Book Report & Reflection: The Gift of Therapy – Irvin D. Yalom (1)


Extracted from part of the first assignment I submitted when I was studying  Counselling Skills.


I have read the first twelve chapters (excluding the Introduction) of “The Gift of Therapy” from Irvin D. Yalom up to this moment.

In the introduction chapter, Irvin objected the way Psychiatry was being driven to be – focus more on psychopharmacology and abandoning psychotherapy to make the theory more economical. Irvin pointed out the counter productiveness and the danger of self-fulling prophecy being brought to the less severely impaired patients if emphasis were put on a quick and precise vision-limiting diagnosis with a brief and focused therapy (Ch2).

He believed that human has an in-built force towards self-actualization and the patient will grow when obstacles were removed (Ch1) and gradual unfolding of the patient allows therapist to know the patient as fully as possible (Ch2).

Irvin seeks for a more humanly, interactive and equal way to treat his patients by admitting his errors (Ch9), letting the patient’s comment of towards his words matter to him (Ch7), being supportive (Ch5), care about the relationship between himself and his patients (Ch4) and avoid tin-can therapy and prefabricated technique (Ch10) to all clients. He is taking a more humanistic approach which takes time and is opposite to what he described the managed-care industry heading to.


One of the good reminders I found is the diverse view of therapy hour between the client and the therapist in Chapter 6. Irvin, the therapist, thought that his client should found his interpretations of an event or thoughts described by his client most valuable. However, it turns out that his client didn’t notice his interpretation as if he hadn’t speak at all but words he doesn’t notice e.g. his apologies for being late, his compliments and his fun-making tease. It may be that these little acts make the relationship more like friendship and the support coming from this relationship is more authentic and genuine.

“I am human and let nothing human be alien to me” (Ch6) from Terence is being quoted by Erich Fromm when teaching Empathy. To expose ourselves to any kind fantasy of the patients allowed us to exercise accurate empathy. However, as every of us have our own pain and dark side that we aren’t fully aware of, this is why Irvin suggested student therapist should experience the therapeutic process (Ch12) to make those pain and dark side up in the conscious level so as to avoid displacement. Experiencing therapeutic process also allows therapists to experience as a client the things that will happen – project on to, idealize, depend on and granting power to the therapists.

To be a good counselor in the eye of one’s clients isn’t an easy task. It requires therapeutic technique to discover the issue and guide the patient through questions and sometimes challenges at the same time allows the client to experience empathy, respect and unconditional positive regards, not to say knowledge to psychology and variety of therapies – so many things to balance and think of.

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