A series of true stories about Yalom's clients and their therapy. The first story, about a woman obsessed with an affair she'd had with a former therapist, was the one that intrigued me the most. Not only did the case defy Yalom's best efforts, but its outcome defied his understanding. I assume all the details of everything was changed for confidentiality, but he didn't lose the messiness and inexplicability of real life. And yet, as a story, it was very satisfying.

Yalom is an existential psychodynamic therapist, interested in dreams, the meaning of life, and the origins of problems. He's also more focused on bringing his clients to a deeper understanding of themselves than he is in making them happier. He has some serious hang-ups about women, though at least he's aware of them, and about fatness, ditto though I'm not sure he had to spend quite as much verbiage on that as he did. If the latter will drive you berserk, avoid the chapter sensitively titled "Fat Lady." Several of the cases he recounts involve him making mistakes, pushing clients too hard, getting too wrapped up in his own cleverness, and so forth. I liked his honesty in those directions, and if other cases are a bit "But here, I totally was awesome," well, he's certainly a good writer.

I enjoyed the book, and it seems like a pretty accurate, though necessarily synopsized and cleaned-up, portrayal of a certain type of therapy. And though my approach is unlikely to resemble Yalom's, I still feel as if I learned something from reading it. Though I read it out of professional interest, it's written more for laypeople and is a popular memoir, not a textbook.

Love's Executioner: & Other Tales of Psychotherapy (Perennial Classics)


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