If you’re a psychotherapist or training to become one, it’s likely you know the name Irvin D. Yalom.

Dr Yalom is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Stanford University with over 50 years clinical experience as well as an accomplished author. He has inspired generations of therapists with his text books Existential Psychotherapy and The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapyas well as his ‘teaching tales’  that contain psychotherapy themes central to his fiction and non-fiction books.

Dr Yalom’s latest book Creatures of a Day: And Other Tales of Psychotherapy is a collection of poignant and moving tales from psychotherapy. In these stories his patients grapple with life’s two greatest challenges: that we must all die, and that each of us is responsible for leading a life worth living.

In this interview Dr Yalom discusses:

  • Writing and psychotherapy: How he came to write this book and how his creative writing sits with his practice of psychotherapy.
  • Therapist disclosure: Throughout this book Dr Yalom makes honest disclosures in the here-and-now with his patients. He talks about how important  therapist disclosure is in psychotherapy.
  • Facing the death of a client: What he learned about death from his patient Ellie, who called herself “a pioneer of dying”.
  • Not predicting where the therapy will goThe important ingredients that make for effective therapy and how he is sometimes completely surprised by the therapeutic journeys of his patients.
  • Taking a detailed history of a recent, 24 hour period: This strategy seems to uncover some surprising information about his patients, such as his patient Alvin, who he discovered through asking this question had so little intimacy in his life. Dr Yalom describes how he uses this intervention.
  • Brief therapy: With symptom focused, quick fix and short-term therapies becoming increasingly popular with governments, therapists and clients, Dr Yalom shares his view on whether in-depth psychotherapy is still relevant.
  • Giving up hope for a better past: How we can help our clients with the idea that change may come from actually giving up hope for a better past.
  • On being creative in therapy:  How he worked creatively with some of his patients to bring about change and transformation in unexpected ways.
  • Effective psychotherapy: How much of his writing is part of his mission to educate and inspire young therapists about what effective psychotherapy looks like.
  • Group psychotherapy: His views on the importance of this type of therapy and positive changes he’s noticing with psychiatric resident group training.

Links and resources mentioned in this episode:

Click here to download the transcript of this recording

About Dr Irvin D. Yalom:
Dr Irvin D YalomDr. Yalom is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Stanford University and the author of several highly acclaimed textbooks, including Existential Psychotherapy and The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy. He is also the author of stories and novels related to psychotherapy, including Love’s Executioner, When Nietzsche Wept, Lying on the Couch, Momma and the Meaning of Life, and The Schopenhauer Cure,  Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death and his latest book is called Creatures of a Day: And Other Tales of Psychotherapy. Visit Dr Yalom’s website at http://www.yalom.com

Novels and stories 


Watch the trailer for the documentary about Dr Yalom called Yalom’s Cure:

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