One of the joys of running is my interactions with customers. But of all the correspondence I’ve had over the years, this a recent exchange has been perhaps the most intriguing. It began with this email describing our videos:

Good evening Victor,

I have enjoyed the almost freakishness of Albert Ellis telling it like it is, he was a man to be respected by the way he wanted the patient to come clean, and at the same time to be true. "I know what it ails you. Why are you not moving on? Why is this keeping you stuck?"

Mr. [Ernest] Rossi's presentation on physiological phenomena explaining deeper alignment within our bodies may be scientifically right. Yet, he appears to be a loose cannon in the therapeutic healing profession. I probably will never know what he knows when he stood up with the peripatetic albeit Arizonian healers like Milton Erickson. The trailing effect that I can appreciate from Mr. Rossi is his unquenchable desire to find what the truth of personhood means and yet, he does not persuade me.

James Bugental spun a fantastic thread of reality in his appreciation of the human misery. I appreciate his candor, and soulfulness, No one can be sitting down without knowing this man was with you.

I thought the old psychotherapy videos were helpful to see what it is going on with the world. Your father [Irvin Yalom] has explored that conundrum, and has provided some telling answers about man and his/her destiny.

Otto Kenberg is a studious, logical man prone to make assessments of a given type of person and qualify it as we qualify blue from red....I thought he is imbibed with the old psychotherapy lingo and forgot to see the everyday person. I was lost when his Germanic approach took over the healing process. Somehow.

I did not like the videos about the "proper" way to handle patients in a hospital setting. It felt prosaic.

Victor, I like the way you interview giants. You are polite but not entirely swayed by their philosophical, therapeutic views. It seems to me that you want to know what works, and what does not. Therefore, you are in my good books.


This was followed the next day by another email:

More feedback.

I found the Torontonian's videos (even though they use actors) more akin to principled truth. I did like them.

I have not seen a video that tells me really how to operate in a psychotherapeutic setting yet. Maybe it is because we cannot really ascertain a typical process and therefore, the videos are just a guideline as to how the novice interpreter can fathom the whole story developing in front of him.

I would like to see the failures of therapists rather than the enhanced recognition of a university degree. I want to know what the key words are, and what moves a real person to state their present problem. And I want to see the masters in action.

How the hell can you prescribe a reasonable note in the person you are seeing? How do you get this person to move on their own volition? Therapy must acquiesce to praxis.



Who was this Manuel? His writing was incisive and eloquent, and yet seemingly from another era. I would have written him back regardless, but my burning curiosity prompted me to respond immediately, offering some genuine words of praise for his observations.

He responded in kind:

Greetings Victor from Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.

I felt so honoured by your reply; it literally made my day.

(I am of course not immune to flattery; but I am on guard, as when I hear similar words, I often discover that the other party thinks they are corresponding with the other Yalom.)

He went on to tell me a bit about his family, concluding as follows:

So you must know that I am truly blessed with kids who can think on their own despite the pressure I have exerted upon them. Good kind of pressure though, to not only shoot for the stars, but to admire mystery in life as it presents itself. All these things coming from a Honduran guy who thinks the greatest person is always one who is able to not only to stand back, but to turn around to listen and to hear the whole spectrum of fascinating details.

I, on the other hand, have not a university degree but I have held a reverent penchant for good books. We do not have money, but we do have some 400 good books from language to psychotherapy.

I am though, a salesperson who has had over 20 different positions from a machine printer to manager. I am currently working selling expensive area rugs, carpets and all that. When I see this rich person coming to our store, for some reason, I do no think of them as “customers” but someone who is materially or emotionally trying to add class or more than decor to their homes. I have been able to impress on some of them subtlety in choices. Like the "Grey Woman" who came in asking for wild colours in an area rug. I knew she wore a grey suit, grey shoes, and grey purse. Even a grey car! But she was insistent she was ready for change, “something wild,” she said. This was not an encounter about price, but about lifestyle choices. She bought the wild colourful area rug and returned it a few days after. I wish I could have been more perceptive and offer a gradation in grey, but missed it. I sometimes feel the best gradation for therapy begins with the understanding that it is not so much about the style, but the caring.

Thank you Manuel. My encounter with you has made my day, and my week as well!

File under: The Art of Psychotherapy, Musings and Reflections