Their Finest Hour

Master therapists share their greatest success stories

By: Jeffrey Kottler , Jon Carlson, PsyD, EdD, ABPP


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Size: 152mm x 229mm
Pages : 384
ISBN : 9781845900885
Format: Paperback
Published: April 2008

In Their Finest Hour, therapists on the cutting edge of their profession detail their most professionally rewarding cases and share what they learnt from them. These outstanding therapists define achievement in their field, describe how therapy really works and speak frankly about how their cases shaped their ideas. Each interview was recorded and then transcribed and written into narrative prose, including re-created dialogue that was based on case notes and recordings. The contributors approved all the material and the identifying features of clients were disguised.

There have been some excellent books in the past about the most interesting and seminal cases of psychotherapy, but never have the greatest successes of the most accomplished theoreticians been assembled in one volume, and told in their own words. Included are stories from:

  • Michael Yapko
  • Albert Ellis
  • Stephen Lankton
  • Arnold Lazarus
  • Jon Carlson
  • William Glasser

Previously published as ISBN 9780205430031.

Picture for author Jeffrey Kottler

Jeffrey Kottler

Jeffrey Kottler is Professor and Chair of the Counselling Department at California State University, Fullerton and has written more than 50 books in psychology, counselling, and related fields.

Picture for author Jon Carlson, PsyD, EdD, ABPP

Jon Carlson, PsyD, EdD, ABPP

Jon Carlson, Psy.D., Ed.D. ABPP was a Distinguished Professor of Adlerian Psychology at Adler University, Chicago, Illinois and a psychologist with the Wellness Clinic in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Jon authored over 60 books in many areas including psychotherapy, family therapy, marital enrichment, consultation, loneliness and Adlerian psychology. He also produced over 300 videos featuring the world's best therapists.


  1. Why would you read this book? Because it will show you how NLP elegantly models some of the great therapists and makes us realise how Bandler and Grinder have condensed the attitude and methodology of the earth's best therapists to fit NLP. A must read, even if only to learn how to handle 'impossible' cases.
  2. I really wasn't sure what to make of this book when I first received it and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was gripped from the very first few pages. The style is elegant and I found it easy to read and totally engrossing. The variety of approaches to working with different clients in the book provides something that all of us can learn from even though the learnings may not be explicit while you read. I've found myself reminded of chapters while I work with clients and consider how useful these approaches might be.
  3. Throughout the summer, this book lay on my coffee table and every time I had a few moments to spare I could dip in and enjoy it, one chapter at a time. By the end of August I had worked my way effortlessly through 27 real-life narratives of client/therapist relationships selected as outstanding by those who experienced them.

    It would be impossible to summarise the content of these stories because they were all unique and idiosyncratic encounters, but what did strike me was how so many cases illustrated what I have always believed to be true ” that when we stop theorising, diagnosing, interpreting and trying to be the expert, we do our best work.

    Time and time again these “masters' conclude that when they enter into a genuine human relationship with their clients, when they get real and put the rulebook aside, things truly start to happen.

    The contributors interviewed by Kottler and Carlson come from many different professional and theoretical orientations, yet this common theme runs through them all.

    It is comforting to know that even those described as “masters', names such as Albert Ellis, John Gray, Arnold Lazarus, Michael Mahoney, Scott Miller, to name but a few, suffer from moments of uncertainty and self doubt just like the rest of us. In these chapters they don't only share successes and learning but they admit to being stuck, feeling incompetent, inadequate and asking themselves why they do this work.

    The final chapters from Kottler and Carlson reflect on the whole project of conducting the interviews and the two collaborators share some of their own learning from the experience. Kottler marvels at how he finds so many therapists “filled with love' for their clients and their work, while Carlson says that what he learned from writing the book is that therapy can be more “fun' and talks of the need “to be myself, show compassion and caring for my client' and “enjoy the relationship'. I couldn't agree more.

    -˜This review first appeared in therapy today, the professional journal of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy'.
  4. This is a very unique book when compared with the many that I have reviewed over the years.

    It is not a book of methods or methodology.

    It is not a book of theories and dreams.

    It is a book of reality and experience.

    This book is a collection of writings compiled by therapists who are at the forefront of their profession. They are at the cutting edge and have much expertise and experience to share with us all so that we can, in turn , expand and develop our own working strategies and understandings. In the book they share some of their most rewarding experiences with us and we discover what they were able to learn from them.

    It is fascinating to read about how see their own version of therapy working and it is refreshing to read very honest and frank accounts of the work that they do and the changes that may have occurred within them and their own work procedures as a result of their experiences.

    The book is immensely readable and , although based upon interviews, is finally produced as narrative prose which includes considerable examples of dialogue ( re-created) based on the case notes and recordings that each therapist had made. It is a wonderful book and I found it totally fascinating. By the time I reached the end I felt as if I had undergone an inspirational experience and felt my own knowledge was enriched also by the reading of these interesting case studies.

    It is a treasure chest full of gold nuggets there for the taking.

    It is so seldom that we have the opportunity to have insight into the life and work of so many amazing therapists. This book is a triumph and is one that I pick up time and time again.
  5. 24 therapists - including well-known names such as William Glasser and Albert Ellis - detail in this heavy tome their most professionally rewarding cases and share what they learnt from them, as well as describing how the therapies work.

    Interestingly, the authors previously wrote Bad Therapy about famous therapists' worst sessions and what they learned from them, and The Mummy at the Dining Room Table about their most bizarre or unusual cases.

    Each chapter detailing a client session starts with a description of the therapist recounting it, so that you are reassured about their qualifications, practices and conclusions. I would think this book has a wider readership than professionals alone, as each session is a fascinating insight into the human nature hiding under facades.

    I had tears in my eyes as I read Michael Yapko's deceptively simple solution which was a turning point for a client so resigned to death he neither spoke nor moved. There were tears of sadness, too, for Susan Johnson's client who tried to become invisible through anorexia to escape memories of childhood abuse, and for her husband as he heard her story with the therapist. And there was admiration for Peggy Papp who dealt with a family which refused to reveal secrets by instead addressing the effects of those secrets - then the family members spoke to each other. This is a superb read.
  6. This book is a book for therapists! The book gave me chills of appreciation. As I gently, realised that the manuscript, brings together the smallest experiences of Master Therapists, adding them up into a big picture for us. I discovered how we all do things a little different in so many small ways. I had a small yet growing smile that was lighting up my whole face as I sat and read it. It's a good feeling book as it lights you up, as you concentrate on how the Masters focused with so much enthusiasm on their work. I really enjoyed it, as it put on view all the smallest, hidden emotions of how Masters have fun keeping on course whilst dealing with smallest, lasting challenging situations. All of which just connects up with a lot of what many people I know who I talk with within the Healing Arts. How to deal with the small little issues that keep reoccurring. As I read this, I can also connect up other small experiences, and feel very grateful to the authors for bringing all these pieces of working into one place. Into one substantial place, which sends you back out into your work place with a new set of powerful tools. I am so grateful to authors of each small chapter, who so generously open up and allow you to learn from their deepest mistakes and learn through their own eyes, about how they reversed them. Each story, building up into an enormous, immense example of good practice.

    As a reader I felt myself wanting to repeatedly sing its biggest praises, as you can see I am doing right now. I found myself blooming like a flower. Growing. Reading each small chapter gave me the confidence to feel like I too was mastering the smallest steps. This mastery of the small seems to be at the heart of the book. I could feel the immense power of the love of their work, from the tiny, unseen steps that each Master took. It's like reading a melodious book that sings. With all its small ups and downs.

    It's the title, which is awesome, because it gives you the secret. That the book is powered by the small, compelling changes that each therapist has taken. Feeding back, on its self, creative and consciously renewing itself, expressing the mind of the therapist. And in that conscious field is built into it is intent. And in it the book introduces intent. Which connects everything to everything else, which is a force in nature? This cannot come from the ego. It comes from a place which no longer needs approval. That is what each of the small chapters in a series of detailed, smallest moments of examples of successes demonstrates.

    Success with a difference, because they equally show where the biggest failures occurred and how 'turnaround approaches' have been implemented from smallest, smallest smallest steps. Looking at the smallest minutes and adding them all together. The meaning and enjoyment from the tiny successes, which have in fact resulted in the mastery of 'their finest hour'.

    The title immediate helps you, the reader to take yourself out of the ordinary and to identify with thinking highly of yourself. Each small chapter looks at a different therapist. It is a proud history of Icons of the therapeutic world. The tiniest steps, the small trivial steps that begin to move you in the right direction and to calm down the issues. When you see each small chapter that way, then just by reading it you will help you to recall your own finest moments? It's a passionate book, enthusiastically giving your attention the most positive ways that healing can occur for the most challenging situation. If you are uncomfortable with your own magnificent, it's worth reading this. If you are comfortable with our own brilliance, obvious or emerging, it generously opens you up to feeling more and more comfort with recreating a new paradigm.

    Its so different from so many books, which indirectly reprimand, reproach, reprove or rebuke you for not doing something, in stead this book, just lights you up as a reader because you really connect to the ups and downs that all therapist. You focus on their feelings of happiness, comfort, security, well-being, ease and contentment. It is this focus that the book has that switches your attention to nourishing yourself about how in different ways you too are experiencing your finest hour.

    The book goes beyond the petty, beyond the overblown egos, beyond the conflicts, beyond misunderstanding, beyond .It's a gathering of humility stories. Each chapter is another humble offering from a Master therapist. That's the smallest part of the books pleasures which come forward fro the smallest of moments. Success is how you collect your minutes. This book is a collection of the small tiny successes which have come from these Masters. I take pleasure in the smallest of these successes and the simplest, small natural less dramatic things in therapy.

    This review has become a set of specific compliments, because I appreciate the each and every master in the book. Each one has performed like a dream in the examples they provide. Each describe them in a way that makes you feel like a rock star, because you can imagine yourself being able to do just what they did. They really generously give you energy to really connect you, to light you up and helps you to make the connections for yourself.
  7. I defy anybody to not read any chapter at random without a gaining new idea, insight or just plain inspiration. A wonderful lucky-bag of a book.
  8. Therapists described as being `on the cutting edge` of their profession detail here their most professionally rewarding cases. It's fascinating to read about the creative methods which therapists adopt for the good of their clients and reassuring to detect the humanity and humility with which many reflect on their work. It's inspirational as well as being instructive and yet each chapter is so compelling it reads like a page-turner novel. Read about `control freaks`, therapy abuse, finding love and solving the unsolvable as well as a useful analysis of core themes, and be inspired and amazed by the scope of human experience and the extent to which the talking therapies can alleviate human suffering.
  9. Almost like a series of short stories ” this is similar to Yalom's “Love's executioner & other tales of psychotherapy.

    In this book, a host of highly successful and eminent therapists are asked to choose their greatest moment in practice ” with sometimes surprising results! Some of the stories are not what you might expect in that they actually recount apparent “failures' with clients, which ultimately turn out to be effective in the end ” sometimes almost accidentally!

    Others don't focus on particular therapeutic cases, but on certain life experiences of the therapists themselves, which have particularly impacted on their learning as therapists and their approach to clients. Some of the stories focus on acceptance of our limitations as therapists and others on the amazing potential for therapeutic change.

    The tales are told with humility and grace and are full of learning and honest reflection. I found some of the stories re-assuring and some truly inspirational.

    Re-assuring in that they show that even the most renown and admired therapists make mistakes and doubt themselves at times. As for inspirational, Michael Yapko's story of his treatment of a severely depressed and totally uncommunicative man is literally awe-inspiring!

    An excellent read, especially for relatively new therapists wanting a bit of inspiration and re-assurance!
  10. Although this is a book about the greatest success stories from a host of master therapists, the thing I most appreciated about it was that none of the very experienced and successful therapists was afraid to admit to having made mistakes during their career and most came across as very humble people who were quite willing to confess to becoming angry or frustrated with their clients on occasion. When the authors went on to question them about how they dealt with their own anger, they all gave very honest and revealing answers, illustrating that therapists learn something about themselves from each and every client, whether they go on to help clients make changes in their lives or not. Indeed, in some cases, the therapist's -˜finest hour' was about clients with whom they worked for long periods of time, often only having a breakthrough after years of therapy.

    I think reading this book will be beneficial to any therapists who may be having doubts about the effectiveness of their methods and help them to realise that even those who have reached the top of their profession have cause to sometimes question their own abilities and, indeed, would not be human if they did not sometimes do so.

    Also, there are some good case studies for therapists to learn from and although not everyone will agree with the methods used by every -˜master' in the book, there is plenty there to whet the appetite of even the most experienced therapist.
  11. This is a book that incorporates the thoughts, insights and strategies of some of the finest therapists, and it is inspiring.

    It is hard to put this book down once you start reading with so much to learn from its pages. Each chapter is gripping and stimulating, and it is great to be able to learn how each of these successful professionals developed their approaches.

    Whether you are an experienced therapist, or just starting out, there is so much you can learn from reading this one book. So what are you waiting for?
  12. To read this book is like having a Master Class from the best in the business. In their own words they pass on to us their ideas and their strategies for dealing with a wide variety of subjects. An excellent book from which we can all ” from student to experienced therapist ” learn so much.
  13. It was always said to me that there were three private activities in life, one was teaching, one was being a therapist and the other? ” well, I probably don't need to enlarge upon! Therapy is understandably very personal and rarely do you get a chance to see therapy evolve not just in one session but in a series of sessions. Seldom can you explore what is considered someone's best session from which you can learn what therapy is about, nor do you often get the chance to think about what you consider will be your one of your finest hours in therapy.

    How do you know if you are making a difference? How do you know what is “good therapy'? How do you know what isn't? If you have ever pondered on these questions, if you are curious about how therapy actually works or even nosey about this notion from those considered on the “cutting edge' of this amazing profession, if you are looking for ways of challenging or even simply expanding upon your own views on what therapy is about, then this is just what you are looking for.

    There are twenty-nine fascinating chapters that draw you into experienced therapists work and will unquestionably draw you into your own. What better read, than honest well thought out opinions and narratives of therapists at work and not just one approach to therapy either, here you will encounter the richness of many.

    On reading this, you will be inspired, you will have insights into the inner world of the therapist, you may well have a greater vision of your own inner world, but you will certainly have further developed your own way of being a master therapist!
  14. This book shows the powerful benefits that can emerge when experienced therapists look back and reflect upon their clinical work and not only share -˜what works' but also describe how they have managed professional difficulties, failures and moments of uncertainty.

    A number of respected therapists from a variety of backgrounds share -˜success' stories and describe clinical cases that illustrate their own unique approach to therapy. Contributors share personal stories about how they work with their clients, who are both individuals and families.

    The complex (and sometimes disturbing) narrative of everyday human life and family is explored and the concluding chapter (29) provides an excellent analysis and evaluation of core themes.

    The contributors present vivid case studies dealing with a wide range of challenging problems and issues and show how the therapists own experience can be highly relevant to their care of others and how these experiences can be used to form a healing bond in therapy.

    In the 21st century, increasingly therapists play a central role in the delivery of healthcare, generally for good, but sometimes for bad.

    Poignant, honest, and illuminating, -˜Their finest hour' allows us to understand more fully the relationship between the personal and the professional. This invaluable work provides inspiration and insight for anyone working at the cutting edge of therapy and provides distilled hard-won knowledge for those who might be contemplating such a career.
  15. You may expect a book subtitled “Master Therapists share their greatest success stories” to be full of stories of clients achieving fantastic results through the “magical” skills of their therapist. Actually, nothing could be further from the reality of this book. Instead the book offers a wide range of complex (and often moving) cases that involve months, even years, of therapy to achieve satisfactory, but rarely amazing, outcomes. Sometimes there aren't even clear outcomes. A wide range of therapists is presented here (all American) and their specialities range from feminist therapy to existential therapy, with many in between. However, the conclusion of the book seems to be that it is not the type of therapy that matters but rather the relationship that the therapist builds with the client. I like that conclusion, it gives us mortals hope. There are no “magic bullets” in therapy - follow this model of therapy and you'll win every time - rather a strong bond between therapist and client, and a resourceful, flexible and imaginative approach, will bring you better results. The book is engagingly written with a marvelously wide range of client stories. It will refresh, inspire and encourage your work. And don't miss the alien abduction story !
  16. A very good narrative, which will be a rich addition to the Work Based and Integrative Studies programme of study.
  17. What an incredibly varied compilation of amazing therapists who, through sharing of their insights, strategies, intuitions and theories, offer both rookie and experienced therapists alike, golden nuggets that inspire and instruct! The richness of the stories of clients' lives are woven into tapestries that read like a novel. I love this book!
  18. A wonderful book!! I am fascinated to read the conventional and unconventional methods of successful therapists who use their intuition, creativity and humanity rather than just their training to facilitate healing in challenging clients. All therapists, beginning and experienced will be inspired and informed by this book.

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