email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
Maximizing Effectiveness in Dynamic Psychotherapy Self-Compassion in Psychotherapy101 Healing StoriesA Clinician's Guide to Legal Issues in PsychotherapyA Map of the MindA Primer for Beginning PsychotherapyACT With LoveActive Treatment of DepressionAffect Regulation, Mentalization, and the Development of SelfAlready FreeBad TherapyBecoming an Effective PsychotherapistBefore ForgivingBeing a Brain-Wise TherapistBetrayed as BoysBeyond Evidence-Based PsychotherapyBeyond MadnessBeyond PostmodernismBinge No MoreBiofeedback for the BrainBipolar DisorderBody PsychotherapyBoundaries and Boundary Violations in PsychoanalysisBrain Change TherapyBrain Science and Psychological DisordersBrain-Based Therapy with AdultsBrain-Based Therapy with Children and AdolescentsBrief Adolescent Therapy Homework PlannerBrief Child Therapy Homework PlannerBrief Therapy Homework PlannerBuffy the Vampire Slayer and PhilosophyBuilding on BionCare of the PsycheCase Studies in DepressionCaught in the NetChild and Adolescent Treatment for Social Work PracticeChoosing an Online TherapistChronic DepressionClinical Dilemmas in PsychotherapyClinical Handbook of Psychological DisordersClinical Intuition in PsychotherapyClinical Pearls of WisdomCo-Creating ChangeCognitive Therapy for Challenging ProblemsCompassionConfessions of a Former ChildConfidential RelationshipsConfidentiality and Mental HealthConfidingContemplative Psychotherapy EssentialsControlConversations About Psychology and Sexual OrientationCoping with BPDCouch FictionCounseling in GenderlandCounseling with Choice TheoryCouple SkillsCrazy for YouCreating a Life of Meaning and CompassionCreating HysteriaCritical Issues in PsychotherapyCrucial Choices, Crucial ChangesDeafness In MindDecoding the Ethics CodeDeconstructing PsychotherapyDeep Brain StimulationDemystifying TherapyDepression 101Depression in ContextDialogues on DifferenceDissociative ChildrenDo-It-Yourself Eye Movement Techniques for Emotional HealingDoing CBTE-TherapyEarly WarningEncountering the Sacred in PsychotherapyEnergy Psychology InteractiveErrant SelvesEssays on Philosophical CounselingEssentials of Wais-III AssessmentEthically Challenged ProfessionsEthics and Values in PsychotherapyEthics in Plain EnglishEthics in Psychotherapy and CounselingExpectationExploring the Self through PhotographyExpressing EmotionFacing Human SufferingFairbairn's Object Relations Theory in the Clinical SettingFamily TherapyFavorite Counseling and Therapy Homework AssignmentsFear of IntimacyFlourishingFolie a DeuxForms of Intersubjectivity in Infant Reasearch and Adult TreatmentFoundations of Ethical Practice, Research, and Teaching in PsychologyFreud and the Question of PseudoscienceFrom Morality to Mental HealthFundamentals of Psychoanalytic TechniqueGenes on the CouchGod & TherapyHalf Empty, Half FullHandbook of Clinical Psychopharmacology for TherapistsHandbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual ClientsHandbook of Evidence-Based Therapies for Children and AdolescentsHealing the Heart and Mind with MindfulnessHeinz KohutHelping Children Cope With Disasters and TerrorismHigh RiskHistory of PsychotherapyHow and Why Are Some Therapists Better Than Others?How Clients Make Therapy WorkHow People ChangeHow Psychotherapists DevelopHow to Fail As a TherapistHow to Go to TherapyHypnosis for Inner Conflict ResolutionHypnosis for Smoking CessationI Never Promised You a Rose GardenIf Only I Had KnownIn Others' EyesIn SessionIn Therapy We TrustIn Treatment: Season 1Incorporating Spirituality in Counseling and PsychotherapyInside the SessionInside TherapyIs Long-Term Therapy Unethical?Issues in Philosophical CounselingIt's Not as Bad as It SeemsItís Your HourLearning from Our MistakesLearning Supportive PsychotherapyLetters to a Young TherapistLife CoachingLogotherapy and Existential AnalysisLove's ExecutionerMadness and DemocracyMaking the Big LeapMan's Search for MeaningMetaphoria: Metaphor and Guided Metaphor for Psychotherapy and HealingMind GamesMindfulnessMindfulness and AcceptanceMindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for DepressionMindworks: An Introduction to NLPMockingbird YearsMoments of EngagementMomma and the Meaning of LifeMotivational Interviewing: Preparing People For ChangeMulticulturalism and the Therapeutic ProcessMultifamily Groups in the Treatment of Severe Psychiatric DisordersNarrative PracticeOn the CouchOne Nation Under TherapyOur Inner WorldOur Last Great IllusionOutsider ArtOutsider Art and Art TherapyOvercoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and BehaviorsOverexposedPathways to SpiritualityPersonality and PsychotherapyPhilosophical CounselingPhilosophical Counselling and the UnconsciousPhilosophical Issues in Counseling and PsychotherapyPhilosophical PracticePhilosophy and PsychotherapyPhilosophy for Counselling and PsychotherapyPhilosophy PracticePhilosophy's Role in Counseling and PsychotherapyPillar of SaltPlan BPlato, Not Prozac!Polarities of ExperiencesPower GamesPractical Psychoanalysis for Therapists and PatientsPrinciples and Practice of Sex TherapyPsychologists Defying the CrowdPsychology, Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis, and the Politics of Human RelationshipsPsychosis in the FamilyPsychotherapyPsychotherapyPsychotherapy and ConfidentialityPsychotherapy As PraxisPsychotherapy for Children and AdolescentsPsychotherapy for Personality DisordersPsychotherapy Is Worth ItPsychotherapy Isn't What You ThinkPsychotherapy with Adolescent Girls and Young WomenPsychotherapy with Children and AdolescentsPsychotherapy without the SelfPsychotherapy, American Culture, and Social PolicyRapid Cognitive TherapyRational Emotive Behavior TherapyRational Emotive Behavior TherapyRationality and the Pursuit of HappinessRebuilding Shattered LivesReclaiming Our ChildrenRecovery OptionsRelationalityRent Two Films and Let's Talk in the MorningSaving the Modern SoulScience and Pseudoscience in Clinical PsychologySecond-order Change in PsychotherapySelf-Compassion in PsychotherapySelf-Determination Theory in the ClinicSelf-Disclosure in Psychotherapy and RecoverySerious ShoppingSex, Therapy, and KidsSexual Orientation and Psychodynamic PsychotherapySigns of SafetySoul Murder RevisitedStaring at the SunStraight to JesusStrangers to OurselvesSubjective Experience and the Logic of the OtherTaking America Off DrugsTales of PsychotherapyTales of UnknowingTalk is Not EnoughTalking Cures and Placebo EffectsTelling SecretsThe Behavioral Medicine Treatment PlannerThe Body in PsychotherapyThe Brief Couples Therapy Homework Planner with DiskThe Case Formulation Approach to Cognitive-Behavior TherapyThe Challenge for Psychoanalysis and PsychotherapyThe Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Clinical Child Documentation SourcebookThe Clinical Documentation SourcebookThe Complete Adult Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Couch and the TreeThe Couples Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Crucible of ExperienceThe Cure of SoulsThe Death of PsychotherapyThe Education of Mrs. BemisThe Ethical Treatment of DepressionThe Ethics of PsychoanalysisThe Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Gift of TherapyThe Great Psychotherapy Debate: The Evidence for What Makes Psychotherapy Work The Healing JourneyThe Heart & Soul of ChangeThe Heroic ClientThe Husbands and Wives ClubThe Love CureThe Making of a TherapistThe Mindful TherapistThe Mirror Crack'dThe Mummy at the Dining Room TableThe Neuroscience of PsychotherapyThe Neuroscience of Psychotherapy: Healing the Social BrainThe New Rational TherapyThe Older Adult Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Other Side of DesireThe Pastoral Counseling Treatment PlannerThe Philosopher's Autobiography The Pornographer's GriefThe Portable CoachThe Portable Ethicist for Mental Health Professionals The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday LifeThe Problem of EvilThe Problem with Cognitive Behavioural TherapyThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Psychotherapy Documentation PrimerThe Psychotherapy Documentation PrimerThe Psychotherapy of HopeThe Real World Guide to Psychotherapy PracticeThe Schopenhauer CureThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Talking CureThe Therapeutic "Aha!"The Therapist's Guide to PsychopharmacologyThe Therapist's Guide to Psychopharmacology, Revised EditionThe Therapist's Ultimate Solution BookThe Trauma of Everyday LifeThe Trouble with IllnessThe UnsayableThe Way of the JournalTheory and Practice of Brief TherapyTherapy with ChildrenTherapy's DelusionsTheraScribe 3.0 for WindowsTheraScribe 4.0Thinking about ThinkingThinking for CliniciansThinking for CliniciansThoughts Without a ThinkerThriveToward a Psychology of AwakeningTracking Mental Health OutcomesTrauma, Truth and ReconciliationTreating Attachment DisordersTreatment for Chronic DepressionTreatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety DisordersUnderstanding Child MolestersUnspeakable Truths and Happy EndingsWhat the Buddha FeltWhat Works for Whom?What Works for Whom? Second EditionWhen the Body SpeaksWhispers from the EastWise TherapyWittgenstein and PsychotherapyWorking MindsWoulda, Coulda, ShouldaWriting About PatientsYoga Skills for Therapists:Yoga Therapy
Readers opening God & Therapy enter immediately into the inimitable, enthrallingly intellectually beautiful world of the author, Gerald Alper. Alper is a psychotherapist, based in New York City; he is, as well, a prolific writer of books. In the book's "Preface", readers learn that the genesis of the book is rooted intellectually in the overarching question of why, in over thirty years of private practice, after listening to hundreds and hundreds of patients' dreams, Alper not once has encountered the presence of God, the radiant appearance of an angel, any mention of heaven, or the joyful fantasy of an afterlife?
In the book's last chapter, Alper asserts that a lot of the mystery evaporates when the question is eyed through the lens of a psychodynamic psychotherapeutic approach, advocating the introduction of the impact of the dynamic unconscious. Discoursing that people begin life as existential, pre-verbal beings, who enter immediately into a symbiotic relationship with a seemingly omnipotent caretaker, Alper asks: Is it any wonder that, imprinted in the unconscious, is a deep, lifelong yearning for a cosmic parent? Alper opines that this cosmic, parental figure is a transient being, used selectively on a crisis-intervention basis.
Alper is a tireless intellectual excavator, who probes cautiously, and digs deeply, in an intellectually very diligent and unrelenting effort to unearth truths. The intellectual treasures unearthed by Alper's toilsome efforts extend the reading appeal of the book universally.
The body of substantive discourse is garbed cerebrally with the cloak of relative abstruseness.
Coursing powerfully through the arteries and veins of the book is a strongly edifying, psychodynamic psychotherapeutic current.
Across the length and breadth of the text, Alper, in expert, substantively germane fashion, rivets readers' attention on an expansive array of great thinkers.
And congruently, an abundance of research materials germanely elicit critically discerning comment by Alper.
In a "References" section (following the text), Alper presents citations, alphabetized by author last name, for textually pertinent research materials.
Substantively animating quotes, culled anecdotally from some of Alper's real life patients, contribute significantly to the forming of the book's substance. These data are screened with great depth of thought through the filter of Alper's masterful ability to cerebrally dissect and examine the true inner workings of the human mind.
Snippets in the shape of quotes collected from an eclectic range of sources further enliven the text's body.
Here and there, Alper recounts anecdotally biographical bits and pieces of his life.
In the relentless, insatiably curious search for truth, intellectually fearless Alper is not afraid to plunge into myriad, deeply cerebral questions, which may cause waves in otherwise still waters.
The findings of Alper are pondered customarily in intellectually critical, curious, and thoughtful manner.
Concerning the metaphysical fate of one's consciousness or soul, Alper ponders that, absent plausible scientific evidence, the temptation will be enormous to be told by some authority what to think. And this may be why, in over thirty years of dealing with thousands of patients, Alper has been struck repeatedly by the poverty of genuine creative thought concerning fundamental religious beliefs.
Alper muses that a core of religious belief can be understood as the SOS of a very frightened human being to whoever, or whatever, in the cosmos may be listening.
According to Alper, all of his patients, whatever their religious beliefs, would feel that bad things happen constantly to good people, that life is unfair, hard, and unforgiving, and that justice is almost never distributed evenly.
The history of religion, as pondered by Alper, in a sense has been the record of the various answers to the problem of evil. Alper adds that this is a problem no patient of his has ever been able to resolve.
And likewise, no patient has been able to solve the problem of how to deal with the fact of their death.
Alper opines that there is little doubt that the unconscious denial of death is the single most powerful defense mechanism. And indeed, Alper doesn't think he has ever seen a patient who fully overcame their denial of death, if only because it is impossible psychologically to identify with the state of non-existence.
Alper muses that, it may be that nature protects against being overly terrified of inevitable death right up to the moment of one's death throes; at that point, the denial of death switch is switched off, and a seeming acceptance of death takes over.
Alper teaches that patients, in the immediate wake of a particularly unbearable loss, will often address the person who has just died (not expecting to be heard, but finding it soothing to talk to the other as though the other was still alive).
And Alper teaches further that patients pray to God; and they will sometimes speak to God; but patients almost never wish for God to speak to them.
Regarding the promise of a spiritual afterlife, Alper explains that patients have various attitudes: there is hope; there is doubt; there is fear. And then, when the blows one is asked to endure become unbearable, there is rage.
With regard to the respective perspectives of the devout believer and the skeptic, Alper discourses that, from the skeptic's perspective, one can certainly have belief, but one must also have reason and doubt. The devout believer, in contrast, does not value reason less; the devout believer values emotion more.
The question is put forth by Alper: Since the existence of supernatural forces can neither be proved nor disproved, and since there can be nothing biologically adaptive in investing energy in such a project, what is the point of attempting to do so?
The answer of Alper, to the question foregoing, is: There is more to life than the pursuit of a kind of tensionless nirvana on earth; there is the recognition of the tragic dimension of life; there is the need to appreciate the transient nature of everything people most value; and there is the primal yearning for a spiritual connection to a cosmic Other.
Readers are instructed that therapists see patients, the great majority of whom believe there is something more to the world than the physical, and very much want there to be; who conceive of God as a kind of evanescent presence; who are ambivalent at best regarding what heaven or hell might be; and who have only a dream-like conception of what the afterlife might be, almost never looking forward to the afterlife, but invariably fearing it.
What is most striking to Alper about patients claiming to be in communion with a personal God is the ordinariness of their behavior. No significant difference has been detected by Alper between patients who are religious and those who are not.
In Alper's view, the psychodynamic perspective on the roots of religious beliefs adds the much neglected basic emotions; incorporates the dynamic unconscious; and, most significantly, strives to capture the unpredictable complexity of a lived life.
Housed in the Pantheon of Alper's book is highly discerning discourse, extending to: Harold Kushner, Rick Warren, Freud, Carl Jung, Elisabeth Kϋbler-Ross, Sherwin Nuland, Abraham Maslow, William James, James Wood, Edward Wilson, Christopher Bollas, V.S. Ramachandran, Mary Roach, Carl Sagan, Scott Atran, Pascal Boyer, Alan Guth, Paul Steinhardt, and Neil Turok.
In the enframing context of the issues fleshed out by Alper, the concern may be raised whether the cohort of patients in therapy is representative fully of the larger populace of persons.
And, with regard to many of the intriguing questions pondered pensively by Alper, there may be no consensual answers.
But certainly, the intellectual brilliance of Alper is on display fully throughout the book.
The range of professionals who may greatly benefit professionally from the keen intellectual acumen displayed by Alper surely encompasses: mental health professionals, theologians, scientists, and philosophers.
© 2016 Leo Uzych
Leo Uzych (based in Wallingford, PA) earned a law degree, from Temple University; and a master of public health degree, from Columbia University. His area of special professional interest is healthcare. Twitter @LeoUzych