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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 22 August 2000
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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on 11 December 2005
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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on 28 April 2007
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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on 22 October 2007
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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on 4 February 1999
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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on 27 June 2012
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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on 8 January 1997
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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on 9 February 1998
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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on 4 January 2011
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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on 8 August 2012
This book is an excellent work for everyody that likes to dig into the motivation of people. In this book Yalom describes the existential struggles of man kind in a way that is recognisable and can be understood by non psychologist too. It is alsa a work of Philosophy.
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