The doctor is in, and he’s ready to listen—and allow us the chance to eavesdrop as he does.
Yalom’s (The Spinoza Problem, 2012, etc.) sketchbook of psychotherapeutic practice closes with a disclaimer that allows that he’s “heavily disguised each patient’s identity and, on a few occasions, introduced parts of other patients’ histories or, occasionally, fictional scenes into a story.” In other words, this is not a documentary, which would seem to diminish the value of the enterprise. But the author writes amiably, certainly sympathetically, and always wisely from his point of view as an octogenarian therapist who has seen it all—well, maybe almost all—and who has some useful thoughts about the mysteries of the mind. The individual pieces have the cast and tone of a session (and always with a note somewhere that the clock is ticking). There are misguided attachments and progenitor issues aplenty, along with oodles of dreamwork and intimations of mortality and even bags of penises (for which you’ll have to read deep into the book). The patients are of a certain age, meaning they’ve seen it all, too, and most have a firm idea of what they’d like to accomplish. It’s clear that Yalom unfailingly enjoys his work: “I felt guilty at enjoying my hour with Sally so much. Of course, I knew it was problematic—without doubt transference was haunting this session, and the hovering image of her father vastly increased the complexities of her sharing her work with me.” Though Yalom’s methods may be a tinge dusty, favoring the talking and working-through of yore to the pharmaceutical regime of today, he offers plenty of pointers for up-and-coming therapists and does so without staking out ideological territory in the ongoing battles among post-Freudians, post-Jungians, and post–everyone-elsians.
A humane, highly knowledgeable glimpse of the therapist’s couch.