One of the best books I suggest to people curious about therapy and young therapists alike is Irvin Yalom’s 2009 The gift of therapy: An open letter to a new generation of therapists and their patients. In it, Yalom offers words of guidance to the next generation of therapists in 85 compact, yet meaningful chapters. Topics vary widely, but Yalom’s central ideas include the importance of using the “here-and-now” as a major component of therapy and the subsequent importance of the therapist’s own personal journey and psychological health. Whether it is entertaining the possibility of conducting a home visit or the use of touch in session, Yalom insists that the intimacy and authenticity of the client-counselor relationship is essential to successful therapy. In sum, Yalom is vigilant in his insistence on the preservation of humanity in the client-counselor relationship; holding fast to the notion that counselors avoid the illusion that they can or should be blank slates or that clients can be conceptualized predominantly by their diagnosis and only secondarily as people.
Yalom gives attention to several unique aspects of therapy, such as how to leverage a client’s experience with death (either the death of a significant other or one’s own pending death) in order to help the client seek meaning in life. Yalom also suggests how to use dreams in session and how to approach a client who is resistant to making decisions. Yalom shares his thoughts on appropriate ways therapists can self-disclose and provide honest feedback to clients in session. Practical attention is allotted to the development of fundamental healthy habits, such as timely note-taking and scheduling clients with adequate note-taking and preparation time in between sessions. Overall, The Gift of Therapy may be a better resource for therapists-in-training than any textbook or counseling manual available today. Yalom’s forthright and frank tone is engaging while his insistence on leveraging the client-counselor relationship and the “here-and-now” of the moment with clients is compelling. Yalom is able to conceptualize therapy as an authentic, bold, and transformative reality, something that the budding therapist idealistically hopes it can be, but by the end of the book, also believes it can be.