On Idealization

On Idealization

Highlights from Symposium 2018

By Irvin Yalom

May/June 2018

A highlight of this year’s Symposium was iconic therapist Irvin Yalom receiving the Networker Lifetime Achievement Award. In this excerpt from his recent memoir Becoming Myself, Yalom describes how, at this stage of his career, patients’ preconceptions about him can shape the therapeutic encounter.

Much as I try to deflect tokens of renown, I have no doubt they have enhanced my sense of self. I also believe that my seniority, gravitas, and reputation increase my effectiveness as a therapist. Over the past 25 years, the majority of my patients have contacted me because they have read some of my writing, and they arrive at my office with a strong belief in my therapeutic powers. Having met well-known therapists in my life, I have some sense of how such encounters can leave their mark: I can still see the crevices of Carl Rogers’s face. Fifty years ago, I requested a conversation with him and flew down to Southern California to spend an afternoon. I had sent him some of my work, and I remember him telling me that though my group therapy textbook was well-done, it was my Ginny book (Every Day Gets a Little Closer) that he regarded as very special. And the faces of Viktor Frankl and Rollo May remain so clear in my mind’s eye that if I had artistic talent (I don’t), I could render them accurately from memory.

So, because of my reputation, patients reveal secrets they have never told anyone else, even previous therapists, and if I accept…

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