The Man with the Beautiful Voice

The Man with the Beautiful Voice

by Lillian B. Rubin

Lillian Rubin's moving account of her challenging psychotherapy with a man struggling with his disability. Reprinted from the book of the same title.
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A Welcome Diversion

The great insight, the long-forgotten memory, the transformative “aha” experience make good movie fare, but the heart of therapy, its nuts and bolts, is in the commonplace, in a person’s response to the simplest and most unremarkable events. An experienced therapist, therefore, usually can tell a lot about a patient from the way the initial phone call and request for an appointment plays itself out. Does the person seem overly deferential in asking to speak to “the doctor”? Or after listening to my message, delivered in my most professional tones, does the voice at the other end say cheerily, “Hey, Lillian, this is . . .”? Both send cues, although very different ones, about how each of these people will relate to me as a therapist and an authority figure.
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Copyright © 2003 Lillian B. Rubin, reprinted with permission by Beacon Press from The Man with the Beautiful Voice.
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Lillian B. Rubin

Lillian B. Rubin is an internationally recognized author, lecturer, and social scientist who was born in Philadelphia, grew up in New York City, and moved to California as a young adult. She lives in San Francisco, where she was, until recently, a practicing psychotherapist and a member of the faculty at the Institute for the Study of Social Change at the University of California, Berkeley.

She has published many articles and twelve books, including The Man with the Beautiful Voice, a book of personal essays on being a psychotherapist, from which this story was republished. Her most recent work, 60 ON UP: The Truth About Aging in America, is an unflinching look at the complex sociological, cultural, and psychological issues of aging in our time. Although she has retired from her psychotherapy practice, she continues her writing and has also taken up painting; her artwork and list of recent publications can be viewed at

What an amazing journey with an inspiring ending. It is difficult to find therapists who actually engage themselves with a patient like that. It's much ado about teaching what they learned from a book and much less intuition and thought.Thanks for a great read!
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CE credits: 1.5
Learning objectives:

  • Describe aspects of the author's complex countertransference in working with this disabled, angry client.
  • Identify turning points in the development of this challenging therapeutic relationship.
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