Love’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy by Irvin Yalom

Love's Executioner Other Tales of Psychotherapy by Irvin Yalom

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Dr. Irvin Yalom is currently a professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and the author of text books, factual short stories, and novels. Love’s Executioner was written in 1989 when Dr. Yalom was actively practicing psychotherapy and is a compilation of ten documented cases. Dr. Yalom shares these stories (with patient approval) changing the names to protect doctor/ patient confidentiality. The patient’s problems vary: obesity, low self-esteem, loneliness, overcoming grief, the trauma of being robbed, fear of death and fear of being alone, obsessive love, and cancer. The most complex case was a woman who “had nothing going for her”. She suffered abuse as a child, mental illness, had no husband, children, or close relationships, and was suicidal.

Dr. Yalom specializes in Existential Psychotherapy involving analysis of present situations and the future options (as opposed to direct examination of the patient’s past). In agreement with the philosophy of Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Jean Paul Sartre Dr. Yalom believes we must create our own meaning in life. Anxiety occurs when people have internal conflict over four basic issues: the inevitability of death, the freedom and responsibility to make our lives what they are, loneliness, and absence of meaning in life.

Centering on these four givens Dr. Yalom helps his patients come to terms with their problems and move forward to a happier more productive life. He emphatically stresses “the therapist’s job is not to make someone better, but to help the patient make themselves better.” Just as parents help their children learn to take responsibility and make their own decisions, the therapist’s job is to help the patient become responsible for their own actions.

The only negative about Love’s Executioner is that it is somewhat outdated. None of the cases involve current issues like drug addiction, gambling addiction, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, terrorism, financial ruin, gender identity, mixed marriages, combined families, and stress.

Nevertheless, anyone interested in the process of psychotherapy would appreciate this book. Dr. Yalom guides his patients with humor, wisdom, patience, and experience. Content includes analysis of dreams, one case of hypnosis, and several cases of group therapy.

Rated 3 Stars

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