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For those who can't get enough of therapy, Yalom (coauthor, Every Day Gets a Little Closer, 1974) provides an emergency supplement here: ten actual cases as they played out in his office. Written in docudrama form, these examples of human anguish--of love obsessions and misspent lives--offer an inside glimpse of neurosis as it affects both patient and therapist. Yalom, a respected Stamford therapist, claims to offer these examples not to titillate but to educate. ""We therapists simply cannot cluck with sympathy and exhort patients to struggle resolutely with their problems,"" he writes. ""We are all of us in this together."" And probably the most fascinating aspect of Yalom's case studies is the view we have of Yalom as therapist. Those who think of therapists as impartial, controlled people will be shocked at the amount of anger, frustration, and rank boredom that he harbors during his working hours with patients. ""So much inconsistency, so much anger, almost mockery, standing cheek by jowl with such reverence,"" Yalom thinks as he listens to Selma, who is obsessively in love with Matthew, describe her problems. ""Though I was gradually entering her experiential world, and growing accustomed to hyperbolic assessments of Matthew, I was truly staggered."" In another case, involving a man who suffers from impotence, Yalom confides that during their first session, he was growing ""edgy. My timing had been thrown off. We had only begun our first session, and there was much more I wanted to know. . ."" Though the introduction grapples with big issues--existential isolation, the anxiety of self-awareness, and death--Yalom does little weaving of themes throughout the book. So, despite being an unusually honest look at psychotherapy in action, the work smacks of hasty construction: at best, this reads like high-class soap opera; at worst, like transcripts.

Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 1989
Publisher: Basic Books