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on 28 October 1999
Irvin Yalom has written some modern 'classics' on the subject of psychoanalysis, and so I was fascinated to see that he had also written a novel on this topic too. How would he be able to create a plot that was true to life without becoming cynical about his own profession, or painting a picture of psychotherapists that was 'too good to be true'. In fact, I found this novel to be a well constructed - if rather ponderous at times - and entertaining read; the characters are neither black nor white morally, and the therapists come over as being just as screwed up as their patients! Which is refreshing! And honest... Some clever twists in the plot, and some very telling comments about psychoanalytic interventions made this a very good read on a recent trip - try it!
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on 23 August 1999
I love Irvin Yalom's work. His ideas are great and his ability to express complex psychotherapeutic issues is unparralleled. But not in this book. Many of the ideas are intriguing and he obviously had a great plot lined up. He also had a lot of great insights about the profession of therapy - especially the old fashioned analytic kind. Any psychotherapist or counsellor should read this book for their own good. And yes I did enjoy it. But that isnt the whole story. After the lucidity of the great textbook on the Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy I wasdisappointed by the frequency of lapses in literary style. A case of an author not reading their own work with a sufficently critical eye I hope - rather than a lapse of writing ability. Too many characters express themseleves or are described in the same ways and distinct phrases and words recur obtrusively. Sometimes that is to make a point about the prentiousness of the character but sometimes I wonder whether it was saying more about the lack of really thorough proof reading. A great literary editor missed a job here. If publishers were not so keen to publish work quickly - and were willing to spend more on attention to detail this otherwise really good read would have been even mroe enojoyable. I work in the therapy world and chuckled at the horrors I recognised and squirmed whenever I recognised myself - and to that extent irvin really did do a good job. Shame it wasnt quite polished off.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 30 December 2005
This is a fascinating and most entertaining novel by an American professor of psychiatry. True, several strands in the novel interweave at the end in a rather contrived manner: the coincidences that bring this about are somewhat unlikely, and the last few pages, though moving, are completely unbelievable. Never mind: just suspend your disbelief and enjoy. Without giving away the plot, its main subject is how two people go insincerely and schemingly into psychoanalysis with unsuspecting analysts. (Note the double entendre in the title of the book.) We are told about their thought-processes and about those of the analysts. Those of the analysts are an amusing mix between, on the one hand, the psychoanalytical theory and the professional ethics they try to apply and, on the other, their own vulnerabilities to eroticism, power and money. The scheming patients get more than they bargained for.
Those who know little about psychoanalysis will learn a lot about it; those who are already familiar with it will find both the interior and the exterior dialogue wickedly funny. But having had his fun in mocking some aspects of his own profession, Yalom in the end validates it. And I think he wants to convey a serious and controversial message of his own: that there may be ways of helping a patient that could be more fruitful than the cultivation of the analyst’s remoteness from the patient on which orthodox theory insists.
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on 2 August 1998
It's one of the most enjoyable, questioning, stunning books I've recently read. It's superb. The characters are so vivid and the plot is so compelling. You never want your book to end. If you are interested in what is "human, all too human", stories of life, this book is for you. But you should be aware that the book is not an easy-read one. It's not an "on the beach" book.
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on 28 July 1999
Our book club gave this novel mixed reviews. Those who didn't like it were turned off by the mass of detail depicting the psychoanalytic process. A reader needs a lot of patience to wade through it all and to see the subtle ways the characters continually change as a result of their therapies. However, I myself appreciated the fact that the novel is like a journey, where the reader's point of view and insights reflect those of the central characters. Not since Henry James have I come across a writer so attuned to nuances--although Yalom lacks his literary distinction. At the beginning, these nuances serve to ridicule the various therapists for their naivete, arrogance, pride, lust, hyprocrisy, etc. and the satire bites and amuses. However, as the characters begin to change, the book takes on serious overtones, exploring the method by which authenticity in human relations can be found. Carol and Ernest truly learn from each other and show how real "give and take" works. In the final analysis, the book is moving in a non-simplistic way. Yalom should be congratulated for presenting answers in a cynical time.
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on 31 July 1999
Lying on the Couch is most assuredly the author's defense of psychiatry/psychotherapy vs psycho-pharmocology.Yalom's credentials attest to that fact, as do the characters in the book. He suggests that one-on-one analysis is an imperfect science/art, inherent with all of the ordinary flaws of any relationship. He also makes a point of proving that we become that of which we are most critical (Ernest/Seymore, Marshall/ Carol's transformation from a bitter, angry woman into the healer more perfect than the psychiatrists themselves is not very plausable, but than the book's intent appears to be more satiric than realistic. Another sucucessful treatment comes from the patient himself, not from the prodding of the therapist, e.g. Justin, Jess. It is doubtful that Yalom supports NO therapy, but he does appear to be poking fun at both the traditional and nontraditional modes of analysis. In its satire, this book is quite funny, though still a sad commentary on the psychotherapist.and the patient, both vulnerable in the building of trust and a new human relationship, and the inflexible methodology, as well.
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on 17 May 1999
As a Counselling Psychologist trainee I would like to recommend this book to everyone, especially students. Lying on the couch is entertaining and informative. This novel illustrates the complexities of a therapeutic relationship in ways that many other texts could only hope to achieve. This book is especially good at showing the importance of boundaries as well as exposing the dangers that all therapists and clients are potentially exposed to. All this and fun too.
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on 15 July 1998
In the middle of the novel, a shrink named Marshall realizes that one of the great frustrations of being a shrink is that one does all ones genius without an audience. Except, of course, for the patient, who is not an impartial one. I have to wonder whether Yalom wrote this book to satisfy that very problem-- the result is that the novel moves too slowly through its (fairly interesting) plot. Perhaps if the author were more focused on suspense and less on displaying his very real analytic skill, we would have a better book all around.
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on 18 November 2009
I am a fan of Irvin Yalom. 'When Nietzsche Wept' was a good read and 'The Schopenhauer Cure' was excellent but Lying on the Couch is very poor. The first chapter (as usual with so many novels) is very good with the hero, Lash, interviewing a senior colleague about a charge of malpractice. This chapter is almost a stand alone short story. The second chapter introduces an entirely new character, a patient leaving his wife. Chapter three focuses on the jilted wife but chapter four becomes a ludicrous attempt at cheap popular romantic/erotic fiction, and let's remember this is all the same story, not a series of short stories.
I read the Nietzsche and Schopenhauer books without a break - they were that good! but I regret that when Yalom's Dr Lash started getting hot and horny for some woman at a 'book launch' I had to give up (why do writers always bang on about writing and feel the need to dive into libidinous nonsense?).
Yalom is good at case studies, philosophy, psychiatry and human interest. He is intelligent, educated and a good writer, but Lying on the Couch is a mess... sorry, Professor Yalom! JP :(


Because I have great respect for this author and his fascinating subject I decided to try again after skipping the aforementioned 'silly' chapter. It definitely improved and had its moments but there are serious credibility issues.
Here are a few: would a highly intelligent 'President' of the psychiatric society be silly enough to wire not just an initial ninety thousand dollars to a fraudster but also a second subsequent twenty four thousand soon after to a relative stranger? Surely not! The fraudster is untraceable we are told but he has bank accounts in Switzerland and 'New York'; is the author not aware of money laundering laws and how detailed records are help of anyone who opens a bank account... passport details et al.
The author also repeatedly talks about a Rolex being 'accurate to within a few milliseconds!' I think not! My Rolex loses a minute a day and a friend's Rolex actually started running backwards! He states that a 'Jaguar has good resale value!' Emmm... nope! I lost 50% in one year on a new Jag! Only Bentley's, Rollers and Range Rovers are worse. And do normal people (assuming Shrinks are fairly normal) use words like pusilanimous and parsimonious in conversation?? Nope!

Despite all this I've upgraded my rating from 1 star to 3 stars... I'm sure Irvin Yalom will be relieved!

I'd still recommend reading it if you can sustain a high level of suspension of disbelief...

JP :)
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on 25 September 2008
Having read *all* of Yalom's books I can now say that this volue is, in my oppinion, his best book to date.

Other than that - check out the other reviews!
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