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It was didactic at times, occasionally draggy with lengthy lecture-like dialogue and inner monologue, and some of its plot twists were highly contrived. What he was trying to do, according to an interview I read, is carve out a new genre -- what he calls the "teaching novel.
The novel itself follows two parallel stories of clients lying to their gullible therapists, who for their part are struggling with boundary issues. The main plot focuses on Ernest, a psychopharmacologist-turned-beginner-psychotherapist, considering a career in psychoanalysis but starting to have doubts about the artificiality and rigidity of the relationship.
As a therapist, Ernest would like to experiment with being more genuine, human, and transparent in the therapy room. Carol, the original hell-hath-no-fury dame, enters therapy with Ernest under false premises and using an alias so she can seduce him and subsequently ruin his career.
Marshal is a stickler for the boundaries and rules imposed by psychoanalytic theory. He is also ruthlessly pursuing political advancement in the psychoanalytic society with little regard for his relationships with some of his colleagues, a classic example of someone who insists on the letter of the law while violating its spirit.
Using his characters as mouthpieces, Yalom explored some fascinating questions: Is it ever okay to sleep with a patient? How about a former patient? How about a patient you saw 10 years ago, briefly, in group therapy? Which therapist is right — the one who rigidly embraces technique at the expense of creativity and individuality, or the maverick who ignores technique and strikes out on his own, taking risks and muddying the ethical waters?
When, and to what degree, is self-disclosure on the part of the therapist appropriate? What are the advantages and disadvantages of maintaining a neutral stance, as opposed to relating to the client on a more human level? Instead, he has his characters ruminate about them and debate them at length, raising many intelligent points on all sides and fleshing out the complexity of these issues.
More educational than a novel, more interesting than a textbook -- I give Yalom full points for creating this genre and providing us with an excellent example of its potential. Its the therapy thats not ready for the patient.
But you have to be bold and creative enough to fashion a new therapy for each patient.
Lying on the Couch
Lying on the Couch: A Novel
Lying on the Couch : A Novel
Lying On The Couch