his unique wisdom in The Gift of Therapy. This remarkable guidebook for successful therapy is, as Yalom remarks, 'an idiosyncratic melange of ideas and techniques that I have found useful in my work. These ideas are so personal, opinionated, and occasionally original that the reader is unlikely to encounter them elsewhere. I selected the eighty-five categories in this volume randomly guided by my passion for the task rather than any particular order or system.'

At once startlingly profound and irresistibly practical, Yalom's insights will help enrich the therapeutic process for a new generation of patients and counselors.


Speaking directly to the current generation of counselors, The Gift of Therapy lays out simple suggestions that blend personal experience with professional objectivity. This is a book that will remind you why you entered the field in the first place. With tips on avoiding diagnosis (except for insurance purposes), when to disclose personal information, and why it's important to leave time between patient appointments, the recommendations are aimed at therapists, but they may be useful to patients who want to know what to expect from their counselors. Some references to the DSM-IV may be a little over the layperson¡¯s head, but in general the writing is clear and understandable for lay readers as well as professionals.

Each chapter is just a few pages long, a nice format for busy folks whose reading time occurs in snippets. A single topic is addressed in each chapter, and author Irvin Yalom doesn't waste any time in getting to the point. Many of the sections revolve around balancing the "magic, mystery, and authority" that come with the job of freeing your clients of their reliance on you.

From when to offer an occasional hug to finding the perfect time for deeper questioning, Yalom's experienced observations will help you achieve even greater professional effectiveness while avoiding some of the more obvious traps in this HMO-directed age of mental health care. --Jill Lightner

Customer Reviews:

  • Great book for beginning therapists
    I read this book as part of a practicum course in my clinical psychology doctoral program. While more advanced therapists might find it a bit basic, it's very helpful to beginning therapists, and it is written in a way that makes it very accessible. Highly recommended. ...more info
  • Tips on how to do Good Work
    Although I'm not currently working as a therapist, I still enjoy reading books about therapy from time to time. I read Yalom's Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy in graduate school and highly enjoyed it, so I hoped I would find this book interesting as well.
    In this text Yalom offers advice to therapists that he has gleaned through his years of work as a therapist and as a client. Some of the main things he discusses here are how important it is for a treatment provider to have experienced their own time as a client, how to use the "here and now" in treatment and how vital it is to his own theory of change, and the use of dreams in treatment. Obviously these are just a few of the things he focuses on, but these are what stood out as important and resonated with my own theories of change. The style of the book is great - each chapter discusses one small aspect of the treatment process and some of the chapters flow together as a good lecture in "how to..." should. I think that the best thing about this book is that the chapters are short - they range from one page to at the most four or five pages. This format gives the reader the ability to read the chapter then sit and think about the implications of what was said and how it can be useful to them. As a reader you don't feel the need to go on to the next "part" immediately because the "chapter line" so clearly delineates a new thought or suggestion.
    I highly suggest this book to all treatment providers and students of therapy practices. I wish that there were more books like this that gave the reader a view into the minds of eminent scholars in different fields.
    ...more info
  • Somewhat disappointing
    I've read all of Yalom's books, and recommended them to doctoral students. This one I will not be recommending. It lacks Yalom's usual eloquence and creativity; worse, it is a poorly-organized summary of basic counseling approaches that folks learn in master's counseling programs. Each "chapter" is a mini-essay in which Yalom's stance is tossed out with little of the flair and wisdom we have come to expect. His suggestions for interventions supply nothing beyond his endorsement--no theory and no understanding of which kinds of clients are receptive to which techniques. I know Yalom still has a lot to offer, but it will not be found in this book....more info
  • a book of tips
    This is the latest book by Irvin Yalom, whose books I've been following over the years. From the very first page of the introduction, Yalom's writing is gripping & right to the point. He mentions turning 70 years old, which has made him feel a need to "pass on" his knowledge & some of his experience to younger generations of therapists & patients. This is what he tries to do in this substantial book, a book of tips, long on technique & short on theory (as Yalom himself says).

    Each "tip" that Yalom gives comes from years of experience & in most cases, makes perfect sense. Something that should be noted is that his book is not written, I think, for the non-psychologically trained reader. It's aimed towards psychotherapists, & tries to steer them in the direction of good choices & good therapeutic work with clients / patients. Most tips may seem like common sense to most psychologists / psychotherapists, but if you think a little bit more about them, most of them are not used as often as they should be. Also, apart from the more obvious tips, Yalom offers a whole range of extremely innovative (& maybe some times controversial) pieces of advice. These chapters alone are, in my opinion, well worth the price of the book, since they make you sit down & think.

    All in all, a great reference book for psychotherapists which comes alive through wonderful, clear writing, & lots of lively clinical examples....more info

  • Yalom is the master!
    As a clinical psychologist, if I had to choose one writer whose work has influenced me as a therapist more than any other, it most definitely would be Yalom. Having read his classic texts, as well as Love's Executioner (twice), I was thrilled to hear about his book offering practical bits of advice and wisdom culminating from his career-spanning experiences as a psychotherapist. I was not disappointed! He shared his insights in a succinct, yet completely engrossing and inspirational, manner. His thoughts on the countless issues involved in working as a therapist (everything from managed care to ethics to the deep relationship issues at the core of psychotherapy) are refreshing, thought-provoking, and easy to apply immediately with patients. Additionally, he urges us to think beyond the constraints of manual-driven approaches and always maintain a focus on what is at the heart of the change process: the genuine, here-and-now therapeutic relationship. I thoroughly enjoyed reading every page and greatly valued the learning experience. I am confident all psychotherapists who read this book will benefit from the author's wise words. Yalom's gifts as a therapist and teacher shine throughout the book. I have no doubt I will read it again and refer to it often over the years as I continue my journey as a psychotherapist! ...more info
  • A wonderful book for all therapists, seasoned and new
    This short book contains so many tidbits of treasure. One of my favorites is asking a client who cries what his tears would say if they could speak. I think this book offers something of value whether you are a beginning therapist or a seasoned professional. Irvin Yalom's writing is fresh, instructive, personable, and easy-to-read. - Cris Walker Roskelley, MFT, Author of the MFT Handbook titled "On the Road to Becoming a Successful Marriage and Family Therapist: An Insider's Handbook From Graduate School Through Licensure... and Beyond!" On the Road To Becoming A Successful Marriage and Family Therapist...more info
  • 35 years of practice and they put you on the day shift
    I liked Yalom's Love's Executioner a lot, but was disappointed in this platitudious book. It read like a professional therapist's version of Tuesdays with Morrie, only Morrie was a lot more interesting even though he didn't have much to say either. I'm not quite sure why Yalom chose to fill this book with some pretty obvious things like a therapist should be himself or herself or "stay in the moment" or "no 'school' of therapy is as important as the therapist." This is what he's figured out after 35 years as a psychiatrist? My mother told me commensurate things about treating people in everyday life; she never graduated from college. Maybe we have such an obsession with "experts" that any of their platitudious remarks seem as brilliant as relativity theory, and have lost plain common sense while needing to be reminded of the tenets of basic human dignity, but it's pretty sad if even professionals in the mental health field have to be reminded of things that should be an authochthonous part the basic equation of encountering others. The other problem I have with this book is the title. What part of therapy is the gift? The skills and intuition of the therapist? The providing of care for the needy? In the U.S. at least, you pay for therapy. I don't consider something a gift if it costs money. That's not to say mental health professionals shouldn't earn a decent living. They should, considering the nature of the work, but it seems Yalom was getting his literary proclivities confused with his professional ones. The only trouble is that getting a licence to practice therapy isn't a poetic license. James Baldwin once said, "the price of love is the price of life." That says it all. ...more info
  • A revelation for the young therapist
    Dr. Yalom's new book is reflective of the author's gift as a teacher as well as his vast experience as a practioner. He is refreshingly articulate. His ability to express an idea with clarity and precision should make this book compulsory reading for students of liturature as well as the neophite therapist. Dr.
    Yalom gets down to basics and creates a road map for the reader, leading him to the path of sound therapy. It was most fortunate that Dr. Yalom is able to communicate in this book with the patient as well as the therapist. This should lead to more effective psychotherapy and a healthier patient....more info
  • Positive Review by a Clinical Psychologist and Scientist
    I've bought this book for some of my clinical trainees and grad students. I personally learned a lot from the book, and found it entertaining. Many have reviewed it previously, so here are a few things that I have to add:

    1) Consider ordering Yalom's DVD "The Gift of Therapy." It is a one hour interview with Yalom that supplements the material in the book. If you are fascinated by Yalom, or if you'd rather watch the video... then obtain it online from Yalom's professional website.

    2) If you've read Yalom's therapy novels, then you'll appreciate this book. It clarifies themes that show up in Yalom's novels. I especially loved "Lying on the Couch." If you liked the "open letter," then you'll enjoy "Lying on the Couch." Poignant, deep, hilarious.

    3) One line that has stuck with me from the book has to do with empirically validated therapies. "UNvalidated does not mean INvalidated," or something like that... Frankly, I'm a big, big, big fan of empirically validated approaches. I see plenty of value in short-term behavioral and cognitive approaches. But the hubris surrounding "empirically-validated" behavioral and cognitive approaches is annoying, especially in this era of managed care fascism/stupidity. There is so much to mental health, psychotherapy, and life that cannot be validated using empircal methods. We need scientific validation of our interventions if possible, but we also need to acknowledge the profound limitations of science. This seems remarkably obvious to me but so many people on either side of the battle don't get it. If you are "anti-science," or, conversely, if you are "anti-things-that-can't-be-validated-empirically," then you are narrow minded. I know I sound arrogant here... but I'm right. ;-)

    4) Consider keeping this book by your bedside, and read a chapter each night. Chapters are very brief and can be completed within a few minutes, before you go off to sleep.

    5) If you are a supervisor or instructor, consider using this book in your therapy courses. I don't believe that a book like this one will replace an intro text on psychotherapy (e.g., Weiner's classic text). However, it is an easy read and students will enjoy it. When I buy this book for my students, it is often with the expectation that we will discuss its contents at various times. ...more info
  • A Must Read
    A must read for any "wanna be" therapist or counselor. Therapy is a gift for the receiver, but also for the giver of therapy. ...more info
  • An excellent read for practitioners and clients
    Yalom shares his insightful and warm views on the practice of existential psychology, writing in an easy and engaging style. This book of 85 short chapters (each about 3 - 4 pages) is easy to read in small doses. ...more info
  • Must read for future therapists
    Yalom is a huge figure in the field of psychology, particularly in the area of group therapy. He's published a lot of materials relating to psychotherapy but this is one of my favorites because it's simple, to the point, and loaded with lots of great information. It's an easy read and one that I would recommend to all who are interested in psychotherapy....more info
  • Validated, inspired, challenged and entertained
    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....more info

  • Bite Sized Therapy Nugs
    Psychiatry residency is challenging in a different way than other medical specialties. Medical school prepares you for the medical aspects of psychiatry, specifically the neuroscience and pharmacology. But for therapy, medical schools barely touch on it. Things that help are being in therapy yourself, or having at least been in therapy, as well as seeking out really good supervision. Good books help too. But picking up those first couple patients is scary and the PGY-2 year is too exhausting to spend hours and hours reading up on the art of therapy. Yalom's "The Gift of Therapy" was given to me by one of my chief residents during my PGY-2 year and was very helpful. I've since had time to read more of Yalom's works and have enjoyed many of his therapeutic tales as well as his group therapy primer, but for where I was at that time, "The Gift of Therapy" was just what the doctor ordered. The key is extremely short chapters. It's a book that can be by the bedside (or stuffed in a white coat pocket if that's your style) and read just a couple of pages at a time. Some chapters focus on nuts-and-bolts everyday issues but what is particularly helpful are the chapters that give the flavor of the process. Many of the chapters help to reinforce the `it's all grist for the mill' notion, that there are few true mistakes, that almost anything you do in therapy creates opportunities and provides data on how the patient reacts and relates. This is an important concept and also, for me, alleviated some of the anxiety of being a new therapist. It's much better to approach outpatients with enthusiasm as opposed to angst, and no doubt patients can feel that difference as well. I also very much appreciate Yalom's attitude about not adhearing to a particular model or modality of therapy, but the recognition that different situations call for different approaches, that flexibility is the greatest tool for the therapist.

    Nothing turns me off more than hearing analysts knock cognitive behavioral therapy or vice versa, just to pick an obvious example. Before my medicine days, I studied Anthropology, and it was this very same kind left me bored and disenchanted. The majority of people's energy went into "deconstructing" other people's ideas rather than contributing something positive and helpful. Yalom emphasizes that certain discrete symptoms are best treated with CBT type approaches, some questions call for an existential approach, sometimes analytic techniques are best, and so on. Especially in training, the focus should be on acquiring as many tools as possible, staying flexible, and maintaining an open mind. He also models the importance of continually refocusing on the here-and-now and counter-transference. These may be rudiments, but early on in training it can't be overemphasized. Especially coming from a western medical model, these fundamental concepts tend not to come naturally. So this book is exactly what you need as a PGY-2: good, light reading that is also helpful, instructive, and helps generate some confidence and enthusiasm towards outpatient work....more info
  • Helpful book.
    This book is great. It gives new insight into therapy and I found it very useful, and well written. I would recommend it to anyone who's interested in the therapeutic process. ...more info
  • A Gift from a Therapist
    As a practicing psychotherapist myself, I have always wanted to know what goes on exactly in the therapy sessions of this field's great practitioners. There is no doubt to all in the field, that Irv Yalom IS one of those great therapists, (as evidenced by the volume of works he has produced and their indisupted impact on the field of therapy on subjects as diverse as Existential Psychotherapy, Group Therapy, the relationships between therapist and patient, treating cancer patients, and Nietzsche). Here at last, it is laid out for me fascinatingly and with great clarity. The humanity and wisdom of this therapist are combined to illustrate how an abundance of life's problems are explored and treated. THis is an excellent guide to therapists and I think would be equally compelling reading to patients as well, in their quest to discover what goes on in the minds of their therapists....more info
  • First class
    If you're thinking of entering the psychotherapy experience this book will help you develop awareness of what to look for. It will also really help you recognize red flags that will help you run - not walk - from some of the garbage that is being presented as psychotherapy today. However, it is definitely not a cookbook. As a therapist, I found it's premises validating and helpful. It felt good to know that some of my therapy values are shared by someone of Dr. Yalom's stature. I came away thinking that I have been very privileged and fortunate to have had some of the teachers that I've had....more info
  • Refreshing reminder of transference, art of therapy
    This book was a refreshing reminder to me about transference and the art of therapy. One learns about transference in school and encounters transference in therapy, but it still feels reassuring to hear in such simple terms from an expert like Yalom how crucial it is to interpret the "here and now" relationship. This book was a pleasure to read and one that I wanted to savor each chapter!...more info
  • The opinions of an experienced therapist
    In this book Dr. Yalom gives practical suggestion and guidance to new therapist regarding things to do and avoid during therapy session. The book is written in a simple language making it an easy read. There are 85 chapters each being about 1-3 pages long. For the most part, the chapters are not based on any psychological orientations, except that the "here and now" approach is discussed. Some chapters may be obvious to the reader and others may be considered the opinion of an experienced therapist. Overall, it is a useful book for new therapists, therapists in training, and patients.
    ...more info
  • Excellent
    For the new or old therapist. My second reading is as good as my first....more info
  • Very Insightful
    Great book... Practical... down to earth... Yalom is a GREAT communicator! This book has some really great insights that every beginning therapist must read......more info
  • Short is Sweet
    For those of us who "trained up" on Yalom, this book is an entirely pleasant and very useful refresher, regardless of your primary therapeutic orientation. I now enjoy using his brief missives with my own trainees, as he is the best at succiently illustrating the use of the relationship within sessions. Plus, it's always comforting to read his accounts of being irritated with, and irritating, his clients when I've gotten into a sticky place with any of mine. Normalizing, humanizing, refreshing....more info
  • Very insightful
    As a therapist I got a lot out of this book. I am not sure it will speak to patients as profoundly but if you are a therapist all Dr.Yalom's books are must reads....more info
  • Interesting read
    It was a very interesting read. Yalom forces you to address issues of psychology graduate students do not normally consider during their education. I would recommend this book for the open-minded psychology student....more info
  • guideline for new therapists
    interesting book if you are considering going into the therapy field. it nis indeed a gift...and very interesting. ...more info
  • Gift for the therapy patient
    I read this book at the 3-year point of my therapy for anxiety and depression. It was very helpful to me to read this book as it gives us patients the therapist's perspective. It has been immediately useful as I have been able to freely address a barrier between myself and my therapist which I had only been aware of as a vague discomfort.

    It has also helped me understand what is going on in therapy. It also helps me to be less fearful. I had a clinical psychologist for a stepdad who was pretty mean to me, and Dr Yalom's book (similarly to books by Scott Peck, MD) have been very helpful to me. These doctors remind me that their main mission is to help patients....more info

  • An uplifting book, on valuing the patient as a person
    This is an excellent book, containing 85 tips for a successful therapy experience. I am well versed in theory and technique, and still I found many helpful morsels in this book.

    For example, his words on Tip #2, Avoid Diagnosis, are a refreshing attack on the Insurance-Driven emphasis to Diagnose and Treat One Thing Only. His Tip#8, Let the Patient Matter to You, is a helpful balance to the Institutional bias towards chilly Best Practices. His Tip #10, Create a New Therapy for Each Patient, is beautiful but not for beginners!

    The book reflects Yalom's conviction that "the effective therapist should never try to force discussion of any content area: Therapy should not be theory-driven but relationship-driven." (p. xviii) This idea gives focus to his book. It is written from Yalom's point of view of the interpersonal frame - that the most important work and growth comes from exploring the relationship between the therapist and client within the therapy room. This book would have been better titled: Using the Therapy Relationship in Psythotherapy.

    This is not to be confused with Interpersonal Therapy, a short-term evidence-based technique for treating depression (Yalom rightly is critical of giving too much respect to these `evidence based' methods, see his Tip # 76). Technically, he is offering his insight on how best to work in Carl Rogers' Client Centered Therapy with an emphasis on working with the transference.

    If you are thinking of therapy for yourself, you might look at the definitions of different therapy approaches on the Psychology Today website. (Tab: Therapy Center, then Tab: Orientation)

    If you are a therapist, you will find that Yalom's emphasis on working in the transference expands into coverage of therapist self-disclosure and talking to clients about the mechanisms of therapy, giving feedback, treatment of the subject of death (Yalom is also an existentialist), touching clients (he does), interviewing the client's significant other, use of dreams in therapy, and more. His emphasis on the here-and-now of transference will be familiar to therapists who have studied his book on groups.

    Do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions about this book....more info
  • Excellent Resource
    This was one of the most helpful books I've read in my graduate experience. The lessons take the theory that we've learned and make it practical. Dr. Yalom's willingness to admit his mistakes and weaknesses makes his advice and insight much more relevant. ...more info
  • from a future therapist
    As a college student seriously considering a career as a psychotherapist, and having undertaken a course of psychotherapy myself, I believe this book is not only useful, but enlightening for people on either side of the relationship. The relationship between a therapist and patient/client is a very complex one. Yalom, with his vast experience, captures this depth beautifully and manages to coherently describe a relationship that so often defies description. I highly recommend this book to anyone involved in psychotherapy, or considering involvement. ...more info
  • I laughed, I cried...I was moved!
    Long after Dr. Yalom has departed for that great therapist's office in the sky, this book will still be known as a must read for the novice and veteran counselor because of the common-sense and compassionate advice it offers. This is Dr. Yalom's Opus Magnum.

    I first came across Dr. Yalom's works when I took a required course in group therapy, and his text on the subject was the reference for the course. It did not take me long to gain a sense of awe at his wisdom, the likes of which can only be compared to something usually reserved for a demi-god. Nevertheless, Dr. Yalom is a wise man who has "been there," and his writings reflect the wisdom of his years.

    The Gift of Therapy will renew your sense of passion for the mental health field. Dr. Yalom has a way of giving his readers insight into the therapy process, which affords the practioner or therapist-to-be a vantage point that will make him or her appreciative of all of the good we can do in the service of humankind.

    There were times when reading this book, when I had to set it down and ruminate on what I had just read; Dr. Yalom has a way of expressing the profound, without pedantry, and the sublime, without silliness. After reading this book I am literally in awe of this "giant" and I am proud that we are both serving humanity in the same field....more info

  • Great book
    Great for counselors in training and professional counselors. I plan on getting more of his work....more info
  • Excellent Resource
    This was one of the most helpful books I've read in my graduate experience. The lessons take the theory that we've learned and make it practical. Dr. Yalom's willingness to admit his mistakes and weaknesses makes his advice and insight much more relevant. ...more info
  • A wonderful book for all therapists, seasoned and new
    This short book contains so many tidbits of treasure. One of my favorites is asking a client who cries what his tears would say if they could speak. I think this book offers something of value whether you are a beginning therapist or a seasoned professional. Irvin Yalom's writing is fresh, instructive, personable, and easy-to-read. - Cris Walker Roskelley, MFT, Author of the MFT Handbook titled "On the Road to Becoming a Successful Marriage and Family Therapist: An Insider's Handbook From Graduate School Through Licensure... and Beyond!" On the Road To Becoming A Successful Marriage and Family Therapist...more info
  • Good
    Yalom is helpful but at times settles into the grandfatherly role too easily, failing to interrogate his own beliefs as thoroughly as he should. Bad therapists could take some of his good ideas and use them to unhelpful purposes because the vagueness of the writing at times borders on sentimentality. A more rigorous approach would have avoided this and allowed Yalom's common sense a deeper coherence....more info
  • Commonsense and Wisdom
    It is rare to have so much commonsense written in one book about psychotherapy. While much psychotherapy literature is obscure, dogmatic and jargon ridden, Yalom has distilled out many thoughtful, wise and incisive observations. While many experienced psychotherapists would agree with his experience it is rare to have it all in one book. I thought its only deficit was the limited bibliography- his ideas clearly come from many sources, sadly only a few are identified in the references. A more extensive reading list would have been helpful....more info


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