The author of the nonfiction Love's Executioner & Other Tales of Psychotherapy (1989) and the novel When Nietzsche Wept...



The author of the nonfiction Love's Executioner & Other Tales of Psychotherapy (1989) and the novel When Nietzsche Wept (1992) now takes up the most vexing issue facing psychiatry: the boundaries of treatment. Yalom begins with the story of Seymour Trotter, an unconventional therapist who has had a long sexual involvement with a female patient 40 years his junior. His testimony troubles Ernest Lash, the San Francisco practitioner serving on the ethics panel that will ultimately drive Trotter from the field, because Trotter's techniques appear to have delivered the woman from her borderline world of promiscuity and self-mutilation. Some years later, one of Ernest's patients, a timid, obsessive man, leaves his wife for a younger woman. The jilted wife, Carol, a ruthless lawyer, blames Ernest and hatches a plot to ruin him by becoming his patient and seducing him. Ernest is single, lonely, and mightily tempted, but he is also conscientious and honest, and begins to see through Carol's nearly airtight story. Carol becomes a true patient and confronts the fears that have tortured her. And sex is not the only tricky boundary that Yalom explores. In a nice twist, Ernest's analytic supervisor, Marshal Streider, an upright, formal man who feels Ernest's commitment to complete honesty is naive, enters into an investment with a con man passing as a patient. The con man reads Marshal's vulnerabilities perfectly: excessive ambition and love of money. Marshal, raging, friendless, unable to consult with another practitioner, pours out his soul to a lawyer, Ernest's patient Carol. The student teaches the master as Carol, without violating her confidences, draws therapeutic strategies from Ernest and ""treats"" Marshal--or, rather, forces him to treat himself. A marvelous examination of how psychiatrists actually think, building to a vision of a community healthy and mature enough to confront its deepest and most persistent fears.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 1996


Page Count: 400

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996