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50 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wise, profound and witty
This is, without a doubt, a profound and wise book - but one that can make you laugh too. Yalom writes like a dream, and communicates deep truths in simple language. My only reservation - and it's a small one - is that so many of his cases seem to have intriguingly neat endings. In my experience, life ain't like that! But it does make for good reading.
Whether...
Published on 22 Aug. 2000

versus
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An invitation to applying Existentialism to therapy
Yalom follows Rollo May in making Existentialism accessible to American psychotherapists. The introduction clearly explains the need for doing so. Freudian-based therapy, Behavioral therapy, and the anti-intellectual forms of humanistic therapy, all have limitations in the areas that existential psychotherapy may shine at.

As he states in the Epilogue, Yalom...
Published on 22 Oct. 2007 by calmly


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50 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wise, profound and witty, 22 Aug. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Existential Psychotherapy (Hardcover)
This is, without a doubt, a profound and wise book - but one that can make you laugh too. Yalom writes like a dream, and communicates deep truths in simple language. My only reservation - and it's a small one - is that so many of his cases seem to have intriguingly neat endings. In my experience, life ain't like that! But it does make for good reading.
Whether you're a therapist, counsellor, social worker - or just an interested human being - this book will repay your time, and I'm sure, like me, you'll come back to it time and again. A real investment.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An invitation to applying Existentialism to therapy, 22 Oct. 2007
This review is from: Existential Psychotherapy (Hardcover)
Yalom follows Rollo May in making Existentialism accessible to American psychotherapists. The introduction clearly explains the need for doing so. Freudian-based therapy, Behavioral therapy, and the anti-intellectual forms of humanistic therapy, all have limitations in the areas that existential psychotherapy may shine at.

As he states in the Epilogue, Yalom regards "this existential paradigm as an early formulation..." that will "not only be useful to clinicians in its present form, but will stimulate the discourse necessary to modify and enrich it." What Yalom has done is to select four significant existentialist concerns (death, freedom, isolation and meaninglessness) and discuss them in the context of his experiences with clients, the writings of major Existentialists, and other therapies. In doing so, it may become clear what Existentialism has to offer to psychotherapy. Although this introductory work may be rich enough to, by itself, benefit clinicians, the interested reader can also then turn to the rich literature in Existentialism and existential psychotherapy, guided by Yalom's focus on death, freedom, isolation, and meaninglessness.

As a work of introduction, it seems understandable that, although he quotes Sarte, Yalom doesn't present Sartre's existential psychoanalysis, not even (it seems) Sartre's analysis of "bad faith" or Sartre's existential analysis of Jean Genet. Yalom said in the introduction that he did not intend to discuss existentialist philosophy much, but rather focus on what would be helpful for clinicians. Although Sartre's work in the area of existential psychoanalysis is ignored, as well as British psychiatrist R.D. Laing's work (heavily influenced by existentialism), Yalom does discuss Frankl's logotherapy, perhaps because its clinical application had been worked out more.

It would have seemed helpful, however, since he acknowledged this work as an "early formulation", if he had provided an explicit selection of existentialist works, whether relevent philosophy or psychotherapy for further reading. However, the reader can hopefully find many such works based on names and works mentioned within the text. Although challenging, I'd certainly recommend Sartre's sections from "Being and Nothingness" on "Existential Psychoanalysis" and "Bad Faith", and, for the brave reader, Sartre's application of that philosophy in "Saint Genet".

As to just why "death" gets about 190 pages, "freedom" about 140 pages, "isolation" only about 70 pages, and "meaninglessness" only about 65 pages: I didn't see where Yalom explains this weighting. There are not hard boundaries between these concerns, however, so, in addressing the earlier concerns, some of the later concerns may be addressed.

Understood as an introductory work that may lead you to further study on your own of existential psychotherapy, this book may serve you well, especially if you are a therapist or studying to be. Lay readers, such as myself, less interested in discussion targetted to clinicians, may find Sartre, although difficult, or Rollo May (e.g. "The Meaning of Anxiety") more suitable
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a fantastic book, 28 April 2007
This review is from: Existential Psychotherapy (Hardcover)
I borrowed a copy of this book from the library at Uni almost by accident and to be honest it is prehaps the most thought provoking, fun, enjoyable, fasinating, happy, sad, and just fantastic book i've ever read on existentialism.

Yalom is such a witty and subtle writer and his knowledge of literature is amazing. I found myself reading various books from his bib, books i'd very have dreamt of as being my cup of tea.

The book itself could have a profound effect on your preception of life, love and the universe, it did for me, you seem to see yourself and those around you in a completely different. For example our constant (and hidden) fear of death or fear of not existing has just a major effect on our society and how we talk with each other, organise ourselfs and our attempts to organise those around us. I found the book to be a bit like a spotlight, highlighting with a cold, stark white light just what my existence and everyones existence can be. My light does get dime quite often and I slip back into my well practised bumble through life but now and again the power comes back on and I can see the funny side you life.

Anyway this is a ramble so even if you dont really care for existentialism and all that I promise you that its still a great read.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 11 Dec. 2005
This review is from: Existential Psychotherapy (Hardcover)
I recommend this book to any person who is interested in Psychotherapy/Counselling of any particular approach /model. Ride the storm of existential anxiety with Yalom as your Captain who freely admits of his existential anxiety, shares his experience of countless case histories. This book is not just for those who are training in counselling, etc.The book is easily read by the layman though a dictionary is required for some single words, the content/ context is always very understandable and crystal clear. Yalom writes with such eloquence and is a gripping author. A pleasure to own, this book is a text book for me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Just for Professionals, 27 Jun. 2012
This review is from: Existential Psychotherapy (Hardcover)
This is a profound, wise and scholarly book. That is its blessing and its curse.
Yalom writes about the existential fears lurking at the back of our minds in a way that is accessible yet carries an echo of deep truth. Although he deals with the topics of death, isolation and meaninglessness in a psychological context, there is also a good deal of philosophy (as well as literature) to be mined from this work.
Unfortunately, its main readers are likely to be from the 'talking cure' professional community. That is a great shame. Many lay people could learn something valuable (and take comfort) from this book.
One can only hope that those who have become followers of his novels might be tempted to dip into his more meaty writing. I suspect they would find it worthwhile.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth every cent and syllable, 4 Feb. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Existential Psychotherapy (Hardcover)
While Yalom's novels captivated me and "Love's Executioner" would not let me go, this book is the heart of Yalom's genious. I learned more psychology through the reading of this text than I learned in my undergraduate degree in psychology. Get it. You'll be satisfied.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding: Should be required reading, 8 Jan. 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Existential Psychotherapy (Hardcover)
Yalom's book contains a unique interpretation and presentation of common behaviors, such that these behaviors can be seen as a response to existential dilemma's...
As a layperson, I found it extremely enriching, and very accessible. It should be required reading for anyone in the profession (and is probably Yalom's magnum opus?).
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3.0 out of 5 stars DANGEROUSLY IGNORES EVIL, 18 Mar. 2015
By 
Yehezkel Dror (Jerusalem Israel) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Existential Psychotherapy (Hardcover)
Avant-Garde Politician: Leaders for a New Epoch

Reading this book from the perspective of worries about the future of humanity, as discussed in my recent book, I found most of the book inspiring. But I think it suffers from a fatal flow: it ignores the realities of "evil" and may even, inadvertently, lead to "evil" when helping a patient to reach his authentic selfhood -- when it is evil and released by existential psychotherapy from inauthenticity which kept it in chains.

Given the seriousness of this indictment I leave aside lesser points which deserve criticism, such as misunderstanding of the very nature of decision making (pp. 314ff.) as "fuzzy gambling" because of uncertainty - with implications for psychotherapy to overcome consequent psychopathologies.

The fundamental error of the paradigm on which the book is based is inherent in the philosophy of existentialism, as well demonstrated by the Nazi episode of Heidegger. Existentialism encourages autonomous existential choices by human beings, with which I agree. But it does not confront the real and dangerous possibility that human beings may authentically choose an "evil" existence, in terms of overall humanistic Western value. Main founders of existentialism (but not Heidegger) recognized this danger and tried to cope with it by adding to existentialism the need for a "leap into faith" and various moral codes - but this is not an integral part of existentialism itself.

Yalom recognizes instances of evil, such as the Jonestown case, and mentions sadism (p. 381). But the many and widespread phenomena of evil are not confronted and the term "evil" is not even mentioned (see index). Even lesser moral issues, such as the desirability of guiding self-realization towards social utility, are not considered. This is all the more dangerous an omission in a teaching book for a profession which exerts influence on human behavior.

To illustrate my point, as if the realities of evil are not sufficient, let me pose the possibility of a patient dying of cancer who, thanks to psychotherapy (p. 432), reaches the conclusion to give meaning to her death and retroactively her life by volunteering to become a suicide bomber mass-killing non-believers who deserve death, and thus "leaving the world a better place" (p. 432).

I think the book's paradigmatic error has an additional basis to pure existentialism, namely a deep belief that what humans "really want" is highly moral in terms of contemporary humanistic values. This is at the core of Maslow's "self-realization" and Frankl's logotherapy. Otherwise Horney would not have replied "When patients told her that they did not know what they wanted... Have you ever thought of asking yourself?" (p. 280).

Yalom rightly takes up the critical issue of secular personal meaning (pp. 426ff.), and the need for a "set of guidelines about how one should live life" (p. 426), all the more so with increasing secularization. But then he refers to evolutionary morality, altruism (p. 431), dedication to a cause (pp. 434-5), creativity (p. 435), hedonism (pp. 436-437), self-actualization, "will to meaning" etc. -- all in a mood of optimism on the "real nature" or will of human beings. This unavoidably leads to the completely unwarranted conclusion "When the activity has no intrinsic `goodness' or `rightness', then it sooner or later will fail the individual" (p. 452).

Given human history on one hand and the increasingly lethal tools becoming more easily available thanks to science and technology, such as viruses mutated in kitchen laboratories, I think that adding a humanistic version of pastoral counselling must be added to existential and related psychotherapy, with an added duty to take responsible action when running into patients who are likely to engage in massive evil. Otherwise the many potential benefits of existential psychotherapy, as well presented in this book, may be accompanied, and perhaps outweighed by massive evil "released" by it.

Professor Yehezkel Dror
The Hebrew University
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly life-changing book, 4 Jan. 2011
This review is from: Existential Psychotherapy (Hardcover)
I have read quite a few of the 'classics' of existentialism, but this work astounds me with the wisdom, profundity and elegance of its many insights. For anyone who really wants to take responsibility for their own lives, who is facing difficult life challenges and decisions, I cannot recommend this book too highly. Perhaps what draws me most to this style of psychotherapy is the interface between psychology and philosophy, the way in which psychology is grounded in thought and not just presented as a quick fix (which, in our 'quick-fix'/'easy is good, difficult is bad' society, comes as quite a refreshment).
I do have certain reservations about this approach (in particular, I feel that there is a danger, in its emphasis on personal responsibility and 'authenticity', to turn us into islands!), but the book forces us to ask fundamental questions and, sometimes, the asking of questions is more important than being provided with 'answers'. It is, at times, a frightening read, but only because it reflects on and responds to so many of our (or, at least my!) fears, doubts and issues.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Astonishing, 9 Feb. 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Existential Psychotherapy (Hardcover)
I credit Dr. Yalom with having written the most insightful treatise on human behaviour ever published. If I was to have a last dying wish and asked to finally be let in on the secrets of life -- I would not be disappointed if this was what was given to me. It has changed my living of each nanosecond.
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Existential Psychotherapy by Irvin D. Yalom (Hardcover - 17 Nov. 1980)
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