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Existential Psychotherapy

4.42  ·  Rating details ·  5,017 ratings  ·  306 reviews
The noted Stanford University psychiatrist distills the essence of a wide range of therapies into a masterful, creative synthesis, opening up a new way of understanding each person's confrontation with four ultimate concerns: isolation, meaninglessness, death, and freedom. ...more
Hardcover, 544 pages
Published December 8th 1980 by Basic Books (first published 1980)
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Average rating 4.42  · 
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Jun 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I love this book! I've heard people, again and again, make the assertion that philosophy, and in particular existential philosophy, has no real-life, down-to-earth, practical use. Well, Irvin Yalom's Existential Psychotherapy proves that to be false.

Yalom draws on the insights of existentialism in order to formulate an approach to psychotherapy that is grounded in the "ultimate concerns of life;" namely the concerns of death, freedom, existential isolation, and meaninglessness. These concerns, Y
alison e
Apr 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: books
Before anyone enters therapy I would really recommend reading this book. It will probably save you the 180 bucks a week. It might not solve any of your problems, but at least it will help you realize that no one else can either.
121217: this book becomes more interesting and convincing as it goes- and this is a long book. for me, the application of existential thought in psychology is most interesting when directed to therapists rather than patients, when clarity, approach, thought, is applied in finding and directing therapy, not to certain pathological cases eg. psychosis but to the point everyday conflicts of searching for meaning, purpose, value in life... such is not an easy process...

i have read of and by many exi
Having no background in psychology as such, I was a bit hesitant about plunging myself into 500 pages of academic text - yet, this book is so readible I could scarcely put it down!

Yalom cleverly combines philosophy & psychology with clinical cases and bits from classical literature to explore our existential challenges:
- we all die
- we confront our existential freedom with responsibility (realising we are responsible for ourselves and the world we create)
- we are existentionally isolated (we e
Jun 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who want to understand Everything
I might actually be in love with Dr. Yalom (or Irv, I call him Irv). His take on existentialism explains...everything. And his style is so clear that this book, which is meant to be an academic text, is comprehensible (and enjoyable) by anyone.
Jan 17, 2021 rated it liked it
Yalom is at his absolute best when is weaving a narrative of historical concepts or synthesizing psychological and philosophical thoughts into a coherent whole. There are moments in this book when he achieves this, and for 25 or 30 pages, the reader is absorbed in a discussion of literature seen through the eyes of Camus, Tolstoy, or Sartre. Unfortunately, these moments are far too few and scattered for the book to be worth reading in full.

Existential Psychotherapy is nearly 500 pages long. If
Golshan Tabatabaie
“Mature love is loving, not being loved.”

I did not receive much explicit definition and description of the true nature of Existential Psychotherapy. It was rather implied through examples, references, stories, dreams, and literature and that is what makes it more comprehensible but the cost to this is the length of the book. As a first reader of such a topic, I can say that this book was an easy read and maybe the best to start with since it covers the generality of the topic. I cannot say for s
John G.
Feb 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
We used Yalom's textbooks on group counseling when I was in graduate school back in the day and I was so intrigued with his writing ability and his earnest approach, that I decided to read quite a few of his fiction books, but also this text on Existential Psychotherapy, in fact, I'm using his "four givens" of existence as a framework for a professional presentation. I love reading his books, who would ever think a text could be so gripping and interesting and real? Yalom and Fromm to me, are th ...more
Irvin Yalom is as brilliant a communicator as he is a psychiatrist. Together with his book on conducting group therapy, this is one of the clearest, best organized, and most comprehensive books I've found yet on any aspect of my profession. ...more
May 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A monumental book focusing on 4 aspects of life that concerns psychological defense structures: death, freedom, meaninglessness, and isolation. I am about 1/2 way through the first section on death, and it's fascinating how he integrates literature, philosophy, and clinical case studies of people with neurosis or psychosis. Irvin Yalom seems as much a philosopher as he is a psychotherapist, summarizing in non-jargonized language the ideas pertaining to the subjects from people as diverse as Kafk ...more
Barnaby Thieme
Feb 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
In this classic textbook for therapists, Yalom identifies four primary existential problems that have widespread clinical implications, analyzes their etiology, and describes possible avenues for treatment. Yalom identifies four basic problems and explores them based on psychological, philosophical, and literary treatments: death and fear of mortality, freedom and the problem of contingency, isolation, and meaninglessness.

His basic model is Psychodynamic, which is to say he believes that people
Rami Hamze
Apr 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
Anything that Yalom writes has a touch of genius! excellent reference for readers seeking indepth understanding of existential psychotherapy. No jargons, this works equally well for both experts and novices.
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really worth taking all the time needed to read this masterpiece ! So helpful to understand a lot of things... I cried a lot but I really am seeing some things differently after my reading.

Juletta Gilge
May 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting information, but I'm just not a fan of existentialism. ...more
Vijay Gopal
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
On page 438, of this magisterial nearly-550-page book, Irvin Yalom mentions a cartoon. The cartoon juxtaposed two pictures: “one showed children playing with one another in all the freshness and spontaneity of childhood exuberance and innocence; the other a crowd of New York subway travellers with vacant stares and mottled gray faces dangling lifelessly from subway straps and poles. Under the two pictures was a simple caption: ‘What happened?’ ”

To my mind, this cartoon captures the zeitgeist of
Dec 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, favorites
This book convinced me of the difference between 'self-help' books and books that you can actually use to help yourself - and that is the very least of its colossal achievements. Yalom has undertaken the immense task of interpreting often unbearably unreadable philosophers - primarily from the ranks of the existentialists, but also ancient schools of thought such as the epicureans or the stoics - and constructing a practical framework of therapy around their valuable ideas.

This doesn't mean that
Apr 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
I didn't finish. Yalom's writing is excellent, and he synthesizes existential philosophy very effectively, drawing from literary fiction and nonfiction. There is much to be gleaned here, but I need to digest the section on death for awhile before I'm ready to move on. I read the section on death anxiety while on a beach vacation. Some people thought that was pretty funny. ...more
Aug 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: psychology
I'm too young for this one.. See you later, dear dr. Yalom. ...more
Evan Micheals
Dec 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Yalom was first mentioned as someone who I might be interested in reading by Dr Matta. The copy of the book I read was borrowed from Tom Ryan. It is almost 500 large pages and quite dense and it took me two months from start to finish. I found I read just under 20 pages an hour and around 25 hours of reading to finish. I found it mostly affirming and like most quality books it articulates what I was already thinking about psychotherapy in a better manner that I could manage. “The relationship is ...more
Jul 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
Death, Freedom, Isolation, and Meaninglessness. Psychology meets existential philosophy. A killer combination that made my soul sing. I was hooked with every single page. I also got a lot of new resources I want to study more in-depth.

Personal notes:
Thinking about death makes you appreciate life. I see a lot in common with stoic philosophy here. I also found out that fear of death makes you do many weird things... like looking ten years younger and not being able to finish books, cause the
Jul 16, 2017 added it
First of all excuse me for uncommon language :D my English isn't that good.
Existential psychotherapy, to me is a failed approach to psychotherapy. Of course there are existential, physiological, and other viewpoints one can choose for explaining why sometimes people doesn't feel good, but there is no use for just implying to these things, specially if the ultimate solution is accepting them. It's like telling someone "hey, your psychological problems have some existential, unchangeable reasons,
Joel Benson
Apr 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Exceptional book that will take you through a practical philosophical journey. "Must read.", if I may. ...more
Will Meyerhofer
Apr 25, 2020 rated it it was ok
I'm an experienced psychotherapist and huge Yalom fan....but this baggy, bloated monster of a book is one of those projects I suspect he had to get out of his system so he could move on to more fertile territory. This "textbook" is self-consciously "magisterial" and lacks any of the strengths that make the vast majority of Yalom's writings so special. It probably took him forever to pack these pages with endless quotes and citations to philosophers and even tedious out-of-date "strict Freudian" ...more
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"The problem, then, in most rudimentary form is, How does a being who needs meaning find meaning in a universe that has no meaning?"

The book provides a gentle, in-depth, and engaging philosophical-psychological introduction to the questions of existence and the therapeutic approaches that can address the distressing implications. This book struck a chord with me, as it offered me, for the first time, an opportunity to face the big questions in my life with proper guidance. The problems that have
Jason Dias
Sep 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Here's a decent, evidence-based primer on existential therapy. Yalom isn't really an existential therapist. He later clarified that he never meant to imply existentialism could be a stand-alone therapy, only that the themes are present in all good therapy. He's an interpersonalist, believing all problems are interpersonal problems that can be solved through relationships.

Nevertheless, this book is the "gateway drug" to harder forms of existentialism. The four "givens of existence" are fundamenta
Mar 23, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommended to Erin by: self
Very comprehensive and enjoyable. However, some was repetitive and at times too vague. Would have enjoyed less detailed patient examples and more actual transcripts.
Sep 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
If your at all interested in psychology or existential philosophy, then read this book! Brilliant!
Jun 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ma-bibliothèque
Vahid Safari
Mar 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Jonathan Karmel
Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book deals with four ultimate concerns: death, freedom, isolation, and meaninglessness. (1) Death is a terrible truth, and a core existential concern is that someday we will cease to be. (2) We must grapple with freedom--the individual is entirely responsible for his own world, life design, choices, and actions, and this can feel like it has terrible implications. (3) A third ultimate concern is isolation--not interpersonal isolation that results from lack of interpersonal relationships, bu ...more
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Irvin David Yalom, M.D., is an author of fiction and nonfiction, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University, an existentialist, and accomplished psychotherapist.

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