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Existential Psychotherapy

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  4,152 ratings  ·  199 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.
Hardcover, 544 pages
Published December 8th 1980 by Basic Books (first published 1980)
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Average rating 4.39  · 
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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, Ya
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
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.
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.
Corin Wenger
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
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
Juletta Gilge
May 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting information, but I'm just not a fan of existentialism.
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.

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
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.
Mirjam Visscher
Aug 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: psychology
I'm too young for this one.. See you later, dear dr. Yalom.
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 rea
Stefan Matias
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jung skrev i 1957 at ‘if the psychologist happens to be a doctor who wants to not only classify his patient scientifically but also understand him as a human being, he is threatened with a conflict of duties between the two diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive attitudes of knowledge, on the one hand, and understanding on the other. This conflict cannot be solved by an either-or but only by a kind of two-way thinking: doing one thing while not losing site of the other.’

Selv mener jeg at
Dec 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2015
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
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 proble
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" ar
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 z
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: je-les-garde
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
William Berry
May 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It’s been more than 6 months since I reviewed a book. And this book had been shelved for 7 months, in favor of other reading. The truth is, the size is intimidating. Four-hundred and eighty-six pages. A friend recently told me she bought it on my recommendation, but hasn’t begun it as it is intimidating.

That gives away the review. I loved the book. I was recommending it before I finished it, which I took my time with to savor. I enjoyed reading it immensely. This despite the fact it challenged
Aug 26, 2019 added it
If you like to learn something from different people experiences, Irvin yalom always helps to make it happen. He has sophisticated language and it helps everyone can understand the situation. There is one thing mostly important part ; he constructs whole story on different pattern. It keeps me excited always. This book doesnt mention just people and also it is mirroring how to express yourself in this world and helps how to be more effective.

Highly recommend.
Fang Gao
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's an eye opener for me on the concept of existential psychotherapy and Professor Yalom made it easy and relevant with real-life examples and deep self-reflection. A lot of stories shared have already happened to people around me (and most likely myself as well). An absolute recommend if you are into the mechanism behind how human brain functions, how we are shaped by our past experience and why we do things the way we do.
Megan Roberson
Jul 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Several chapters are helpful for learning terminology and becoming comfortable with existential therapy. I think less of this remains relevant, however, with the current waves of therapy. This was very much written when psychoanalytic therapy was the center of practice, and seems largely written to convince people of existential therapy as an alternative. It is written much more textbook-style than Yalom's later work, and has much free case studies.
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was the best book I could find to answer my questions about literally everything , it provided me with lots of insight about myself and how my mind works, how I saw no point in anything and refused to live
But what actually changed me in this book was how I learned to love! To love you my dear Omid💚
Oct 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Yalom is very passionate about existential psychotherapy and it makes the difference. He thoroughly shows the reader how to unfold the patient's ultimate concerns and makes the reader wonder if he/she wasn't the one being unfolded after all. I will probably read this again.
Zoha Azimi
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Once again a book from Irvin Yalom which makes you rethink about so many things.
It's not a book to tell you what to do, or how to behave but a book to raise these questions in your head, to force you to challenge yourself to get the best of you and your life.
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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.
“To love means to be actively concerned for the life and the growth of another.” 111 likes
“Mature love is loving, not being loved.” 88 likes
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