In this issue
Creatures of a day (free article)
An extract from Irvin Yalom’s latest stories inspired by his therapy clients.
Tales from the counselling room
Maggie Yaxley Smith explains how she came to write a work of fiction about therapy.
Writing therapy: fact and fiction
Chris Rose explores how the fictional Wednesday Group took on a life of its own.
Mindfulness and counselling
Mindfulness can richly complement counselling practice, writes Simon Cole.
Working with disability
Maggie Fisher reflects on how her physical disability features in her client work.
Separation and stuckness
Young people long to leave but may be terrified to let go, writes Jim Pye.
Dual relationships in training
How I became a therapist
From the chair
Andrew Reeves: Our counselling professional bodies have to find ways to work together
Editorial: Writing about counselling
Irvin Yalom is probably best known to readers for Love’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy, first published 26 years ago. Yalom was one of the first to use fiction as a vehicle for sharing his experiences of the client/therapist narrative and he did it – as we all know – extremely well.
I felt slightly apprehensive when opening his latest work: now in his early 80s, might he be losing his touch? But once I got stuck into Creatures of a Day, not only did I find it hard to put down, I also found parts of it very moving, entertaining (like the client whose life is radically changed not by therapy but by Yalom introducing him to a household declutterer) and, as a trainee psychotherapist, extremely useful.
In training I always find that watching videos of expert practitioners working with clients is a really useful way to learn, and I think this is equally true of reading Yalom’s fictionalised case histories. The appeal for me is the way he gives an honest and transparent running commentary of the process of each session, sharing very precisely his thoughts at key points as the therapy unfolds: the transference, self-disclosure, taking risks, feeling stuck, naming defences or resistance, bringing the relationship back to the here and now. Reading these accounts that so readily come alive through the intimate dialogue between client and therapist, I could easily imagine this book being adapted for the big screen. There are many dramatic moments where Yalom has only minutes left to say something helpful before the end of a session, as in our extract in this issue: ‘Yikes. What a blunder to have tried this. I could hear the minutes clicking by… and felt pressed to salvage some part of our hour together.’
Two other therapists in this issue have interesting things to say about their different approaches to fictionalising counselling. Maggie Yaxley Smith chose to create a cast of fictitious clients who became increasingly real to her – to the extent that she actually took her fictitious clients to supervision with her former clinical supervisor. Chris Rose, who wrote The Wednesday Group for Therapy Today, similarly found that her fictitious therapy group members developed an independent life of
their own. ‘It is as important to let the writing breathe,’ she writes, ‘as it is to let a therapy group do the same.’