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"Psychotherapy, in my experience, feels nothing like a paper about psychotherapy."

In his honest, witty and at times deeply moving account of his graduate training in New York City, Valery Hazanov gives us the unique opportunity of joining a therapist at the beginning of his career. The Fear of Doing Nothing: Notes of a Young Therapist (Sphinx, 2019) raises a number of provocative questions about the efficacy of psychotherapy, the essence of the process and the experience of being in a therapeutic relationship. Through ten chapters we are confronted with the confusion and dissonance between theory and practice that every clinician has to face in his work with patients. We get to share in Valery’s work with patients in a variety of setting. There is individual therapy, as well as couples therapy, group therapy and an intense tour de force through a day in the community clinic. The text is remarkable in its intimacy with the subject, the therapeutic dyad. We follow closely not only the development of the patients, but also Valery’s professional and personal development, which in our field are too closely connected to be seen as seperate entities anyway. Without touching on the subject explicitly, the book asks even deeper questions through its form. What are we doing as a discipline that is supposedly concerned with human subjectivity when we write about clinical encounters in a seemingly objective fashion? And what is psychoanalytic writing anyway?

In the interview we touch on these topics as well as the connection of psychotherapy and politics, the literary quality of the book and question of eclecticism, among many others.

Sebastian Thrul is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in training in Germany and Switzerland. He can be reached at

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