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Behind the scenes at the therapist

Behind the scenes at the therapist

Who: Dalena van Heugten-van der Kloet, PhD in Psychology

Book: Lying on the Couch by Irvin Yalom

Target group: students who have an affinity with clinical psychology

He is over eighty, still works as a psychiatrist, is an emeritus professor of the American Stanford University and refers to philosophy as his greatest source of inspiration. Irvin Yalom published his first non-fiction book in 1992: When Nietzsche Wept. The story is set in Vienna at the end of the nineteenth century; psychoanalysis is about to break through. Nietzsche, who is contemplating suicide and suffering from migraine, visits Dr. Breuerto for treatment. A book on the interface of philosophy and psychology.

Four years later, Lying on the Couch is published. In this book it is not the patient on the couch who is the main character but the therapist, says Dalena van Heugten-van der Kloet, a PhD candidate who hopes to defend her thesis mid-November. “The reader gets a glimpse behind the scenes at the practitioner, reads what is going on in his head, how he is distracted by female beauty, that he finds it hard to believe that patients would lie to him as they have to pay him 160 dollars per hour.”

The story revolves around three therapists who get connected in some way: Seymour, an older therapist who interprets sexual decency in his own way. Marshal who suffers from an obsessive-compulsive disorder, allows money to play a slightly unfortunate role. And Ernest Lash – according to many styled after Yalom himself – who contrary to his colleagues feels that he should be 'honest' with his patients. When a new female client knocks on his door, he sees an opportunity for an experiment, with all its consequences.

“It is quite clear that Yalom is a psychiatrist himself,” says Van Heugten-van der Kloet. The therapy sessions are very detailed and well written. She would therefore like to recommend this book to all psychology students who – despite the fact that this is not a specialisation at the UM – are interested in the “clinical side of our field. I often come across them in the tutorial groups. They often take extra subjects at Mental Health Sciences. This book shows what is happening on the other side of the desk.”

Van Heugten-van der Kloet herself worked as a therapist after graduation, in addition to doing her PhD research. “One day a week for RIAGG. I hope I can get a subsidy to go to Oxford for two years to continue doing research into dissociation and sleeping problems. Therapy will also be a part of that research.”

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