Book Review - Love’s Executioner, and Other Tales Psychotherapy by Irvin D. Yalom

In his 1989 work “Love’s Executioner, and Other Tales of Psychotherapy” Irvin Yalom gives us a glimpse inside the therapy room, inside the therapeutic relation and inside his technique. Here Yalom shows us the world and the therapy of ten individuals, all with seemingly unique concerns.

The range of his clients primary concerns include, tragic love, terminal cancer, obesity and binge eating, bereavement, loneliness, and depression - to name a few.

What Yalom attempts, and I believes succeeds, to reveal is that, while all the clients’ presenting issues are unique, under the surface they are all suffering what he calls ‘existence pain’.

Yalom shows us his model of Existential Psychotherapy. This ‘existence pain’ is the anxiety felt from our endeavours to cope with the harsh facts of life. The ‘givens’ of existence as Yalom puts it.

These ‘givens’ are death, freedom, loneliness and meaninglessness.

The inevitable death of ourselves and everyone we know.

Our freedom to choose our lives and the responsibility that comes with that choosing.

Our loneliness as we can never be truly known.

And the stark fact that it is all ultimately meaningless.

Yalom then goes on to show us in these ten vignettes, how his clients avoid facing these givens and then, through their therapeutic work with him, find personal change and growth by confronting them.

Yalom is an excellent writer and master of his craft. These case studies give a real sense of how he works. His openness and honesty about his feelings towards his clients gives a real sense of his process and help to reveal the true depth and challenges of the work, with many valuable insights.

What could have easily been a dry rendition of clinical work comes across as exciting, vibrant and dynamic. I found myself engrossed in each story and eager to find out what happens next.

Here Yalom manages to both educate and excite the reader. A rare talent. Highly recommended for all.

Who is this book good for?

This book is great for all. It offers an enlivening insight into Psychotherapy.

I first read this as a student and found it inspiring. Highly recommended for Counselling students and practising Counsellors and Psychotherapists. Especially good for anyone with an interest in Existentialism and Existential Psychotherapy. 

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