Counseling Today, Online Exclusives

Irvin Yalom to welcome questions at ACA Conference

By Bethany Bray January 31, 2017

Attendees of the American Counseling Association 2017 Conference & Expo in San Francisco will have an opportunity to direct their questions to a living legend in the field of mental health.

Irvin Yalom, noted psychiatrist, author and scholar, will deliver the opening keynote speech on March 17 at the ACA Conference. He plans to format his talk as a live interview, fielding questions from the audience. Afterward, he will sign books and take photos with attendees.

“Dr. Yalom has influenced my personal and professional life for many years; his books have often brought a light to my thought process and a shine to my heart,” says Catherine B. Roland, ACA president and chair of the counseling program at the Washington, D.C., campus of the

Dr. Irvin Yalom, pictured at ACA’s 2012 Conference & Expo in San Francisco.

Chicago School of Professional Psychology. “He is the perfect person to speak, given his gentle direction forward — always forward, with hope.”

ACA’s 2017 conference will run March 16-19 at the Moscone West Convention Center
in San Francisco. Jessica Pettitt will give the Saturday keynote address on March 18.

An existential psychiatrist, Yalom is professor emeritus of psychiatry at Stanford University and author of more than a dozen books, both nonfiction and fiction. He also delivered the keynote address the last time that ACA held its conference in San Francisco, in 2012.

Yalom lives with his wife, Marilyn, in California, where he writes and sees clients at his private practice. His latest title, a memoir, is in the editing process and will be published by Basic Books.


CT Online sent Yalom some questions to learn more and get his thoughts on speaking at the upcoming ACA Conference.



What motivated you to accept this speaking engagement to address thousands of professional counselors?

I am devoted to our field of helping others in need, and I am honored to be invited to address such a large and important group of therapists.


What can American Counseling Association members expect from your keynote? What might you talk about?

The format is an interview, and I’m open to discussing my personal history and the development of my particular interests in the field. Namely, group therapy, individual therapy with an emphasis on existential factors and the use of the relationship, and my use of narrative in teaching psychotherapy.


Many counselors consider you a professional influence and inspiration. What would you want them to know about your experiences and career path?

[In my keynote, I’ll be] glad to discuss my own development in the field and how I’ve reacted toward psychoanalysis and interpersonal approaches, group approaches and groups for learning interpersonal skills and for inpatient and outpatient psychotherapy.


What advice would you give professional counselors, particularly those who may be early in their careers?

Learn as much as possible about all the various approaches, but don’t forget that it is the intensity, the depth and the genuineness of the therapist-client relationship that really is the instrument of change. Also get yourself into therapy — and I advise [seeing a therapist] more than once and with individuals from varying schools [therapy methods]. And leap at the opportunity to be in a group with peers.





Dr. Irvin Yalom will speak Friday, March 17, at the 2017 ACA Conference & Expo in San Francisco and sign books afterward. His keynote will also be live-streamed online. Find out more at


Find out more about his work and his books at





Bethany Bray is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at


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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.


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