From the internationally bestselling author of Love''s Executioner and When Nietzsche Wept, comes a novel of group therapy with a cast of memorably wounded characters struggling to heal pain and change lives
Suddenly confronted with his own mortality after a routine checkup, eminent psychotherapist Julius Hertzfeld is forced to reexamine his life and work -- and seeks out Philip Slate, a sex addict whom he failed to help some twenty years earlier. Yet Philip claims to be cured -- miraculously transformed by the pessimistic teachings of German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer -- and is, himself, a philosophical counselor in training.
Philip''s dour, misanthropic stance compels Julius to invite Philip to join his intensive therapy group in exchange for tutoring on Schopenhauer. But with mere months left, life may be far too short to help Philip or to compete with him for the hearts and minds of the group members. And then again, it might be just long enough.
Having taken on the origins of psychotherapy in the popular
When Nietzsche Wept, psychiatrist-novelist Yalom now turns to group therapy and the thinker sometimes known as the "philosopher of pessimism," in this meticulous, occasionally slow-moving book. Julius Hertzfeld, a successful therapist in San Francisco, is shocked by the news that he suffers from terminal cancer. Moved to reassess his life''s work, he contacts Philip Slate, whose three years of therapy for sexual addiction Julius describes as an "old-time major-league failure." Philip is now training to be a therapist himself, guided by the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer, and he offers to teach Julius about Schopenhauer as a way of helping him deal with his looming death. Julius and Philip strike a deal: Julius will serve as Philip''s clinical supervisor, but only if Philip joins the ongoing therapy group Julius leads. To complicate matters further, Pam, a group member, is one of the hundreds of women Philip seduced and then rejected. Yalom often refers to his books as "teaching novels," and his re-creation of a working therapy group is utterly convincing. At the same time, his approach can be overly documentary, as the inner workings of therapy, often repetitious and self-referential, absorb much of the novel''s momentum. A parallel account of Schopenhauer''s life sheds light on the philosopher''s intellectual triumphs and emotional difficulties.
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“Yalom’s enthusiasm is contagious. And he certainly knows how to tell a page-turning story.” --
Los Angeles Times
“Yalom’s melding of philosophy, pedantry, psychiatry and literature result in a surprisingly engaging novel of ideas.” --
San Francisco Chronicle
“Considers the value and limits of therapy and those points at which philosophy and psychology converge.” --
“A beautifully wrought tale of a therapy group’s final year and a moving debate about the end of life.” --
“As a novel of ideas, this book effectively explores loss, sexual desire, and the search for meaning.” --
“The world’s first accurate group-therapy novel, a mezmerizing story of two men’s search for meaning.” -- Greensboro News & Record
“Meticulous. [Yalom’s] re-creation of a working therapy group is utterly convincing.” --
From novelist and master psychotherapist Irvin Yalom, author of Lying on the Couch and When Nietzsche Wept, comes the world''s first accurate group-therapy novel, a mesmerizing story of two men''s search for meaning.
At one time or another, all of us have wondered what we''d do in the face of death. Suddenly confronted with his own mortality after a routine checkup, distinguished psychotherapist Julius Hertzfeld is forced to reexamine his life and work. Has he really made an enduring difference in the lives of his patients? And what about the patients he''s failed? What has happened to them? Now that he is wiser and riper, can he rescue them yet?
Reaching beyond the safety of his thriving San Francisco practice, Julius feels compelled to seek out Philip Slate, whom he treated for sex addiction some twenty-three years earlier. At that time, Philip''s only means of connecting to humans was through brief sexual interludes with countless women, and Julius''s therapy did not change that. He meets with Philip, who claims to have cured himself -- by reading the pessimistic and misanthropic philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer.
Much to Julius''s surprise, Philip has become a philosophical counselor and requests that Julius provide him with the supervisory hours he needs to obtain a license to practice. In return, Philip offers to tutor Julius in the work of Schopenhauer. Julius hesitates. How can Philip possibly become a therapist? He is still the same arrogant, uncaring, self-absorbed person he had always been. In fact, in every way he resembles his mentor, Schopenhauer. But eventually they strike a Faustian bargain: Julius agrees to supervise Philip, provided that Philip first joins his therapy group. Julius is hoping that six months with the group will address Philip''s misanthropy and that by being part of a circle of fellow patients, he will develop the relationship skills necessary to become a therapist.
Philip enters the group, but he is more interested in educating the members in Schopenhauer''s philosophy -- which he claims is all the therapy anyone should need -- than he is in their individual problems. Soon Julius and Philip, using very different therapeutic approaches, are competing for the hearts and minds of the group members.
Is this going to be Julius''s swan song -- a splintered group and years of good work down the drain? Or will all the members, including Philip, find a way to rise to the occasion that brings with it the potential for extraordinary change? In The Schopenhauer Cure, Irvin Yalom elegantly weaves the true story of Schopenhauer''s psychological life throughout the narrative, knitting together fact and fiction to form a compellingly readable tale.
Irvin D. Yalom, M.D., is the author of Love''s Executioner, Momma and the Meaning of Life, Lying on the Couch, The Schopenhauer Cure, When Nietzsche Wept, as well as several classic textbooks on psychotherapy, including The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, considered the foremost work on group therapy. The Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Stanford University, he divides his practice between Palo Alto, where he lives, and San Francisco, California.